Thursday, December 28, 2006

Done Is Only Just Begun

If you're hoping to be a bonafide published author, writing a completed manuscript is only a little more than a baby step in the right direction. To be sure, it's a step you must accomplish, but in some ways, it might be the easiest one.

As you all know from my incessant musings on the topic, Living in Sin might be finished, but it's not anywhere near being done. Aside from any other issue, it's simply much too long to be saleable in its current form. And this means hefty revisions. It means, in all likelihood, that I'll have to eliminate some secondary characters and their scenes, and invent new (hopefully shorter!) ones using the characters who remain to fill in the gaps in motivation or plot that occur as a result of the cuts. It's a huge task and not one I can say I look forward to.

So I've found other things to do this week instead, and I'm a bit embarrassed to say that they're not the things I promised myself I would do, starting with finishing a project for my paying job that I've been struggling with and dragging my feet on for what feels like months. Oh, I've been working on that project. It's just that I haven't done it at anywhere near the pace or with anything like the exclusivity I told myself I would because I keep getting sidetracked by "writey/publishey" tasks.

It started with taking a stab at my query letter. One of my goals in 2007 is to apply for PRO status through RWA (note that you might not be able to get to this link if you're not an RWA member and signed in to the site) because I'm told it gets you a better priority for appointments with agents/editors at the national convention. And one of the requirements for acheiving PRO status is that you prove you've queried an agent or editor.

Writing a query letter was every bit as hard as I expected. After making an initial attempt at 2:00 a.m. (I was up nursing a tickle/cough I just couldn't shake) that sucked about as much as you'd expect something you wrote in the middle of the night to suck, I went through a series of versions with Lacey, Darcy, and Janice. Just when I thought I'd nailed it, Lacey showed it to her brother, Luke, who instantly tore it apart by saying, "Yeah. So what?" (Thanks, Luke. I think!) Another few rounds later, we got something we all agreed was pretty good, although whether it's good enough to sell my manuscript is whole 'nother thing. It's entirely possible that after a few attempts with this version, I'll toss it out the window and start from scratch.

The weirdest thing about the query letter, though, is that I couldn't find a way to work in that "high concept" sentence you all helped me with last week. It just didn't fit, no matter how hard I tried. Square peg, round hole and all that.

Then, after knocking off the query letter, I started on my character backstories and synopsis for the next book, Lady Libertine. And that, my friends, has been a real kick. Neither the heroine's nor the hero's backstories are written in anything approaching a historical, Victorian voice, which means I'll never get to use them except as my own prompts, but it was so much fun to write something new, to invent new people. Even though the heroine, Amelia, is featured in Living in Sin, we don't find out much about her in that story. Before I could write her book, I had to understand why she's as selfish and vain as she is, why she hates her husband and step-son, and why she's promiscuous. Now I know. And finding out the answers, which just flowed out of me without much thought, as if I'd known them all along when I really hadn't, was definitely interesting and exciting!

The hero's backstory turned out to be even more enjoyable to write, though. Keeping in mind that this is really a rough draft primarily for my own edification, here it is:

Remy Giroux isn’t blessed with his eldest brother’s primogeniture, his middle brother’s religious calling, or his youngest brother’s Midas touch with finances. But the third son of a minor French barony has to make his own way in the world, and Remy has the right stuff to embark on a career in the post-Napoleonic French military: innate physical toughness, a sharp wit, and nerves of steel. The top brass quickly takes note of another characteristic it can use to its advantage: Remy has a surprising facility with languages accompanied by a face and form tempting enough to invite even virtuous women to sin. Remy soon finds himself posted on various ostensibly “diplomatic” missions—to Russia, to Prussia, and to Mother England—with express instructions to gain as much intelligence as possible from the wives and mistresses of the men who control government.

Remy is good at his job, but he finds it has its drawbacks, starting with the inability to ever be honest and ending with the inability to trust anyone, ever. After making the near-fatal mistake of believing himself in love with a woman he’s been sent to shake down only to have her betray him to her government’s authorities, he decides it’s time to get out of the military intel game. But he doesn’t know how to do much besides gain information from unsuspecting marks and so he strikes out in the private intelligence market. It’s not overly profitable, but finding missing people (who usually want to be missing) and misplaced valuables (which usually turn up right where you’d expect them) is a living, and one he doesn’t have to sell his soul to make. At least not until his next client hires him at an exorbitant retainer to retrieve a set of blueprints from beneath the nose of England’s most beautiful and passionate lady.

