Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Confession Is Good for the Soul

Or so they say. And I'm feeling confessional today.

The closer I get to the end of my book, the harder it's becoming to write. That's not because I don't know where the story is going. Au contraire, I know exactly what has to happen between now and the end. And perhaps because I'm very much a pantser when it comes to writing, my certainty is getting in my way. It's just not as much fun to write when I know precisely where I'm going, in the same way it wouldn't be as much fun to read if I knew exactly how the story would turn out. (Hmmm, I think I've just had a revelation as to why I'm more of a pantser than a plotter!)

It's just as likely, however, that I'm a little afraid to finish. Paradoxical as that sounds, since I want to finish this book if for no other reason than to prove that I can, I suspect there's an element of truth here.

Because, first of all, finishing means saying good-bye to my characters in some fundamental sense. Yes, Patrick and Rosalind will likely make appearances in other stories in the future, but once they reach their "happily ever after", their story is over. And there's something just a little sad about that, especially after spending the last nine months in their company trying to get them to their "happily ever after."

More than that, though, I think I'm a little afraid to finish because it means it's time to start doing the work to actually get Patrick and Rosalind published and out in the world. It means revisions. (I know some writers prefer revising to writing, but I am not one of them. In a perfect world, my first draft would be my last. Obviously, the world will never be perfect...) And it means writing the dreaded query letter.

I know it's the idea of writing a synopsis that makes many writers shiver in their boots, but for me, it's the query letter that represents my greatest single fear in life. (I should mention here that I have absolutely no fear of speaking in public. I can get up in front of a room full of a thousand people and feel as comfortable as I would if we were sitting down for a chat in my kitchen over a cup of coffee. Assuming I'm prepared, of course. Don't ask me to do it off-the-cuff when I'm not expecting it. But I digress.)

Query letters scare me because so much rides on them. How can I distill my characters and story into a single page that's snappy and witty enough to convince an agent or editor that it's worth requesting my partial (or better yet, a full)? I mean, let's be honest here: even if I manage to cut 100+ pages out of my manuscript during revision, it takes me 400 pages to tell the story. And you want me to get that down to ONE page? Oy vey!

I'll admit that a great attraction of the contest route in my mind is the potential to get my partial read by an editor and, from that, to get a request for a full. All without having to write the dreaded query letter.

You can see that this terrifies me. More, in fact, than the lump I found in my left breast last week.

Ah, yes, I told you I was in a confessional mood.

I discovered this lump because it was quite painful--it hurt when I was toweling off after my shower on Thanksgiving morning. I kept quiet about it and didn't panic for several reasons, not the least of which was that I knew there wasn't a blessed thing I could do about it on Thanksgiving Day.

The lump has already shrunk quite a bit and it's not nearly as painful any more. I saw my doctor yesterday who reassuringly confirmed my suspicions that it was very unlikely to be cancerous for all the reasons I'd already come up with, those being:
  1. It hurt, and cancer usually doesn't hurt until it's very advanced.
  2. The lump coincided with my period.
  3. I'm at an age when breast cancer is extremely rare unless there's a genetic factor, and
  4. There is zero history of breast cancer among any of my female relatives (which sort of goes with #3).
He's pretty certain it's a benign cyst and I tend to agree. I'm still going for a diagnostic mammogram (tomorrow) and an ultrasound (Friday) to verify that it is a cyst, but I'm pretty certain everything will turn out just fine.

Still, the thought of it has been sapping a fair amount of my emotional and intellectual energy over the past several days, which could be another reason I haven't been able to power through to "The End."

There are also three other reasons. Yesterday, I said I'd been on the Interruption Express all day, not least because of these three reasons:

Monday, November 27, 2006

One Chapter and an Epilogue

That's all that stands between me and "The End." Well, that and a complicated thing called "life!"

But I've written every day for the past week except Thanksgiving and even if it's only a couple of pages a day, my write-o-meter keeps inching (centimetering?) to the right. Daily feedback from Lacey and Darcy has definitely helped me stay motivated and reasonably comfortable that I'm pointed in the right direction when it comes to wrapping up this little monstrosity.

And when I'm done, you ask? Well, I'm definitely not going to Disneyland (although my kids would no doubt be thrilled if I decided that would be my reward).

