Thursday, December 8, 2011

Oh to be in England!

Have I ever mentioned that England is one of my favorite places?

Well it is. I'm a confirmed Anglophile, that's for sure. I adore hot tea (I have it every morning but with cream and not milk) and am obsessed with scones. It all started as a child. Lucky me, I had an aunt who married British and promptly moved to London. So that's where I spent a lot of my summer vacations. While other kids were pining for Disney Land, I spent my time touring the Tower of London, Portobello Road (which I sadly found was not like it was in "Bed Knobs and Broomsticks), Leeds Castle, the Cliffs of Dover, and finally Edinburgh, in all of its medieval glory. Yep, I was the only kid on the block who spent their summer abroad. Actually, I will venture to say I was the only kid in town. But it was a small one, I will admit.

My obsession with European royalty started during my first trip across the "pond", as they call it. I was ten and following a viewing of "Anne of a Thousand Days" and a trip to Hampton Court Palace, I was totally in love Anne Boleyn and the whole Tudor era drama. Not so much anymore as it's SO overdone, but still, I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

The summer I was twelve, I was over there again, this time exploring all of the art galleries and museums. The V & A remains, to this day, my favorite. Probably because of the costume collection which is AWESOME. But by this time I was also way into the Pre-Raphaelites so a trip to the Tate Gallery was a major highlight. Nothing can compare to seeing Millais' "Ophelia" in that setting (it's a huge painting, by the way).

When I was sixteen, Jane Austen mania hit! My dear, ever so patient aunt took me on a road trip of sites relating to Jane Austen. There was the pilgrimidge to Chawton Cottage and to Winchester Cathedral to see Jane's grave. We even drove to Portsmouth where Jane resided briefly (and where I insisted we track down the house she lived in). Oh, and we saw where that dude, Charles Dickens, grew up.
And finally, there was Bath. Yes, it ALWAYS rains in Bath. I went to the Pump Room and visualized Anne Eliot walking about. I must pause here and discuss how blessed I feel when I reflect on this. I've recently been way into 18th century fashion and while browsing blogs and related sites, I clicked over to a link for the Museum of Fashion. As I cycled through some of the past exhibitions, it hit me--I've been here! Wow. Now I'm humbled. As I took a virtual tour of the Assembly Rooms in Bath, remembering the time that I spent there, I realized how many neat things I have been able to do as a result of my interest in history (and my connections as well.) I've walked the streets where Jane Austen walked. I've heard a live string quartet play classical music on the grounds of a castle. I can get around London like a pro; it's like a second home after all.
Sadly, my last trip to England was in 2003. However, I am scheduled to go back to Jolly Ol' England next summer! My aunt is making a second trip down the aisle and the wedding is being held at Stanton Manor, which was once owned by Elizabeth I's chamberlain, Lord Burghley. How cool is that? And I actually get to sleep there! Of course, I've already got my itinerary planned out because there are some places I haven't been yet. I'm looking forward to showing my little brother around as he will be making his first trip over. He'll be a few months shy of ten by then, so history does repeat itself!

So now that I have bored you all with details of my fabulous travels, I get to ask: what has been your favorite trip and/or what unique thing have you experienced as a result of your interests?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Do you ever just sit back and wonder if you're barking up the wrong tree in regards to this whole writing thing?

I've been wondering that a lot lately. Well actually I'm feeling trapped. I have so many good stories and characters in my head, but I worry if I have the skill to convey them in a marketable way...or even a readable way for that matter.

I've been thinking a lot about my ability to craft plots. I want to write historical fiction first and foremost, but I also adore a good impassioned love story. It's an essential element to all of my novels, but I fear now that I'm wandering into the no man's land of genre. I mused on this subject before and was feeling like I may have come up with a plan for tackling my genre bending ways. I was stamping Rebel Heart as a historical fiction with strong romantic elements. It's a genre according to the Romance Writers of America folks. Well I should say that it is a category in their annual unpublished writers contest (acutally it's fiction with strong romantic elements). But it can be recognized all day long but if an agent doesn't think they can market it, you can kiss your chances good bye. I'm starting to see the allure of e-publishing! Although how hypocritical would it be for me to pursue e-publishing when I've never read a self-published book? And how do you differentiate yourself from the hacks? I don't want people to think I have no talent. I'd rather remain unpublished if that's the case.

This of course begs the question: what if I don't have talent? I'm such a sparse writer. I feel sometimes like I lack the ability to draw readers in. My prose isn't elegant (for the most part) nor is it overly descriptive. There are places where I force myself to elaborate on scenery and in the process come aross as very stilted. Not cool.