Hey, it’s dirty work, but someone has to do it.

So, what have you been doing with this curious time between Christmas and New Year's?

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Comes But Once a Year

And thank God for that!

Oh, not because I'm a Scrooge or anything like that. I adore Christmas. And I love watching my kids light up with delight as they open their presents and discover both the things they requested and the things they didn't expect. What I don't enjoy is getting all of those wonderful toys out of the packaging (have they raised Harry Houdini from the dead to design these things so only magicians can open them?) and cleaning up the trash! Oh, and finding a home for all the new stuff. Oy!

Speaking of things you didn't expect, my husband surprised me with a 30 GB iPod. I suppose this means I have actually entered the 21st century. Now if I can only figure out how to use the darn thing!

But the best part of Christmas this year was knowing I'd finished my first manuscript in 20+ years. Thanks to everyone who congratulated me, either here or in personal email, on finishing. You all know who you are!

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Two Best Words in the English Language

Bet you know what they are. And I just wrote 'em.

The End!

Merry Christmas to me! (And you, too, of course.)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Here's My Line (Round Two)

Okay, so the basic structure of this seems to be holding some water. With input from a variety of sources, here's the new version:

Lady Rosalind Brighton knows knights in shining armor are more interested in winning castles than princesses, so when her knight turns out to be an Irish racehorse trainer with lofty ambitions and an unexpected penchant for altruism, she faces a thorny dilemma: defend her castle or surrender her heart.

Given that it's ideal to cut the sentence to the fewest possible words, however, I wonder whether the following isn't a bit better, length-wise if not structurally:

Lady Rosalind Brighton knows knights in shining armor are keener on winning castles than princesses, so when her knight turns out to be an ambitious Irish racehorse trainer with an unexpected penchant for altruism, she faces a thorny dilemma: defend her castle or surrender her heart.

What sayeth the masses?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Here's My Line (Round One)

Okay, I made my first stab at this. I don't know if it's great, but I don't think it bites like a pit bull with a raging case of rabies, either.

(Deep breath) Here goes:

Lady Rosalind Brighton knows that knights in shining armor are more interested in winning the castle than the princess inside, so when her knight turns out to be an Irish racehorse trainer with lofty ambitions and an unexpected penchant for altruism, she’s faced with a thorny dilemma: surrender her heart, her castle, or both.

Okay, maybe it does blow. But it's a start, right?

I'm open to suggestions here...

Monday, December 18, 2006

What's My Line?

As I mentioned earlier in the month (or maybe all the way back in November), I enrolled in a query workshop given by Rosemary Clement Moore through Candace Havens' Write_Workshop Yahoo group. Now, I'm sure it will come as no surprise to you that one of Ms. Moore's suggestions was that we all distill our books to a single sentence, a sort of one-liner we might imagine could be used to describe our story in TV Guide. That one sentence is the "high concept" of the novel.

So, I tried to come up with a high concept. And was hopelessly unsuccessful. Oh, I wrote a few one-liners, but they all sucked like a Hoover on steroids. (That's a darned good phrase, by the way, and I'd use it in my high concept except I'm reasonably certain they had neither Hoovers nor steroids in 1839.)

But one of the problems I kept running up against was whether to write the "high concept" from the hero's perspective or the heroine's. Whose story am I telling here? It seems whichever character I choose, my one-liner must necessarily demote and devalue the other. And to me, at least, it seems I am telling (or trying to tell) both their stories, equally and even-handedly.

The germ of the idea for Living in Sin was so simple, it's hard to consider it a "high concept". I had two characters in my head: a highborn English lady disenchanted by marriage and high society who takes the unconventional step of managing her own estate and a working-class Irishman with a thirst for self-improvement and a disconcerting penchant for achieving noble ends through decidedly ignoble means (that is, con artistry, though the Victorians didn't have that phrase, which is darned inconvenient when writing a novel that involves a con game!). I knew these two people belonged together, but I didn't know how to get them into the same room, much less give them enough time with one another to fall in love.