No, my reward to myself will be to synopsize the next two books in the series, Lady Libertine and The Book with No Name. And then I'll decide which one to write first or whether to write them side-by-side. And after I finish one of them, I'll likely come back and revise Living in Sin. Because I'm going to need to get rid of roughly 100 pages and I'll be way too close to it come the end of next week to be that brutal!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Let's Talk About Sex, Part II

Okay, so it's a day late. But hopefully not a dollar short.

Your responses to the first post on this subject made me want to write a second. However, now that I'm actually writing it, I'm not exactly sure what it was I wanted to say. I feel a bit like a car that has a funny noise right up until you get it into the mechanic's shop, at which point, it stops making it!

However, one of the questions I asked was about the differences between the "genres": romance versus erotica, erotic romance, and romantica. Alice seemed to think there wasn't a difference between the last three. I have no idea, since I've never read anything that fell into any of those three categories! But I have read that one of the distinctions between romance and the other three is supposed to be in how graphic the language is. The more "dirty" words, the more "erotic" seems to be the theory.

The problem I have with that definition is that it seems to me that mainstream romances these days pretty well include all the dirty words, although perhaps at a slightly less frantic pace! In newer historicals, at any rate, c*cks and clitori abound. And frankly, I prefer that to the "manhoods" and "members" and "hoods of Venus" I remember from the romances I read two decades ago.

Another question I had was about whether or not the degree of explicit sex we're seeing now in romances and the related genres will ever ramp back down in popularity. Lacey asked whether there were ever that many sweet, traditional romances. Well, aside from referring to Jane Austen, I do recall the first romances I read were contemporary Harlequins and the hero and heroine never did more than kiss until they were married, and even then, the references were pretty oblique. I got bored of those pretty quickly, but it does seem to me that those kind of stories wouldn't be publishable now except, perhaps, as inspirationals or by very small market presses and e-publishers. I could be wrong about that, though.

Lainey has it right when she says romance is all about emotion. though. I couldn't agree with that more. I do feel, however, that a well done love scene demonstrates and amplifies emotion in ways other types of interactions between the hero and heroine can't. And if it's really well done, a love scene can even heighten, rather than relieve, sexual tension. Which is probably why I like them!

And as of yesterday, I finished writing "the Big One" in Living In Sin. I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, too. Is it explicit? Oh yeah. Is it emotional? Damn, I hope so. Does it up the ante between the characters? Definitely, but in ways the reader might not completely understand until she gets to the next chapter.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Let's Talk About Sex

In romance novels, of course.

I have to admit, I take it practically as a given that a romance novel includes "on-screen" sex. While I realize there are readers (and writers, of course) who prefer their characters "get a room" when the moment comes, I am definitely not one of them. Part of what makes a romance satisfying for me is being in the characters' heads at the most intimate moments in their relationship. And there is no more intimate moment, no moment more demanding of trust, mutual respect, and caring, than sex.

As it happens, I don't believe in casual sex. Or, put another way, I don't think sex is ever truly casual. Certainly, good sex isn't.

Oh, I'm sure there are folks out there who would disagree with me just as I disagree with the "no public displays of affection in my romance novel, please" contingent, but it's my proposition that physically and emotionally satisfying sex can only happen between people who can completely give themselves up to one another, foregoing ego and inhibition in the pursuit of mutual pleasure. Love isn't required, but I believe affection is, and people who hook up in a bar or at a party for a one-night stand can't possibly care about each other, however hot they may be to get into one another's pants.

My point here isn't to bust on folks who believe in and enjoy casual sex, though. It's to explain why onstage, explicit, hot sex is an essential element of a romance novel for me: it demonstrates how deeply the hero and heroine care about each other, even if they haven't realized it themselves yet. I want to be there, feeling what they're feeling. It's the ultimate "show."

Now, don't get me wrong: the hero and heroine don't have to fall in bed with each other either early or often for me to find a romance satisfying. Nor do the love scenes have to go on for pages and pages. Some of the best, hottest love scenes I've ever read were only a page or two in length. Loretta Chase is a master of this. Two of my critique partners, J and Lacey, also write hot, short love scenes, but since neither of them are published, you can't read them yet. As their critique partner, I'm one of the few, the proud, and the lucky!