Oh to be a kittay!
And then there are my POV issues. I love first person. It really allows me to connect with my main character. But I hate filtering everything through their eyes. That's where I took a right turn and wrote Rebel Heart in first for Julienne and third for Alex and one other main male character. I had several comments on this, some negative and some positive. I work best in this method and there are novelists out there who do this (Laurie R. King comes to mind). But I'm struggling even as I write this. I started rewriting my Revolutionary War novel this week. I adore the characters and I think I may have sorted out the plot issues. Now POV is rearing its ugly head. I first started rewriting in July with the plan of doing what I did in Rebel Heart: first for my main female character and third for the two main male characters. When I picked it up this week, I became determined to write wholly in third person. I edited out the first person references in the thirty odd pages I had already written. And boy does it look and read weird (at least to me). I feel like I'm shifting POVs in the same scenes too. Which is a no-no, right? So what do I do? I feel like I'm losing some of the nuances of the main female character by going to third but what's the point if I write something that can't get an agent?

Oh these are the days when I wish I had never learned that I might have a chance at publication! It's a lot easier when you write for your own amusement.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving and What I'm grateful for....

I will keep this short and sweet, but I feel that I must wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving and briefly expound on what I am thankful for this year. I typically find such things as slightly overdone, sentimental, and silly, but it's always a good idea to sit back and evaluate what you are blessed with. Of course, I can't be completely serious, so some of my thoughts will be irreverent!

1. Family. Yes, it is a given. I count myself very lucky to have a great family. We're very close and I wouldn't have it any other way.Yes, they get on my last nerve, we're all quirky and dysfunctional in our own ways, but at the end of the day, I love them all. Even when they shake up our usual Thanksgiving plans by deciding to go to Florida (as we did when I was growing up) despite the fact that this is my first Thanksgiving in 8 years where I haven't had to drive an hour plus to reach the celebration.

2. My apartment. I really love my apartment. I would love it even more if we had been able to buy it, but I digress. It's a great place, my ideal really since I can walk and bike downtown and I have a Target five minutes away. Oh it's the little things...

3. Hot tea. How would I survive without it? I probably couldn't actually...

4. Cold weather. I'm one of those freaks who loves coats and hats and mittens. I'd rather bundle up than fry in the southern heat and not be able to take off clothes...

5. Books. I shouldn't have to expound on this one.

6. "Mad Men". I told you I would be irreverent! But knowing that "Mad Men" has just two more seasons before it goes off the air makes me sad thus I plan on enjoying these last seasons all the more. And pray that Matthew Weiner will change his mind and extend the show until 1970.

7. All of my lovely readers. As most of you know, a writer is never so happy as when someone reads their work--and dare I say, like it? Or at least comment on it. So how could I not be grateful for all of you?

So Happy Thanksgiving to you all. Be happy and safe. What are you grateful for this year (or in general)?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Oh Fall...

I love fall.
I think it has to do with the cooler weather. I hate to be hot--which is a pretty inescapable fact when you live in the South. You would think after 29 years of living, my body would have finally acclimated, but hasn't. I would gladly move to more northern climes in order to escape the sauna that is South Carolina in the summer. But my husband is allergic to any place above the Mason-Dixon Line. Sigh.

One thing that I do not like about fall (or spring, for that matter) is the inevitable onset of allergies. I have had a particularly rough time this year due to moving to a slightly different environment--meaning a whole new host of irritants to send me into fits of sneezing, coughing, and wheezing.

Feeling bad certainly impacts my writing. My brain is befuddled and it takes a lot out of me to forumlate something out of the fog. I launched into November, determined to participate in NaNoWriMo, but my word count has been sadly truncated due to the allergies that just won't quit. I'd much rather go home, get in bed and read Edith Wharton's The Bucaneers or watch Ringer (otherwise known as my new guilty pleasure.)

It doesn't help that I am in the part of my new novel where I am still setting up characters and places in preparation for more dramatic scenes. I hate the set-up; I either put it off or race through it so I can get to the juicy bits. And then I have to go back and do some heavy re-writing, which is never fun.

I have no other profound thoughts for you today. My sleep was seriously disturbed when I woke up at 2am this morning in need of some ibprofen. Of course I had none, so I went to the store. And promptly got pulled over by a cop because my tag light was out. Yes really. Oh the joys of living in a small town!

So what about you? What part of your novel is the most trying to write? How do you motivate yourself to get those parts done?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Has it Really Been a Month?

Apparently. Since my last post was on September 29th. Time flies.
I am sorry that I have been neglecting all of you, my dear readers. I've really been struggling with my writing lately and I've even broke my own rule of "just write something." Until last weekend (or was it the weekend before...yes, that's it), I hadn't opened my laptop in two months. Ouch.

But for whatever reason, the muse descended and I totally eschewed all of my research on real life historical characters in favor of Rebellion. I wrote twenty pages in two days. And then promptly put away said laptop again. I hate when that happens.
So I've been mulling over the last few days--how many writers set daily goals for themselves? I've never been one to adhere to a strict schedule because I always found that it limited my creativity. When I'm not in the mood to write, the result is pretty terrible. And so I've always been afraid to make myself write. But given that I'm doing one more edit of The Enemy Within (now entitled Rebel Heart) before sending it out to the last twenty five agents on my list (and then potentially shelving it for a time), I'm looking to hold myself to higher standards. I don't want to take another ten years to write my next novel, nor do I want to turn out a poor quality work. The idea that some authors can churn out a whole novel in under three months (and sometimes as little as one month) completely blows my mind. Perhaps "slow and steady wins the race" should be my new goal? Or maybe I'm not setting the bar high enough?