From that germ came a plot involving a thoroughbred breeding estate brought to near ruin by a thieving steward. The hero's profession became clear: a racehorse trainer who offers his services to the heroine when he discovers his former employer purchased horses stolen from her estate and raced them under false pedigrees. Along the way, the hero concocts a "pig in a poke" scheme to fleece a neighboring landowner who also purchased stolen horses in hopes of ensnaring both the steward and his former boss in the process. And the heroine befriends the local tavern wench, whose insights into life and love offer a striking parallel to her own.

In the final analysis, though, the conflict in the story isn't the plot, but the heroine's certainty that men care more about winning the castle than the princess and the hero's fear of being nothing more than a rich woman's plaything. Pretty conventional stuff, really, except that perhaps the genders are reversed from the typical historical romance.

So, having written all that, I've distilled the most essential elements of the story and characters, but I still haven't found anything I could call a high concept one-liner.

I'm doomed! I'll never write a query letter, LOL!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Tagged Again!

I have to thank Lacey for supplying me with today's topic, as I'd have been hard-pressed to get an entry done today otherwise. (Holiday insanity has hit full-bore and I'll barely have more than an hour of computer time today if I'm lucky!)

Four jobs I've had:

  1. Girl Scout camp counselor
  2. College dormitory maid
  3. Technical writer
  4. Instructional designer
Four places I've lived:
  1. San Diego County (during childhood and now)
  2. Santa Cruz, CA (college)
  3. Dublin, Ireland (college year abroad)
  4. Chicago, Illinois (grad school)

Four favorite foods:

  1. Sushi
  2. Mexican
  3. Any Mediterranean cuisine (ideally while in the Mediterranean)
  4. Okay, I admit it, all foods are my favorites (with the notable exception of brussel sprouts!)
Four movies I could watch over and over (some of which I often do because my kids watch them):

  1. The Princess Bride
  2. All That Jazz
  3. Blazing Saddles
  4. Any movie ever made by Pixar
Four TV shows I enjoy (do these all have to be current, I wonder? I hope not, because if so, I'm cheating!):

  1. Curb Your Enthusiasm
  2. PBS's Mystery series
  3. Nova
  4. Star Trek: The Next Generation
Four Places I've Traveled (Only four? So limiting! I have to find a way to sneak in more, because I'm an inveterate traveler):

  1. Every US state except Alaska, Maine, and (I think) Rhode Island
  2. Asia (Bangkok, Hong Kong, Macau, and Canton)
  3. Europe (England, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain [twice], Italy [three times], Greece [twice])
  4. Mexico (Tijuana and surrounding, Puerto Vallarta, Zihuatanejo, and Mexico City)
Four websites I go to (almost) daily:
  1. Lacey Kaye's Fantabulous Blog
  2. Romantic Inks
  3. Online Etymology Dictionary
  4. Slate Magazine
Four people I'm tagging to do this, too:
  1. Lainey Bancroft
  2. Annie Dean
  3. Pam Skochinski
  4. Jody Wallace
Of course, you can do it even if I didn't tag you!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I know I was AWOL on Monday. Sorry about that. I had the stomach flu. As have all of my children and my husband. Such fun it's been around here the past few days. And I have absolutely nothing interesting or funny to write today. Just posting to reassure anyone who was worried that I'm still alive. (Ah yes, my public. All ten of you, LOL!)

Love everyone's Spice Girl names. Keep 'em coming!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

If You Were A Spice Girl

I know, I know. I didn't blog on Friday. I always try to blog on Friday, but yesterday, it was just not happening.

Today's entry will be short and sweet. I have Darcy to thank for this topic. She told Lacey and me in email yesterday what her name would be if she were a Spice Girl. I won't tell here (if she wants to tell you, she can comment!), but I've decided mine would definitely be Flaky Spice.

Maybe this is why I can't finish my book--too flaky!

Okay, share! What would your Spice Girl name be?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006



The doctor called during dinner. We normally don't answer the phone at dinner time but I made an exception because I thought it might be him.

He's really a great doctor and so nice/reassuring. I love him to pieces. Even more because he called me at 7:00 at night to give me peace of mind.

Good night!

If You're Waiting for Results...

...well, join the club. Because I haven't heard either.

I was told they'd be in yesterday or today and that I'd surely have a call from my doctor today with the biospy results. When I hadn't heard anything by 3:30, I called myself. The receptionist says the results are there and the doctor will call me back either today or tomorrow morning.