The best romances, in my opinion, build sexual tension for quite a while before the characters finally give into their desires. If the payoff happens before the level of emotional connection between the hero and heroine justifies it, the love scene will fall flat. I've read a few romances where the author deftly managed to create a believable and satisfying love scene between characters who scarcely know one another (e.g., Mary Balogh's Slightly Wicked and Lisa Kleypas' Devil in Winter), but by and large, it's difficult to do well enough that it works for me as a reader.

I find it even harder to do as a writer: it took me eight chapters to get to the first kiss in my WIP and another eleven after that to get to something you could reasonably call sex (and it's not even consummation!). After the nineteenth chapter, things get hot and heavy fairly fast and frequently, but I simply couldn't bring these characters to fall into bed with each other before their emotions caught up with their physical attraction.

Of course, it doesn't help that I find love scenes exceptionally difficult to write. Not because I am shy about them, but because it takes immense effort on my part to describe what is going on in my characters' heads and bodies without resorting to hackneyed, worn-out cliche. (You may remember that I never met a cliche I didn't like. It's true. Which makes it even harder to avoid them in love scenes!)

All of this musing is appropo of the fact that I have just reached the point in my story where my hero and heroine are about to do the horizontal hula for the first time. They've had some previous sexual encounters, but they have so far not achieved the whole enchilada. And, as usual, I'm hella intimidated by the prospect. Because I know it is the ultimate show and I want to get it just right.

So, what about you? Do you like your romance novels hot and steamy or a bit more oblique? Do you think the trend in the industry--which has unquestionably been toward hotter and steamier in recent years--will continue or will the sweet, traditional romance come back into fashion? And do you even understand the distinction between romance, erotic romance, erotica, and romantica?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Little More NoNo than NaNo

This week's writing progress has been somewhat less than spectastic: only eight pages in the past three days. I put this down to a combination of burnout from last week's NaNo pace, the new additions to the family, and the fact that I'm writing the pivotal chapter in the story: the Black Moment.

My normally dictatorial characters, who regularly push me around and tell me what they will and won't do or say, have suddenly become very taciturn and unhelpful, perhaps because they think I am cruel to to torture them with this black moment in the first place. "Just skip right through to our HEA," they demand.

But, of course, I can't do that. The Black Moment, when the reader wonders how the hero and heroine will ever surmount the obstacles that divide them and live happily ever after, is as essential to a romance novel as a murder is to a murder mystery. Without a Black Moment, a romance novel would be little more than a voyeuristic foray into someone's nice life. And aside from being weird, it would just be boring.

And so, I have to put my characters through theirs, kicking and screaming. No one ever said this would be easy!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Awwwww Factor

I didn't get as much writing done today as I'd originally hoped. For lots of reasons. First, I was released from jury duty by 10:30, much earlier than I'd originally expected. You'd think that would be a good thing, but unfortunately, it meant I had to do real work: less than an hour after I got home, I had to attend a departmental meeting (by conference call) that sucked up another hour and change of my time. And then there's the fact that I am writing the Big Black Moment, and it's just slow going.

But there's another reason. Well, two actually:

Aren't they adorable? A friend of the family brought them home from the school at which she teaches, where they were found today. We don't know if their mother was feral or whether they were abandoned, but they seem to be only about five weeks old, which is too young to be without their mom. Fortunately, they seem to be eating solid food all right, so they should be okay. (Although I'm a little nervous about whether they'll get the hang of the cat box right away.) They're both boys and as yet unnamed; they're so little and unformed, it seems foolish to name them before they develop some personality.

We've been talking about getting a cat/kitten ever since one of the three we had disappeared back in July. I didn't initially think I'd take both of these little guys, but when I called my husband to clear taking one with him, he told me to take them both. Awwwwwww!

So, how was your day?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Why Historicals?

I've been asked this question more than once since revealing that I am writing a historical romance novel (and as often from other romance novelists as from non-writers), so I figure it must be a fairly common one. The question is usually prefaced by one of the following observations:
  1. I could never write a historical. The research just seems so daunting.
  2. I could never write a historical. The research would bore me to tears.
  3. I could never write a historical. The research takes too long.

