Wednesday, June 27, 2007

On Vacation

The blog and I will both be on vacation until July 6th. I'm in Minnesota with my husband and kids, staying with my aunt and uncle at their beautiful old lakefront farmhouse. Wonderfully relaxing and regenerating, which I find I'm needing to gear up for National.

So, see you all next Friday. In the meantime, feel free to post a comment and let us know what you're doing with your summer.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Manuscript Mavens Launch Party Jamboree

Over on the Manuscript Mavens blog today, we're having our official launch party today. The 100th commenter on our collective post will receive a critique on the chapter of her (or his!) choice up to 20 pages from all four mavens.

But if you think you might be too faint of heart for a multi-Maven crit, never fear. There's more. We're also giving away three one-Maven critiques to three random commenters who also post to their blogs about the contest and link to us. Go forth and pimp, my friends!

Speaking of pimping, my first post is scheduled for next Tuesday, and I plan to talk about book and self-promotion. Since I'll be on a plane to Minnesota for a family vacation by the time the post goes up, I won't be able to answer your questions in comments until after I return, but I promise not to ignore you. I'll do a follow-up post in July (right before we all leave for National!) to answer 'em.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Your Editor Is Your Best Friend

Lacey has a great blog post up today about crits, both giving and receiving. Her musings inspired me to write a little about taking criticism once you've actually sold your book and have an editor critiquing your work.

Now, Cobblestone has a policy of doing three edit rounds on all their publications. Which, if you ask me, is great. I don't want my story to be published with some totally goofball error in it that could have easily been corrected if it had been properly corrected. And I've only just finished the first round of edits on Carnally Ever After, so my experience with the whole process is (so far) fairly limited.

Now, you have to understand that I'd been warned by both Ericka Scott and Deanna Lee that at least one author has compared Cobblestone's editing process to an anal probe. (Aside: I wonder how many weird hits that's going to produce from Google searches?) So I was more than a trifle anxious about what I was going to find when I got my first round of edits. What would my editor find wrong with my story? What if she wanted me to change major plot points or characterization? What if she wanted me to add or remove scenes? Worst of all, what if she hated it?

You'd think the fact that Cobblestone wanted the book in the first place would be enough to give me confidence in my abilities as a writer and in my story's charm and wonderfulness, but somehow, the thought of putting myself in the hands of yet another critiquer turned my knees to jelly.

When the file showed up in my inbox on Saturday night, I studiously ignored it. I just wasn't ready to burst the bubble of happiness I'd been floating on since I sold the story with whatever I was going to find in red inside that document. I told myself I'd wait until Monday and then tackle it like it was my job, not my heart.

Which was really not the brightest idea I've ever had. Because instead of sleeping Saturday night, I tossed and turned and worried over what was in that file. (Have I ever mentioned that I am a terrible control freak and an inveterate worrier? I can drive myself insane over the stupidest little things. I once tossed and turned all night because I forgot to put a bill in the mail the previous day. And it wasn't even due yet. Talk about stupid!)

But I digress. (Isn't that what blogs are for?)

So, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, I got up on Sunday morning and opened the email. To my pleased surprise, the cover letter said my editor thought Carnally Ever After was a great story (with an exclamation point, no less) and that she found one scene in particular worthy of an ROFL.

Hmmmm, that didn't sound too bad.

Cautiously optimistic, I opened the attached file. And yes, it was covered in red marks. Clauses and sentences reorganized. Phrases added or deleted. And the occasional story or word use question (e.g., "Why does the hero think that?" "What's a fall?"). But by and large, the changes my editor suggested were line edits for clarity that I almost universally agreed with. There were a few things I quibbled over or suggested revising in a different way and I also took the opportunity to make a few changes she didn't suggest. Still, nothing scary or terrible. Certainly nothing I could equate to an anal probe, LOL! (The Mavens are way harder on me. But then, maybe that's why there weren't many issues!)

I sent the file back to her early Monday and haven't seen the second round of edits yet. Which means I know the harder edit may be yet to come. Maybe she just wanted to get the small stuff out of the way in the first go-round and address the larger issues in a later edit. All of which means I'm still a little nervous about round two.

All of that said, I know my editor is my best friend when it comes to putting out a story I'll be proud of when it goes to print. So even if the next round of crits is more...well, critical, I hope I can be "big" enough to take them as they're intended--as helpful suggestions to make my book better. Because once she's done with it, there's no going back and fixing the problems. Every little error will be out there for the world to see (and complain about)!

The moral of this little story is that, no matter how hard it is to accept criticism of your work, you're never really finished receiving it. First, you get it from critique partners or contest judges. Then, if you're lucky enough to sell it, you get it from your editor. And finally, you'll get it from your readers, some of whom will probably not luuuuuurve your story as much as you know it deserves to be loved. But that's another blog :->!