Of course, being me, I promptly freaked out. And I haven't quite stopped freaking out. I'm sure that if the results were anything other than benign, they'd want to let me know as soon as possible, so I should be taking their apparent lackadaisacal attitude towards informing me as a good sign. But I'm a headcase, so of course, it's just making me crazy.

The radiologist who took the sample told me I could call her for results if I didn't hear from my doctor, so I tried that. Got placed on hold for a long time and was then told she was with a patient and she'd call me back to tell me.

It's now after 5:00, both offices are closed, and no one's called me. Will I sleep tonight? I have my doubts...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

100%, But Not Done, Darn It!

So, I hit my projected page count of 510 about 15 minutes ago. And have realized I have at least one and possibly two more chapters to write. This ending just doesn't want to be rushed!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Thank God, It's Monday!

Okay, I know that's not a popular sentiment. But I love Mondays. Much more than Fridays, in fact.

I particularly love the Monday when my former housekeeper comes back to work for me after a six month hiatus. I could never bring myself to hire someone else to clean for me because she knew us so well and did such a wonderful job, but I simply couldn't keep up myself. And I knew once her new baby got a bit older, she'd want to come back, so I couldn't bear to fire someone else to hire her back.

Anyway, six months of dust and grime has been lifted from my shoulders, and it might as well be the weight of the world.

Obviously, I haven't had any word yet on the biopsy, but I want to thank those of you who dropped by and left me comments and well-wishes. I haven't heard from Beverley or Laura since FanLit, so it was sweet of them to stop by. (Beverley, if you want to use the wordcounter I use, you can find instructions at It's so easy, it's scary!)

The most painful part of the whole experience turned out to be untaping myself. The medical tape actually pulled off the top layer of my skin in spots. Ouch! The small puncture from the needle turned out to be nothing by comparison. Well, except for the time when my 4yo decided to dive on me and stick his elbow right there!

Meanwhile, I continue to make slow (painfully, inexorably slow) progress towards the end of Living In Sin. Today I may exceed 1,000 words, but I typically don't get out much more than 500 and some days, it's less than that. But something is something.

I know at this point I won't be done when I reach 510 pages. I'll be lucky to finish at 525 pages! But I'm not changing the word meters any more. I'll just overshoot them and when I'm done, I can be 110% finished instead of 100% finished. (That's got to be better, right?)

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Saga Continues

Since I posted on Wednesday about the lump and freaked ya'll out (well, Lacey anyway, apparently!), I thought I'd better post an update since I've had my mammogram and ultrasound.

The mammogram (aka "mashogram") on Thursday was uneventful. I didn't talk to the radiologist afterwards, just was told to have my ultrasound the following day, which told me they saw something. (I looked at the films myself on the off chance I could understand them. I mean, I did once read my oldest son's x-rays and knew instantly that his arm was broken! But it all looked like...I don't know...tissue to me!)

This morning, I had the ultrasound and, again, it all looks on the monitor like tissue to me. (Not like a cute, waving little peanut/baby, which is my only other experience with ultrasounds. At least breast ultrasounds don't require the Chinese Water Torture experience.) The radiologist reviewed the films and then did her own scan. She said the mass was "very non-specific", which I could certainly agree with, since everything on the screen looked pretty non-specific to me.

Her guess is that it's an inflamed milk duct and when I told her I'd only quit nursing at the beginning of the year, she thought that made the explanation even more reasonable. But, she said, while it didn't "look like cancer", it didn't look like for sure "NOT cancer", so she wanted to do a needle biopsy just to be sure.

The good news is the needle thing, while looking scarier than hell, didn't hurt at all after I was anesthetized. It does make a rather startling snapping sound when they take the tissue sample, though, that makes you think it hurts even when you don't feel it.

So now I'll all patched up with steristrips and tape and an ice pack. So far, it actually itches more than it hurts, though it's a bit tender, I'll admit.

Of course, no writing has been accomplished thus far today and the rest of the day isn't looking much better. I've got to get all the awards ready for tonight's cub scout Pack meeting plus help my son put a casserole together (it's a potluck) and then actually go to the meeting. See what I mean about life.

Results of biopsy expected by Wednesday. I'll keep you posted!