Are you sensing a pattern here, LOL? Now, I'm not dissing on writers who choose contemporary or paranormal or chick lit or any other romance-related genre because they don't want to do the research it takes to write a historical. (Frankly, I'd find the amount of world-building it takes to write a satisfying paranormal much more intimidating, but I digress.) But I do think an interest in and a willingness to do research (though perhaps less than some folks imagine) is an essential characteristic of the historical romance novelist. And it doesn't surprise me that it's something I enjoy.

You see, in one of my former lives, I was a Classicist. I spent five years as an undergraduate and another three as a graduate student studying Greek and Latin literature, as well as classical history, religion, art history, and archaeology. Which means I spent a lot of time doing research. And I loved it. It was fascinating, marvelous stuff. So much that I fully expected to be a Classics professor at some rinky-dink college somewhere in the midwest until I could work my way up to a full professorship at a more prestigious institution.

What happened, you ask? Life! I met my husband when I was home for Christmas in 1989 and we married the following year. I was done with my masters at that point and started to work on my dissertation proposal when the economy struck. My husband took a big pay cut and I had to go to work full time. And the rest, as they say, is history. I took off on a new career path in technical writing and instructional design and never looked back. (Well, almost never. When I hears a technique for reading previously illegible portions of the Oxyrhynchus Papyrus had been discovered and expanded by roughly 20% the codex of ancient literature, I was mightily tempted. Unfortunately, it would probably take me several years just to get my Greek and Latin back up to snuff. You lose a lot in 15 years!)

Now, I don't write historicals just because it gives me an opportunity to do research. The truth is, I just find it much easier to create sexual tension and conflict in a historical setting where good girls really don't, social status is much more rigidly defined, and the rules are stricter and much more stringently adhered to. I can't dream up a contemporary story line to save my life. Historical story lines pop into my head on an almost daily basis.

But the research is a part of what I enjoy. I don't research every single aspect of my story's setting, of course. I wouldn't ever get any writing done if I did that. Instead, I write until I hit a point where I realize I don't know how the actors should behave (e.g., the etiquette of calling cards) or whether some historical event might conflict with a detail in my story (e.g., the date of Queen Victoria's marriage to Prince Albert). Then I look up what I need to know, read it, deal with it, and move on.

One aspect of my story I did have to do a bit more research on, however, was British horseracing in the early Victorian period. My hero is an Irish racehorse trainer, my heroine a breeder. Initially, this was merely a conceit to bring together two people who would otherwise never know one another: a working class man and the daughter of duke. But it quickly became an important and essential part of the story. I still don't know as much as I'd like to about British horseracing during that period, but I've come across some fascinating historical details that completely validated some aspects of my plot that I'd been a bit concerned might be implausible.

One of those details is that the hero's former employer substituted an ineligible horse for an eligible one by claiming the ineligible horse was the eligible one. (How's that for a convoluted sentence?) I wasn't sure this was feasible, however, until a few weeks ago when I discovered that the winner of the Derby in 1844 was disqualified for exactly this reason. And since my story is set in 1839, the facts line up almost perfectly. The character in the story initially gets away with his fraud until it is revealed at the end, after which the Jockey Club (horseracing's governing body) will be more alert in future. Which is perfect when mated with this little piece of historical fact (from

It was a Gladiator colt of 1840, MACCABEUS, who was used by his unscrupulous owner, Goodman Levy, to run in Orlando's Derby of 1844, substituted for the three year old Running Rein. Maccabeaus (a.k.a. Running Rein in this race) won, but subsequent inquiries in the notorious court case following the protests lodged by Orlando's owner, Colonel Peel, proved "Running Rein" to be the four year old Gladiator colt. Lord George Bentinck, a member of the Jockey Club, who had declared war on the crooks and defaulters of the turf in that era, was instrumental in exposing the fraud and pursuing those involved in the deception.

It's a case of fiction filling in a missing piece of fact. Which totally tickles me.

After I learned about Maccabeus, one of my critique partners came across an even more fascinating detail about Bloomsbury, the winner of the Derby in 1839. It turns out there was a kerfuffle over that horse's eligibility to race on the grounds that his nominating papers incorrectly identified his sire. Better than that, Bloomsbury's owner when he won the Derby was also his trainer, a Mr. William Ridsdale. And just like that, the following scene was born:

“I understand you were at Epsom Downs for the Derby, Mr. O’Brien. Do I have that a’right?”