So I want to know: do you hold yourself to a daily goal and if so, do you find that your writing suffers as a result? Do you decide to just make substantive revisions at a later date to compensate? What's your goal and do you find it easy to achieve?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Defeat and Determination

Have you ever had an idea only to find out that it's been done?

I'm sure you have; how else did that phrase "Why re-invent the wheel?" get coined? I don't know about you, but I've never been much for using someone else's leavings. And so it should come as no surprise that I recently had my lovely Restoration England novel idea pooh-poohed when I discovered that another novel featuring my historical figure is about to come out.

I'll come right out and say it, I was planning on writing a novel about Frances Stuart, the Duchess of Richmond and Lennox. Known as "La Belle Stuart" she was the one woman that evaded King Charles II. Yes, she refused to become the mistress of a king. In fact, she was so beautiful that Samuel Pepys made several notations about her in his diaries. Charles was so mad for her that when she secretly eloped with the Duke of Richmond, they were bascially persona non grata with the king for many years. But sadly, I found out yesterday that another historical fiction writer has written about Frances. The book has been released in the UK and is days away from reaching the shelves in the US. She's a cracking good writer too as I read her novel about John Donne and his wife Anne. So, I suspect that I will be picking up a copy of The Painted Lady and dreaming about what could have been. I know that having a rival book out there doesn't neccessarily spell doom for me, but Frances Stuart isn't Anne Boleyn or Marie Antoinette. Her life is not subject to various interpretations and so I feel that it is best to tackle new ground.

I was pretty bummed about this revelation yesterday but I woke up with renewed determination this morning and I think I have found a new subject. This historical figure will take me to Georgian England, an era that I'm a bit more comfortable venturing into. Hopefully no one else has stumbled upon this character!

So what about you? Have you ever started researching (or writing) a novel only to discover that it's been done?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Going Off the Tracks....

I think I've decided to shelve "The Enemy Within" for a while. I don't know how to define "a while" right now, but I think it's taken me this whole long unproductive month to see that I need something to invigorate my writing once more. I've even despaired of having writer's block. *shudder*

Though I dearly love "Enemy," I'm just tired of it. It's no wonder since I've been working on either finishing it or editing it for two years straight. I've read it so many times that while I enjoy reading some of the more brilliant moments, I am a bit tired of going over it again and again. I think the second half may be going off the rails a bit even though I love what happens. I think I need to take some more time to get feedback, not to mention figure out how to make it more cohesive. But ultimately, I think it may not be the right time for it. I'm sure American historical fiction will come sailing into the market again, and when that happens, I'll be ready for it.

And so what to work on next? I had "Rebellion" mapped out, but when I finally cracked open my laptop the other evening to re-read my progress, I just wasn't happy with the result. There is nothing worse than being uninspired by your own writing. So I've taken a step back; I don't think my characters in "Rebellion" are ready to tell their stories yet.

In light that, I've decided to do something that will be a complete challenge to me. I'm taking a real life historical character and a time period that I only have a passing acquaintance with. It's a time period that is slowly becoming in vogue, and I know if I want to do this, I better get "on the stick" (as we say down here in the south)! I'm going to keep the storyline close to my chest right now, but I will divulge the era: Restoration England. The country, of course, is my all time favorite, and the period has always fascinated me. I've spent some time researching the person I want to write about and now I need to research all the ins and outs of one of the most hedonistic courts in history.

Good times will be had by all, I promise!

So what about you? Have you got any shiny new ideas percolating?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On Being Motivated...Or Not!

Thanks to Anne Taintor
Two posts back I briefly touched on what holds us back from writing. I have to admit that good ol' fashioned laziness often holds me hostage although I refer to it as "just not feeling the writing today." I haven't been "feeling it" for several weeks now, but I haven't been very hard on myself since I have so many crazy things going on in my life. I've spent the last two weeks unpacking boxes and have finally gotten to the point where most everything is accounted for (except my passport...and the TV remote) and placed where it should be. Art work is slowly making its way onto the wall and I've already begun an exhaustive list of improvements I want to make if/when our purchase of the place goes through.

I'm still not quite at home, largely due to the fact that I have no sofa. A living room is not a living room without a sofa! That particular piece of furniture was my favorite place to write so I can only guess that my writing is being held up by its absence. OK, so that might be a far reaching excuse! Fortunately, I have felt the stirrings of Miss Muse the last few days--which is a good thing. I've been rethinking some of the early chapters of Rebellion and have determined that I am doing some of my characters an injustice. I certainly need to rectify that!