Today's question: Have you ever been afraid to look at a critique? Ever get one that was especially good or especially bad? Don't be afraid to share!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Manuscript Mavens Speak!

If you have a few extra minutes in your blog rounds, please stop by to read the very first post in the new Manuscript Mavens blog. It's going to be loads of fun over there, what with Darcy, Erica, Lacey and one very special Mystery Maven contributing tons of insights and tips and encouragement on writing and writer writer life. I hope you'll join us.

On Friday, we'll launch a "very special contest." Please come play!

Monday, June 18, 2007

I Won the Cover Art Lottery!

Today would have been my father's 77th birthday if he were still alive. And since yesterday was Father's Day, I was going to write a very touching post about how much I miss my dad, who's probably the only person in my immediate family who would have really gotten my writing obsession. (My sister seems to have gotten over it, although she's only 36, so there's time for it to come back and bite her after she turns 40 like it did me!)

Buuuut, over the weekend, I got the cover art from Cobblestone for Carnally Ever After and it's sooooo gorgeous, I decided I had to share that instead.

Sable Grey did this and I think it's just beautiful. I feel so fortunate to have gotten something I absolutely love on the first try. Totally amazing!

For those of you who love it as much as I do, she also sent a desktop version of the file that I'll post on the Jackie Barbosa site for download (as soon as I figure out how to do that in html, LOL!).

Friday, June 15, 2007

School's Out for Summer

But not forever.

And I can't decide whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

You see, every time summer break rolls around, I vacillate between whether I'm sorry school's over or glad.

The pros of school are pretty obvious:
  1. The kids are out of the house for almost six hours every weekday, which gives me plenty of time to work and write without interruption.
  2. It's public school, so it's effectively six hours of free children-out-of-my hair time.

But list of cons, to me, seems much longer:

  1. Homework. (They start giving homework around here in kindergarten. Wait, no, in preschool. It's madness.)
  2. The school's schedule runs our lives. Everything, from the time we get out of bed in the morning to the time we go to bed at night, is driven by when the children must either arrive at or be picked up from school. (Have I mentioned before that I hate schedules?)
  3. Homework.
  4. There is always just enough time after school for the kids to fight with each other and or whine about being bored, but never enough time to do anything really fun or meaningful.
  5. Homework.

So, at least for now, there's no homework and the schedule is nice and loose, just the way I like it. The downside is that I have three kids here to pester me pretty much all day, every day.

And, today, they're all sitting around moping because there's no one to play with but each other. Everyone seems either to have gone away on vacation already or to be busy today.

Will I be happy or sad when school starts again in August? Probably a little of both, just like I am now.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

When Contest Feedback Is Actually Useful

The Mavens (Darcy, Erica, Lacey, and Janice--naughty Janice has no website!) like to tease me about the fact that I rarely read my contest feedback beyond a quick glance at my scoresheets. There are a number of reasons for my reticence to read the comments closely. Primarily, it's that by the time I get the scoresheets back from the contest, I've already revised the portion of the manuscript I submitted so drastically that the comments probably wouldn't be helpful anyway.

But also, I'm always a little afraid to see what these strangers really think of my writing. I don't want my spirit crushed.

And now I know you're laughing, because thus far, my entries have been finalists in 3 of 4 contests. "How can your spirit be crushed by feedback on a FINALING entry, for Pete's sake?" you're asking. (I know final is not a verb in standard English. But it should be, darn it. Like medal in the Olympics.) "What a wimp you are!"

Um, guilty as charged.

The thing that's odd is that I can take blunt, even harsh, criticism from my critique partners and be okay with it. But I think that's because 1) I know and trust them and 2) if I don't agree, I can argue with them. (I'm sure they'll all pipe in and tell you how much I luuuuuurve to argue, LOL.)

By contrast, in contests, I get feedback primarily from strangers (the exception being the editor/agent who judges the final round, but I haven't always gotten feedback from that person beyond a placement) whose credentials I don't really know, but worse, I can't talk to them about it if I don't understand the criticism or to help me figure out how to correct the problem.

Aside: One of the Mavens just got her scoresheets from a contest she didn't final in, and though she was pleased overall with what she got from them, some of the feedback was and bizarre! I wanted to go find the judges and ask them to justify their ridiculously low scores on some items. (See, I told you I love to argue!)

So why do I keep entering contests, you ask? Well, first of all, I've been entering a lot these past few months because the "official" query season is closed and won't open again until September. (I hear most agents pretty well take the summer off.) This means contests are one of the few ways I have of getting my work into an editor or agent's hands quickly right now. And since I do seem to have a pretty good hit ratio when it comes to finaling, I figure it's not a bad strategy.