Patrick snapped his gaze to Viscount Hamptondale. The gentleman regarded him with friendly brown eyes. He did not appear to have noticed Patrick’s moony-eyed reverie. “Aye.”

“Perhaps you could explain to me, then, the rumpus over Bloomsbury’s pedigree. It was in the papers, of course, but then I gather the matter was dropped and I never quite understood the problem.”

Patrick’s gloom lifted a fraction. The question of Bloomsbury’s parentage had been the scandal of the Derby. “’Twas a problem in the nomination papers Ridsdale originally filed for the race. They didn’t match the General Stud Book.”

Hamptondale’s forehead wrinkled. “I gathered as much from the newspaper reports, but as I understood it, Ridsdale named one horse as Bloomsbury’s sire while two are listed in the book. But since the sire he named is one of the two in the book, I’m at a loss to understand why this would be grounds for disqualification.”

“’Tis a matter of verifying a horse’s eligibility to race. Since only listed animals are eligible to race, nomination must be precise to ensure accuracy. When Ridsdale entered Bloomsbury with Mulatto as his sire, rather than Mulatto or Tramp as in
the stud book, it raised the possibility that the horse entered was not the one listed in the book.”

“It seems a petty matter. Does it happen often that breeders enter ineligible horses under false pedigrees?”

Patrick felt the sting of righteous indignation in the center of his chest, along with the corresponding salve of his soon-to-be-delivered retribution. “Aye, it happens. And I’m sorry to say the perpetrators are rarely caught.”

“Do you think Mr. Ridsdale is guilty of such a crime, or merely of having made a mistake?” This query came from Lady Hamptondale. She regarded him with wide, aquamarine eyes so like Rosalind’s, he was briefly jolted by the resemblance.

He shrugged. “I could not say, my lady. I can say there are not many who consider Mr. Ridsdale and his brother to be a beneficial influence on the sport.”

“And why is that, Mr. O’Brien?” Aylsbridge drawled icily. His contempt was palpable.

Patrick gritted his teeth and swung his gaze to his host. Although he doubted the Hamptondales or Lady Cordelia understood the duke’s implication, Patrick did. Robert and William Ridsdale were commoners. The former had made his fortune as a gambler, the latter as a racehorse trainer. Their honesty was naturally suspect. As was Patrick’s.

“It is because they have shown themselves unworthy of trust by their behavior, your grace. As have other breeders I could name, were I so inclined.” Starting with Ashbourne. Suddenly, Patrick discovered one more reason to relish Ashbourne’s well-deserved fall from grace: a certain duke’s comeuppance.

“But you are not inclined,” Aylsbridge returned, his eyebrow arching skeptically.

“No, your grace. After all, I believe gentlemen do not disparage one another unless they can substantiate their criticisms.”

Aylsbridge lifted his glass and tilted it in Patrick’s direction, the tiniest hint of a smile touching his lips. “Touché, O’Brien. Touché.”

Now, a question for my beloved readers (all three of you :->): Does it matter to you whether your historical novels contain elements of historical fact like these, or do you care more about the feel of the historical setting? Does it bother you if the author makes up historical facts or alters them to suit her story?

N.B.: This has relevance to Living in Sin, since I have already altered history by having a non-existent filly place second in the Oaks in 1839 and need to have her win another race at the end of the story. And one of the things I'm still chewing over is whether to have her win a real race and thereby rewrite history or whether to invent a race and thereby add a fictional race to a well-documented race history. Tough choice!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The End Is Nearer...

...but not near enough, damn it!

I know, I know. Write, don't blog. But the next scene isn't quite formed enough in my head yet, so this blog post is really procrastolation1.

I was hoping to finish this weekend or Tuesday at the latest, but I can see it won't happen. I thought I could pull off a chapter each day for three days and get to the end, but that turned out to be non-starter. Time isn't the issue, I've discovered. Rather, it's that I can only write somewhere between six and eight pages a day before I go into synaptical meltdown. Even if I have more story clearly defined in my head, eight pages is about the most my brain can manage in a day, even with virtually unlimited time. And eight pages a day over three days is a nice amount of writing, but it's nowhere near three chapters!