Anyhoo, motivation has been in short supply. So I was quite happy when a former colleague of mine sent me the link to a blog by Ollin Morales, an author who is writing his first book. He details 10 Tricks to Motivate Yourself to Write and I was pleased to see that his tenth tip was simply "Write." Write in your journal, post a blog, or my perennial favorite, write in your head. I haven't been actively writing in my head lately as my brain has been cluttered with so much lately. But just reading this post reminded me that sometimes you have to get back to basics and since my writing career began at age 10 with the elaborate stories in my head, I figured that's a good place to get back until I can sit down in front of a laptop again.

So what are your tips and tricks to keep writing?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I'm still here...

I think.
Or perhaps just barely.

So the past few weeks have been a blur for me, and I thank you all for bearing with my sporadic posting schedule. I've been on a writing hiatus while I sort out my living arrangements. I don't think I have cracked open my laptop in at least a month, but you know, I'm OK with that. I've taken the time to do some reading, namely The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly, who is one of my favorite writers. I love her books. I remember reading The Tea Rose back in college. I had the misfortune of picking up this book during exam week and could barely put it down in order to study. In fact, I raced through it in less than two days and then after exams I went back to read it again.

There is nothing I love more than reading a book that makes you want to read it again and again... I think the quality that hooks me into a book is the characters. Characterization is everything to me. I love characters so life like that when you stumble upon a villain, you want to throw the book across the room because he/she is so evil.

I want to create characters like that. I want my readers to cheer, laugh, cry, and growl as they make their way through my writing. It's a tall order, though. It's probably why I put down 75% of the books I read. The characters just don't grab me. Their stories are just...well, blah. They're not different; they have no humor or they don't evoke sympathy. It's really sad that agents/editors/publishers are sacrificing characterization for sensationalism. Set the same old characters in the prevailing popular time period and...voila! have a "bestseller".

But I digress. The real subject of this post was about how I am determined to read some of my favorite books (now that they have found their way out of boxes and onto my lone bookshelf) and identify why I love them. And then I will endeavor to evoke those characteristics in my own writing.

So what about you guys? What draws you into a book? Do you try to capture those same things in your own writing?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pause and Reflect...

I know I've been MIA lately, so I hope you all will forgive me. I've had my attention temporarily alienated by the process of applying for a mortgage. Good times.

I hope to be back soon, but in the mean time, what keeps you from writing? Writer's block? Daily activities? Stress? Or....gasp! good ol' fashioned laziness?

Friday, August 12, 2011

In Which I Reconsider Feedback....

So it happened.

I got my first rejection on a full yesterday. It was very odd for me. I was let down, but not distraught. I guess deep down the thought that I would obtain representation on the first full request was pretty slim. If anything, I was hoping for some feedback from her so I could evaluate my MS and make changes. But the agent was snowed under and could not give any specific reasons for her rejection (other than she loved the premise, but it wasn't right for her list--otherwise known as the standard reason). It's so hard to dissect a form rejection.

X marks the spot...or in this case
the rejection!
I am now at an impasse as to what to do. I didn't realize how much I was hoping for feedback from her, so I would know how to proceed. I've struck a wall in regards to finding betas (I only managed two). I want to join a writing group, but I've got to find one first. OK, I've found one but they only meet the 1st Saturday of the month. I'm so desperate that I reversed my feelings about online feedback and posted my first chapter for technical comments. We'll see where that takes me....

And until then, I'm sort of just hanging out here, twiddling my thumbs. How I hate being still!

So what about you guys? What do you after a big rejection?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Dangers of Feedback

Feedback is a good thing.

If it wasn't for feedback, I would have never even thought about getting my writing published. As I have often mentioned, writing was an outlet for me--a chance to create the stories (particularly historical ones) that I wasn't seeing on the shelves at the library or local book store. I sometimes wish that I hadn't been so narrowminded as I would have had the chance to study with a published author when I was in college. But I digress.

I first started exploring the notion of getting published about two years ago when I published some of The Enemy Within on a review website--you know the ones, you critique people's work and they'll critique yours. It was when I found that readers were developing strong, but good reactions about my characters that I thought that I might have a chance at this.

With my usual singlemindedness, I delved into honing my writing and learning everything I could about finding an agent, getting published, etc. And finally here I am. I'd say that I am fairly confident about finding an agent. I hope it's for The Enemy Within, in fact, I'd probably be somewhat disappointed if it doesn't make it anywhere, but I know I have many more stories in my head that might make it to a bookshelf one of these days.