But also, of late, I haven't been raping my manuscripts quite as much between contest entries as in the past. In particular, I entered Lady Libertine's first ten pages in the Wisconsin Fab Five and then didn't change a word of those pages in the intervening months. The entry went onto the finals, much to my excitement, since in large part, I'd entered it to find out how judges would react to the story's rather unconventional heroine.

During the same week I received my offer from Cobblestone on Carnally Ever After, I learned that the manuscript wound up placing third overall in the historical category. Fortunately, I was so excited over having a manuscript accepted for publication, I didn't have too much time to be disappointed by the fact that, once again, I was unable to crack the third spot, even with a different book.

Well, last weekend, the scoresheets came in the mail, and after trembling and angsting over reading them, I opened them and had a look. And wow, the feedback was meaningful. Most of the comments were positive, even from the editor who placed it third and passed on requesting the partial (boo :->).

The maximum possible score for this contest was 60. Lady Libertine received one 60, a 59, and a 58 in the first round, all from judges who are published authors (although only one is published by RWA standards). The lowest score came from the RWA published judge, but she said in the comments that she absolutely loved the story and hoped it would be published so she could read the rest. Best of all, everyone who read the entry loved Amelia, the heroine. And that, my friends, was very encouraging because I've really wondered whether I can sell a heroine who's had multiple lovers and enjoyed it in the historical market. Judith Ivory's Sleeping Beauty notwithstanding, it's pretty difficult to find unrepentant sluts in historical romances.

But the other useful thing I got out of their comments was that the final round editor and two of the three judges weren't quite happy with the pace of the first scene. It wasn't that they didn't like the scene or think it started in the wrong place, but rather that it took a bit too long to develop and felt stilted.

At first, I didn't quite get this complaint. After all, when I first wrote the scene, all the Mavens oohed and aahed over how fast-paced and conflict-filled it was (even though it's just a conversation in an office; I do seem to like to start books in offices :->). Then, one of the comments finally sunk in. One of the judges said I had too much stage direction in the scene. Reading it again, she was right. The stage direction distracted from the conversation I was trying to highlight. In addition, I realized there was about a page of dialogue that wasn't contributing anything to the plot. So, I tweaked the scene just a bit, and I'm pleased to say I think it reads better.

Guess we'll find out soon enough, because I'm entering it in the Emerald City Opener!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Web Site Updates

So, while I'm migrating the Jacqueline Barbour site from its old server (which required me to have ads at the top of the page) to the new one (which doesn't), you might as well go and have a peek at the new Jackie Barbosa site, which I'm happy to say is up and running (thanks to Erica, who is a website guru extraordinaire in addition to being one hell of a writer).

Monday, June 11, 2007

Sorry I Missed You!

Today turned out to be a little crazier than I expected.

First, my oldest son ended up home sick with a stomach bug that just will not quit. (No vomiting, but lots of discomfort and unhappiness.)

I was SUPPOSED to go into the office for an interview with a prospective employee and a training class, but ended up having to do both by phone. (Very disorienting.)

And finally, I was the last of the Mavens to get to a partial that's supposed to go out to an agent (requested) tomorrow. So I HAD to get through that.

Blogging sort of slipped to the bottom of the list. But it's good to be busy. I think!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Thank You!

This has been a completely crazy week in every way (mostly in a good way!), so I haven't time for a proper post this afternoon, I'm afraid.

But I wanted to say thank you again to everyone who's dropped by with congratulations on my sale to Cobblestone. Yesterday, I finished all my initial homework from them and last night, I received notice of my editor assignment. It's all happening so quickly, my head is spinning.

Before I sign off for the weekend, though, I want to say a special hello to Janice, the so-called "Silent Maven," who is a sometime member of our Manuscript Mavens critique group. In addition to coming out of lurkdom to post a comment here, Janice has also been informed that she's the first place finisher in a very prestigious contest. I won't spill all the beans until the announcement has been made "for real," but I'm just so pleased for her.

I also want to wave to Clisby, a friend of mine from my Usenet parenting group days. Thanks for stopping by, Clisby, and yeah, swing by more often, will ya :->?

Happy weekend, ya'll!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Thirteen Things I Did on My Birthday

Obviously, one thing I did not do on my birthday (yesterday) was my usual Wednesday blog post. Because of that, in lieu of Lyric Thursday, I'm going to do a Thursday Thirteen this week. Here goes!
  1. Finally took cats to the vet to be neutered. Cats were not happy. Ever tried putting a cat in a carrier with his legs splayed out to the side? Very interesting.