So, I've been making good progress since Friday and at NaNo-style pace, but not enough to get to The End any time soon. I'm starting to think maybe by Thanksgiving. Which would give me something to be truly thankful for.

1procrastolate v. -s, -ed, -ing to percolate a half-formed thought to brilliance under the guise of procrastination. (Definition stolen from Lacey's blog.)

Friday, November 10, 2006

The End Is Near!

No, not of the world. I speak, of course, of the end of my book.

Yes, I know what you're thinking. "Jacqueline, if the end of your book is near, you should be writing it, not blogging!" And you're right. Which is why I'm going to keep this short and sweet.

My progress meter1, as you may have noticed, has been moving steadily from left to right. Not necessarily quickly, but steadily. I had a couple of NaNo quality days this past week and a couple of more typical ones, for a total of 6,000 words in the past four days.

I have what should be an excellent three-day weekend for writing ahead of me. The holiday today means I don't have to accomplish any "real" work (although I have three kids home from school, which isn't exactly conducive!), so I can write all day, kid-related interruptions aside. In addition, my husband is tied up in a Cub Scout training program tonight and most of the day tomorrow, and then on Sunday, he's taking both of the boys to the NHRA drag racing finals in Pomona. I normally don't dedicate any time to writing on the weekends because it's usually "family" time, but when my husband can't be with us, I feel perfectly sanguine about letting the kids play with each other and friends all day while I pound feverishly on the keyboard.

I originally committed myself to writing The End by this Sunday night, but I'm not sure now I can pull it off. It seems I have more story to write than I thought when I promised myself that. (Which is scary when you're already well over 100,000 words, but that's another story altogether.) I'm still going to give it my best shot, but it might be more realistic to project next Tuesday as "D-Day"2. Lucky me, I have jury duty and expect to spend most of the day in the jury lounge, banging away at my laptop3.

Before I sign off, I want to extend a special thanks to two of my critique partners, Lacey and Darcy. Since we've all been trying to write first drafts without getting trapped in the neverending cycle of revision based on line edits (which no doubt extended the time it has taken me to get to this point in my book by weeks, if not months), we're not doing any serious critting for the time being. What we have been doing is sharing small excerpts from what we write on a daily basis and giving each other encouraging pats on the back. And I have to say, that's been enormously helpful and motivating. I know I wouldn't be anywhere near as close to the end as I am now if it weren't for that positive feedback. And I think it's working for them, too, since Darcy finished Notorious last week and Lacey's well over halfway through her first draft of If You Asked a Rake to Reform. We must be doing something right (for a change, LOL).

1I replaced the pretty progress meters from Zokotou with the much plainer picometer last week because Zokotou's site was down and my meters were therefore broken. And while I like the look of the Zokotou meters much better, the picometer is much easier to update (all I have to do is change the word count in the html code and, voila, it's updated), so I think I'm sticking with it.


3Of course, if I get into a jury pool, all bets are off. Judges and bailiffs, I have learned, frown on people in the jury pool doing anything other than listening in awe to the stupefyingly, mind-numbingly boring voir dire process. And since I am never selected for juries (prosecutors somehow peg me instantly as an overeducated bleeding-heart liberal and use their peremptory challenges to dismiss me), it is a total waste of my time. But as a good citizen, I do my duty anyway.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Thank You for Voting!

It will probably be days, if not weeks, before we know the outcome of the Virginia Senate race and whether the Senate switches from Republican to Democratic hands, but today's a very good day for those of us who oppose the dangerously arrogant and incompetent Bush Administration. And since none of my votes changed that balance of power, I have to thank each and every one of you reading out there who voted in a national race in a swing state or district. You have my sincere gratitude.

As of this morning, good old Rummy has fallen on his sword, we are about to have our first woman Speaker of the House in Nancy Pelosi, Rick Santorum (aka Rick Should Be In A Sanitorium) has been soundly defeated in Pennsylvania, and the Democrats are one seat away from controlling both houses of Congress. All that's left is for Karl Rove to exit the White House in disgrace.

Yep, life is pretty sweet, folks.

Now, to finish my book by Sunday. That's my target, anyway. If I can keep up my pace for the next few days, I may just succeed. After Saturday's rather prodigious eight pages, I wrote seven pages yesterday, including a very steamy, four-alarm fire love scene that I'm exceptionally pleased with (and that doesn't happen often on the first pass!). If I can keep up my NaNo pace through the weekend, I could just make it!