But even with self-confidence, I can still get pretty upset over a harsh critique. I rarely get them, if I'm honest. Or perhaps I should say that I rarely get ones that aren't helpful or that I don't agree with. I think sometimes I let my confidence get the best of me. I put myself out there in ways that I really shouldn't--and usually there's a price to pay for it. Most recently, I was told that my writing was great but cliche. Um, really? How was that in the least bit helpful? I understand that there are some elements of The Enemy Within that are cliche or rather what our society had programmed us to consider cliche. Yes, there are renegade Union soldiers. Yes, there is a big white plantation house and slaves. But personally, I don't think a sprawling Civil War epic would be complete without any of those things. Nonetheless, this recent critique has been plaguing me since I read it. Part of me knows that it was just one person and I shouldn't fret, but given that I'm already somewhat traumatized by the things going on in my personal life, I'm particularly sensitive.
It's so hard to separate out those bad apples sometimes. Add that one critique to the fourteen rejections I've gotten in the past few weeks and it's been a tough twenty-four hours. It's one of those times where I wish I had never ventured out of writing stories for myself. And it's even lead me to consider removing myself from the forum world for a while. I want to be involved (because I like interacting with other writers) and I know it gets my name out there, but sometimes I wonder if it's all worth it. I know that I have my involvement in the forum/blogging world to thank for supplying me with all of you wonderful readers. I certainly don't want to miss out on that.

So what about you all? Do you find that forums and feedback are more harmful than helpful? What do you do to filter out those comments when they seemingly have no merit?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Change is a...well you know the rest...

Change is a funny thing. It's constant (or so the saying goes). And yet, sometimes it seems that when you want change the most, it never comes around.

Some of us love change. Some of us resist it with our fingernails dug into a cliff side refusing to let go.

But Change and I have been good friends over the years. I will be the first to admit that I embrace her everytime she comes knocking. I'll also curse her when she decides to withhold and leave me stranded. It's a good place to be as a writer. If a new idea hits me and takes me off the grid, it doesn't bother me. I just go with it. Even in life, I've always been able to hang with change pretty well. For example, when I was twenty two (or was it twenty three?) I managed to change pretty much every aspect of my life. I remember very clearly my grandfather's reaction to all this nonsense--"You may fly by the seat of your pants, kid, but you always come out on top!" In the space of a year, I graduated college, got a new job (that required moving to the big city), got engaged and bought a house. But then, I got a new job (that required moving to small town). I sold aforementioned new house roughly two months after closing on it. Ah, the joys of a booming real estate market! And so I moved on, I bought new house, and I broke off my engagement. Then I ate my grandfather's words: I lost my new job three months after taking it and was stuck with a mortgage in a small town where there were no other jobs for me. I ended up OK in the end, but looking back, I wonder how I didn't have a nervous breakdown during all that mess.
Painting by Abraham Willaerts - 1626
But sometimes things take FOR-EVAH. I've spent the last two and half years being held hostage by my dear friend, Change. It's been more emotionally exacting than anything I've ever been through. It was a time of reflection and maturing, if I'm honest. I evaluated my past mistakes and the behaviors that led to them, and in the end, I think I've made some real progress. And so when things started changing (new job, moving, interested agent...), I embraced them gleefully. Finally--I was getting what I wanted.

But for the first time in my life, I've realized that change is hard. It means missing everything--the familiarity of day-to-day routines, my work friends, even driving up to my old workplace in the morning! I've been on my new job for three days now, and while I think everything will pan out OK, I'm wandering around in the dark (and bumping into furniture along the way).

I think the hardest part is not anticipating these emotions. The loss, the sadness, etc. I wanted these changes, hoped and prayed for them, so why do I feel this way? My only answer is that I've grown up. It's a good thing, I suspect, given that the big 3-0 is next year. I just wish I could skip the depression and find my feet in this new world I now inhabit. Because now I am being forced to change for the first time in my life, and boy, is it hard.

So how about you? Do you handle change very well? How does it affect your writing?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Saying Good-bye to Old Friends...

I'm in the midst of a dilemma (per usual).

Have you ever been so attached to your characters that you can't let them go, but yet you don't know where they are going? That is the case with my Revolutionary War manuscript "A Convenient Misfortune." I've been working on it since I was in high school. Way back then, I didn't even know the word 'outline' and so I wrote and wrote until I wrote myself into a hole. Then I went back a few years later and made some revisions, but I never could see the end of the novel. Now that I have spent some time studying this whole craft we calling writing, I'm better prepared to work on this manuscript.

Or am I?

I love the hero and heroine in "A Convenient Misfortune" even though they are both vastly different from Alex and Julienne in "The Enemy Within." Jackson is far more roguish than Alex, but he hides a secret hurt that he intends to protect at all costs. Arabella has some similarities to Julienne: she is well educated and feisty (albeit in a more social acceptable way). While Julienne rails against her position in society, Arabella knows that she has to do what she has to do. She's also a conflicted character like Julienne when it comes to men. There are two men in her life: one that she is over her heels in love with and the other is a dear friend who desperately wants her to reciporcate.

Despite my attachment to Arabella and Jackson, I feel like something is missing in their story. I've got plenty of drama (that's my signature, right?) but I fear the plot is weak. Part of me wants to keep writing to see where they take me because I am emotionally invested in them, while the other part of me doesn't want to pour the time into something that is not viable. Let's not even get into my quandry over POV. At the end of the day, I worry that this is my "trunk" novel and that makes me very sad.