  2. Redesigned my website. I love the new look and, better still, it matches the business cards I ordered for National. How slick is that? Now I just have to get it moved over to another server so I can lose the auto ads at the top of the page!

  3. Worked on the design for the Jackie Barbosa website. I love the look of this one, too, but I'm not quite ready to launch it yet. Check out the banner graphic:

  4. Angsted over writing 12-word and 25-word loglines for Carnally Ever After. (Have I mentioned how much I suck at loglines? Oh, yeah, I have!)

  5. Angsted over writing 50-word hook and 50-word synopsis for Carnally Ever After.

  6. Picked up minivan from the dealer, where it had been for two days to have the rack replaced. (Scary to realize I was driving around with a bad rack for a month or more.)

  7. Discovered cats have tapeworms. Ick!

  8. Picked up cats from vet. Cats not happy. Much hissing and meowing and clawing of cat carriers ensued on the way home.

  9. Belatedly realized daughter's vague stomach complaints over the past few weeks could be due to tapeworm infestation. Double ick!

  10. Went out to dinner with my family at our favorite beach restaurant.

  11. Watched my kids play in the surf while I froze my butt off after dinner. (Kids are nuts!)

  12. Came home and watched my Padres beat the hated Dodgers (ahhhhhh!) while Trevor Hoffman got his 500th save. Sa-weet!

  13. Went to bed and the rest, I'm afraid, is TMI for this blog!

Monday, June 04, 2007

It's a Done Deal!

I just signed and sent off my very first contract with a publisher. And now I'm ready to squeal like a demented pig about it :->!

Some of you may remember that I wrote a short novella (a little under 15,000 words), titled Carnally Ever After, back in January/February of this year. It was originally intended for the Ellora's Cave Naughty Nuptials series (and I have to thank Annie Dean for having given me the idea to write it in the first place!). Ellora's Cave turned it down, however, leaving me with a story I thought was pretty darned good, but didn't know what to do with. I toyed with trying to expand it to true novella length (say, 30K words), but ultimately decided it wasn't worth the effort. The story really felt complete to me as it was written, and I couldn't imagine what I could add that would improve it. So, I sent it to Harlequin's Spice Brief's line back in April, but decided not to send it anywhere else until I heard anything.

But after two months, I got antsy. To make a long story short, I decided to send the manuscript to Cobblestone Press, which I knew has a line for manuscripts of exactly this length. I'd heard good things about Cobblestone from various people and had good experiences with stories I've bought there (Ericka Scott's Crystal Clear, for example).

I clicked send on the submission early last Thursday morning and sat back to wait the 45-60 days for a response. I'm sure you can imagine how I felt when I got a response from Deanna Lee less than 8 hours later. Especially when I opened it and realized it wasn't because there was a problem with the file or the format was all wrong or anything like that, but an almost-offer. Change one small thing and we'll make you a contract offer.

I was gobsmacked. I looked at the manuscript and saw that only about three sentences were affected. I made the change and sent the revised version back to Deanna that evening. By Friday night, I had a contract in my inbox.

Of course, I didn't want to look too easy, so I read the contract carefully over the weekend and did a little homework, contacting some of the authors I know who publish with Cobblestone to pick their brains about their experiences. (Thanks to Ericka, Sara Dennis, and Cora Zane, who all offered incredibly helpful insights!)

In the middle of writing this blog, I got a phone call from Deanna and we chatted for quite a while. Turns out she's hoping to have Carnally Ever After released in August (how's that for light speed?), she already has a cover artist in mind for me, and she's assigning me to an editor. Whee!

Because I want to keep the Jacqueline Barbour name for my full-length historicals (which I hope will someday make it to print!), we agreed I'll be using a different pen name for my Cobblestone release (and hopefully releases; I do have a few more ideas!). At Darcy's suggestion, I've settled on Jackie Barbosa (a little pirate-y and very fun, I think). Among the many other things I'll have to do leading up to the release is to set up a new website in that name. (But I'm only going to blog here! Well, and at the Manuscript Mavens when we get that up and running. Soon!)

Oh, did I mention my birthday is Wednesday? This is easily the best birthday present I've ever gotten. A few days early, but who am I to quibble?

Friday, June 01, 2007


So, both Lyric Thursday and my writing goals got derailed yesterday by some very unexpected and potentially squee-worthy news. I promise to dish as soon as I'm confident I can! Meanwhile, just know that I'm pretty thrilled.

I am also hella busy today. I've got a bunch of family-related errands to run today and I also don't want to miss my quota today like I did yesterday. Hence, this is a very short post.

Thanks to everyone who shared "creativity-related" family histories with me. It was fascinating!

Until Monday, my friends...