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Anal Retentive Grammarian Weeps

My daughter, who is in the second grade, has been doing her homework. Tonight's homework is to practice this week's spelling and dictation sentences. When I read the last of the three sentences, I nearly gouged out my eyes. It read (and I assure you, I'm not making this up), "Which show is Mother and Father going to watch together?"

Augh, the pain! And I hasten to add that my children attend one of the very best public schools in the county. Ay yi yi!

I wrote a note to the teacher explaining that the sentence is grammatically incorrect and why. And apologized for being a frustrated English teacher.

But really, if anyone wants to know why today's children and young adults don't have a proper command of the English grammar and sentence structure, I suspect the fact that their teachers apparently haven't got one either goes a long way toward explaining it.

Oh, and a friendly reminder: tomorrow's election day. Go and boot the bastards out of office for me, will ya?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

My Own Personal NaNo Day

My husband and oldest son went camping early this morning, leaving me to my own devices for a whole day. And my own devices, by definition, include writing.

Now I haven't exactly been fast today. I started at 6:30 this morning and, fourteen hours later, I've written a little over seven pages. But then, I've been interrupted by my two other children (who thoughtlessly insist on being fed, bathed, and helped with the DVD player) on more than one occasion, had to make a trip to the grocery store and Starbucks*, and of course, the laundry and a bit of housecleaning must still get done.

But, all in all, I'm thrilled with my progress. I can smell the end. I can't quite taste it yet, but I can smell it .

If only every day could be a NaNo day! I'd be finished in no time.

*I had to go to Starbucks because my husband forbids me to operate Miss Sylvia, his precious $500 espresso machine (and rightly so, as I have no interest in learning to drive it correctly) and he had the unmitigated gall to take the single cup drip cone with him on his camping trip, thereby leaving me with no means to make a decent cup of coffee. We got rid of our drip machines years ago because we never used them.

When we first got Miss Sylvia a couple of years ago, my husband couldn't get a decent pull out of it. After many attempts, we did some research and concluded the problem was our grinder. It wasn't producing a consistent enough grind to suit the touchy new machine. My husband hemmed and hawed about spending an additional $400 on a grinder that would do the job. I finally looked at him and said, "Honey, without a good grinder, Miss Sylvia is like a very expensive prostitute you can't have sex with." Except, I used coarser words for "prostitute" and "have sex with." The next day, he ordered the grinder.

Okay, back to writing!

The Other Contest

Just looking at the "rules" for the CTRWA Contest, it dawns on me that they say finalists will be contacted by phone or e-mail "by the beginning of November". Since it's past the beginning of November and I haven't heard anything, I think it's safe to say I didn't final.

Ah, well, time to finish this baby! Only 2-3 chapters from the end, I think.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Contest Results

Well, it's official. Right before I went to bed last night, I received notification that my manuscript finished third in the Golden Rose. I was actually pretty pleased about that because, as I mentioned earlier in the week, it looks to me like I was fourth in the first round, so hey, I moved up a place, right!

But this morning I went and looked at the site and, darn it, I'm bummed because the first and second finishers both got requests for fulls from Hilary Sares at Kensington. Arrrrrr. So close!

Honestly, I was so pleased to final that I shouldn't complain. I really don't think that version of the manuscript was quite ready for prime time. It's certainly better now and, if it can get to the final round in the CONNections contest (and there are no guarantees!), it might have a realistic shot at getting a request for a full from Tessa Woodward at Avon. And I should know next week, if not before.

Congrats to Erica, whose Witness received honorable mention in the very competitive Romantic Suspense category (which had five finalists).

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Avast Ye, Mateys!

Ah, the things you discover when searching for the music from the Disney Pirates of the Caribbean ride for a Cub Scout Pack meeting!

My pirate name is:
Captain Morgan Bonney

Even though there's no legal rank on a pirate ship, everyone
recognizes you're the one in charge. You can be a little bit
unpredictable, but a pirate's life is far from full of certainties,
so that fits in pretty well. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

Go Darcy! It's Your Birthday!

Not really. But I bet it feels better than a birthday to be finished with Notorious!