So what about you guys? Have you ever not wanted to put away a manuscript?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Changes are Afoot!

Hello all!

I hope you are winding down your work weeks in fine style. I'm sorry that I have been a bit neglectful lately, but I've had a lot of news recently that has been...well distracting. Most everything has been most welcome, but before I can get to the good, I must dispense with the bad.

I am dedicating this post to my dear Darcy. He passed away almost a week ago at the ripe old age of fourteen. As you might have guessed, Darcy came to the family during my Jane Austen phase (hence the name). For many years, he would have nothing to do with me after I left for college. Like his namesake, forgiveness was not his forte. But in the past year, we had grown close again since I've been camping out at my parents' house most every weekend. And so it was with great sadness that I had to say farewell. It's hard not to remember all of the quirky things he used to do. My favorite was whenever we would go traveling, he would drop one of his stuffed mice in our bags. Inevitably, we would arrive at our destination to discover his present, which always made us long for home. He was definitely one cool cat and completely irreplaceable. He will be dearly missed!

Let me move on before I burst into tears for the upmteenth time. I have two happy things to note. First, I received some very good news on the writing front. For all the details, please see my Facebook page, but I will give you a hint--I'm now a successful querier! Although the fun (and the wait) is just beginning, I am very happy.

Secondly, I got a job offer last week! Those of you who have been following me for a while know that I have been suffering through a commuter marriage--well no more! In approximately two weeks, I will be re-united with my husband. But as you might imagine, it will be a very busy (read: stressful) time. I have recently put our house on the market so between realtors and moving, I may be MIA from the blog for a time. But once the dust settles, I will be back in action!

So has anyone else gotten some good news that they would like to share?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Genre: A Great Dilemma

So I've turned my thoughts to genre. As I hammer out the bajillionth copy of my query (yes, still), I am exploring the notion of calling my novel a historical romance. The label frightens me really because in my mind historical romance is that aisle at the Barnes and Noble that features scantily clad ladies and gents on the novel covers.

I'm pretty sure I read this one. And yes, I'm blushing.
But my novel is a love story, and I must accept what I have written. While it is also about revenge and redemption, death and life, and most importantly, family honor, it would nothing without Julienne and Alex's relationship. I set out to write a straight historical fiction, and may even deviated (slightly) from the standard romance formula (but yes, there is a happy ending!), but I cannot deny what my book is. If only I could figure it out.

The question has plagued me for some time. I really began to tackle the concept this evening when I realized that one of my favorite historical fiction writers is published under the Mira imprint, which is owned by Harlequin. Then I noticed that even the author refers to herself as a historical romance writer. Well, I'll be.... Her books are romantically driven, but definitely not the standard historical romance. Heck, she doesn't even do sex scenes. To add further fuel to the fire, I was looking at an agent blog wherein she cited Phillipa Gregory and Karleen Koen as historical romance authors. I definitely fit in with those authors.

So what do I do? My query now reads that "REBEL HEART is a historical fiction with romantic elements" but should I just bite the bullet and call it a historical romance? I posed the question to my husband, to which he replied (with his characteristic clarity): "I think you should classify it to the genre that sells." Excellent advice, really.

So what about you? Have you had any genre conundrums?

Friday, June 24, 2011

It's Friday, Friday...

Have you ever thought about the word "Friday"? Oh no? Well I'm in a weird mood today and so I just realized that it's a funny looking word. Huh.

Anyhoo...since I am slowly losing my mind from all of this query nonsense, I thought I would have a little fun and talk music today. I generally don't listen to music while I write, mostly because my tastes in music trend to neo-alternative with a side of synth (because I'm an 80s music freak!) and that's not conducive to writing historical fiction. But in general, I get super excited to see a great song that has a great video (which seems almost impossible these days...), especially when it features people dressed up in historical costumes. And so I present to you my favorite historically themed music no particular order. Drum roll please...

"Walking on Broken Glass" by Annie Lennox

What more can I say? It has John Malkovich in it--when he was still hot and less creepy! Of course, as you might have guessed, this video was made about the same time as "Dangerous Liasions", which is one of my all-time favorite movies. Fun trivia fact--Annie Lennox was pregnant while this video was being shot. The director about had a nervous breakdown when they were filming the final scene. Oh, and yes, that is Hugh Laurie playing Annie Lennox's date.

"All the Right Moves" by One Republic

Yeah, so on occasion, my tastes in music go south, which results in me liking a Top 40 band. One Republic is a particular favorite because they use strings in their music and that makes me happy.

"Mr. Brightside" by The Killers

Ok, so the Killers are my favorite band EVER. One of the things that I love about their music (besides the synth) is that they tell stories. How apropo! Their music videos generally do the same, and this Moulin Rouge themed video is no exception.

"We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel

Did I mention I love the 80s? Sure I can barely remember them since I was born in '82. But for some reason, about the time I hit college, I started indulging in a major 80s obsession. I pretty much know all the lyrics to every major song, which would make me a blast to do karaoke with!