That's right, folks, at the stroke of midnight last night, Darcy finished her manuscript. She doesn't have her own blog yet so she can't make her own announcement, which means Lacey and I get to do it for her. (Lacey and I keep trying to convince her to get with the program because Blogger is so unbelievably easy, but now I'm thinking maybe she's smart not to blog. Because when I think of how many words I've blogged in the past week versus how many words of my manuscript I've written... Well, let's just say, it ain't a pretty ratio!)

So now two of my critique partners have finished their first books. (Actually, Kim and Erica both already had completed manuscripts when we started working together, so I really have four critique partners with completed books, but somehow, it's more exciting when you were there before the book was finished.) I am trying hard not to let this give me an inferiority complex. After all, I did start my book after they started their completed ones. But then there's Erica, who seems to write a complete manuscript every three months or so! I've been working on mine for nine months now.

It really is my baby, LOL!

The good news is I think I got over the hump with the scene I was having so much trouble with. It's going to need quite a bit of beefing up in revision, since right now it's basically "talking heads", but I was able to write a little over three pages yesterday (almost entirely dialogue) and I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Whew!

So, congratulations again to Darcy! Way to go, girl. You rock!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A Little Politics to Go with Your Romance

I'm not ashamed to admit I'm a liberal. Shucks, how could I not be proud of being liberal when the word has the following definitions:
  • broad: showing or characterized by broad-mindedness; "a broad political stance"; "generous and broad sympathies"; "a liberal newspaper"; "tolerant of his opponent's opinions"
  • having political or social views favoring reform and progress
    tolerant of change; not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or tradition
  • a person who favors a political philosophy of progress and reform and the protection of civil liberties
  • big: given or giving freely; "was a big tipper"; "the bounteous goodness of God"; "bountiful compliments"; "a freehanded host"; "a handsome allowance"; "Saturday's child is loving and giving"; "a liberal backer of the arts"; "a munificent gift"; "her fond and openhanded grandfather"
  • a person who favors an economic theory of laissez-faire and self-regulating markets

I can't imagine why anyone would want to be viewed as the opposite of those things. It never ceases to amaze me that the political right has managed to redefine the word liberal to mean something bad. Or that liberals have accepted this redefinition and now try to call themselves progressives instead.

Because I'm an unabashed liberal, I'm awaiting the upcoming midterm elections with more hope and optimism than I've had about the political process in years. But that doesn't mean I expect to get much pleasure out of my own trip to the polls next Tuesday. Because even though I live in a blue state (California), I live in a red district (the 52nd) within a red county (San Diego).

I have, heaven help me, Duncan Hunter, the father of the 700-mile border fence and head of the Armed Services Committee who famously tried to force the military to limit women's role in combat, as my Congressional representative. And despite the Republicans' troubles nationally, Hunter will win my district by a landslide even though I'll be voting for his Democratic opponent, John Rinaldi.

Yesterday, Hunter announced that he'd formed an exploratory committee to make a bid for the presidency in 2008. Heh, the Democratic party can only hope he gets the nomination, because if John McCain gets it, the Democrats could nominate God himself and not win.

But the lack of the competition in my district's congressional race is just the tip of the iceberg. The governator is well on his way to his first full term in a landslide and, while I can't vote for the man because the way he says "California" makes me cringe and he's got serious sensitivity problems, the guy has pretty much reinvented himself as a Democrat in Republican's clothing. I'll be voting for Angelides, but I know it's purely symbolic.

Because my district is heavily Republican, all the state senate and assembly races will go to Republicans. The high school district board will probably remain in the hands of the right wing nutjobs who've been running it for years. I'm also pretty certain that none of the ballot measures I'm voting in favor of will pass and equally convinced that the ones I'm voting against will. It almost always turns out that way.

Of course, I'll vote anyway. Even if my vote won't have much affect on the final outcome, if I don't vote, I'm not expressing my liberal values. I figure at worst, I'm letting the politicians I didn't vote for know that people who don't like their policies exist.

But oh, how I wish for once in my life I lived somewhere with a competitive race. I'm envious of the voters in places like Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Ohio. And I really hope those folks appreciate just how much their vote matters this year. Because those of us who can't make a difference are counting on them not to let us down.