"Buddy Holly" by Weezer

I may be an 80s freak, but I am a child of the 90s. Thus, I had to put Weezer on this list. This video is a bit of a stretch but I felt like I had to have a fifth video, and I love this song.

So did I miss any? What is your favorite type of music (either for writing or listening)?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Query Madness!

So I've been in query hell for the past few days. I've re-worked this sucker again and again. And again. The common comment is that there is not enough voice or that I'm not showing enough of my characters' personalities. It is certainly difficult to convey Julienne's voice in what is, essentially, a business letter.

Before I drive myself insane, I thought I would turn to you all my dedicated, wonderful, loyal blog readers and get your take of my latest run through. I've also posted this at Nathan Bransford's query board if you would prefer to comment over there. I would certainly appreciate the feedback, that's for sure! So here goes...

When nineteen year old Julienne Dalton decides to take down the Union after a band of renegade soldiers kill her father, she doesn’t count on falling in love with the enemy, or that his betrayal would lead her from the war torn landscape of Kentucky to the idyllic fields of Victorian England.

Loyalties are divided in 1862 Frankfort, Kentucky. Julienne Dalton’s desperate need for revenge burns bright, overshadowing her determined attempts to restore her family’s ruined horse farm. It was her father’s last wish, but carrying out her promise cannot assuage the pain of his murder. When Julienne stumbles upon crucial information regarding Union troop movements, she becomes a courier for a ring of Confederate agents.

Risking her life becomes less appealing when Julienne meets British businessman Alexander Caulfield. Handsome, worldly, and intelligent, he tenaciously pursues her; she stubbornly resists his charm, unwilling to lay her heart bare and be hurt.  But a brush with death will send her flying into his arms—and to the altar. When a fellow contact is apprehended, Julienne discovers Alex's business is tracking down Confederate spies for the Union. Fearing that she'll be betrayed and her husband's love will falter in the face of her treasonous activities, she flees Kentucky. Settling in a small English village, Julienne must forget Alex if she wants to survive, but the task may be much harder than she ever anticipated.

THE ENEMY WITHIN is a historical fiction of 100,000 words. I work for the (redacted) and author Caroline Wilson Writes, a blog about writing, researching, and all things historical. I chose to query you because (insert personalized info.) I appreciate your time and consideration.

So folks...what needs changing? I think I might have captured Julienne's personality a little better. I know poor Alex is languishing but it is so hard to capture him when I'm supposed to be writing from Julienne's POV. Any thoughts on that?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

These Places Matter...

I'm going to take a brief break from obsessing over my query letter to talk about what I do as a day job. For those of you who haven't taken a look at my bio, I am a historic preservationist when I'm not writing. Essentially, I am a qualified architectural historian (by virtue of my educational background and work experience).

I thought it would be interesting to talk about this today because the National Trust for Historic Preservation has released its annual 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Take a look if you are so inclined. I think you might be surprised by some of the places listed. Everything from an industrial plant to a modern masterpiece, but as you will see, historic preservation isn't just about buildings. It's also about landscapes. Even with rampant development, America still retains many key historical settings. One of the criteria for listing a building in the National Register of Historic Places is does it retain its setting? So for instance, a historic farmhouse that no longer has its original acreage and has a Wal-Mart in the backyard would most likely not get listed because the setting no longer conveys the historical importance of the house.

I have always loved historic buildings. Some of my earliest memories include trapsing through the Castillo De San Marcos fort in St. Augustine. Oh and "breaking" into abandoned victorian houses with my mom, but that's another story. I have this funky theory about buildings (at least according to my hubby.) I think they have souls. They convey stories about the lives of the people associated with them. Stories that might not otherwise be told should that building go away. It is for that reason that I cannot live in a new house--it would be a waste. But it also why I write and why I ended up in preservation. I wish I could say that my career has been fantastic, but more often than not, I have been frustrated and forever stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of my best qualities is that I am a planner, but unfortunately, I failed to plan for my career. Sure, I went to a college that specialized in historic preservation. I volunteered for all the right preservation organizations. But in the end, I still could not break in, and when I finally did (after a few years of working in a related field), I've still been disappointed. At tne end of the day, I just want to restore old buildings, which means I probably should have gone on to get an architecture degree!

But the upside is that if I had not been so frustrated, I don't think I would have committed myself to writing. I've always been a writer, but it was not until recently that I really hunkered down and challenged myself to write better and to write until I finished. As I begin to explore the notion of leaving the field that has been my passion (and pain), I think I will be relying on my ability to write all the more. I suppose I will just have to see where that leads me.

So...what does writing mean to you? Do you write to escape? Or do you have other motivations?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

On Research and Fiction

Click on the book to go to Alison Weir's page
on Katherine Swynford
I have been reading Katherine by Anya Seton this week. It is a novel long beloved by historical fiction readers. I am not much for medieval era fiction in general, but the Plantagenet period has always held an interest for me. I enjoyed the novel at first, but now I am about 3/4 of the way through, and I have to admit, I'm flagging. It is one of those novels that could have stood a good editing, and now towards the end, it is limping along and throwing out the most ridiculous sentiments. Katherine went from innocent country bumpkin to innocent mistress to perceptive psychologist. I had to roll my eyes when she started psychoanalyzing her paramour.

I do find Katherine's ideas on religion pretty interesting; if you think about it, you don't read too many novels where the heroines turn down the chance to be the mistress of rich and powerful royalty. Especially when the girl is attracted to the guy. Of course, she gives in, but not after becoming a widow. I have to respect that since I am of a moral nature myself.

Even though the novel has its deficiencies, I have to respect the amount of research Anya Seton put into the novel. Can you imagine having to actually visit the places where your novel is set? Sure it is preferable, but not necessary in this day and age. I certainly would love to visit Ireland again to research for my newest work. And I was fortunate enough to visit Frankfort, Kentucky when I was writing The Enemy Within. But for the most part, a quick click of the mouse can get you what you want. I was flabbergasted by the idea that Ms. Seton probably spent many an hour in a dusty archive in England perusing medieval letters and records. Now that is dedication. And I say that as a almost professional historian (OK, really I am an architectural historian). I'm supposed to love trawling through libraries and archives! But in this fast paced world, I have to admit that I enjoy the freedom of clicking over to Google books and getting a wide variety of sources when I start my research. I am interested in delving into period works for Rebellion. Since they were all authored by Englishmen, I am certain to find out what they were really thinking. Bias always has a way of showing through.

So what about you? Do you thrive on getting out in the real world to do your research or are you an armchair historian (researcher) like me?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Moment of Decision

Drumroll, please....

I think my manuscript is ready for submission. It's been edited and re-worked based on my beta's comments. I read "The First Five Pages" by Noah Lukeman in an attempt to catch any last minute "first" time author mistakes. And although I have two more readers looking through it right now, one has given me some mid-read comments stating that they don't see any glaring mistakes and are really enjoying it. So...

It's now or never, I believe. But I'm in a quandry. I want to submit to a fiction contest to start, and yet, I'm still mulling over the pitch. Generally we know that a pitch is a paragraph usually spoken to an agent at a conference. But this contest wants three to four paragraphs and says that it should include the main plot points, the characters, and a word count. It sounds, in effect, like a query only without pages, synopses, or bios. I have a pretty tight query, but I worry that it is not enough. I would hate to blow any opportunity like this because my "pitch" was more query than hype. I feel like I should embellish my query a little more in order to get it to the pitch level, but I just don't know.

Suggestions or comments? What should I do? I could really use some guidance!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Is the Online Writing World Too Suspicious?

I have to make a confession.

I am probably the most naive person you will ever meet. OK, maybe I like trusting better. Yes, that is it, I am the most trusting person you will ever meet. I generally extend my trust to most anyone I know whether it be in real life or on the Internet. Naturally, the moment someone lets me down or betrays me, I drop them like they're hot.

But in general, I try to be open, approachable, and helpful. In real life as well as online. I've recently run into issues on a writing forum that caused me to pause. I've mainly stuck to the forums at Nathan Bransford because everyone is just so nice and helpful. It's really the ideal community for writers if you ask me. But I recently decided to venture into another well known writing forum that will remain anonymous. My first foray there last year resulted in a bad incident where I was raked over the coals for an innocent comment. Needless to say, the situation put a bad taste in my mouth. I recently ventured back to this forum, starting out on a genre specific board, and after lurking there for a while to evaluate the other users, I started posting.

I also began looking for more beta readers and when I had difficulty finding them, I posted on the board asking for suggestions on finding beta readers. Instead of suggestions, I got a lecture about how my post count was low and users will be suspicious of me until I prove myself (essentially). I can understand this to some extent, but then in some ways, it strikes me as wrong. Perhaps I was spoiled by the welcoming and helpful quality of the users at Nathan Bransford. And maybe I am the exception, meaning that I am willing to help people regardless if they are just stopping in or if they are a long time user. If I read a plea for a beta reader and the book is in my genre and it sounds interesting, I'm going to offer to read it no matter what. I know we have to be careful who we entrust our work to, but are we so wrapped up in our writing lives and are suspicions, that extending our help to other writers has become near impossible? It just seems the policy of "sure I'll help you, but what are you going to do for me" seems to be in effect. Maybe I'm old fashioned (ok, I am) but I consider it a compliment to be asked (either directly or indirectly) to help another writer.

So what about you? What's your policy for helping others? Are you open to helping anyone or has a bad incident caused you to be more reserved in extending an offer of help?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On To My Next Endeavor...

Today's post is a progress report of sorts. I am happy to announce that I have written the first two chapters of my new novel. If you are following me on Facebook, you will know this already. So please join me, if you haven't already. I still need fourteen more people before I get my own URL.

Back to the new novel. I have tentatively entitled it Rebellion since it takes place during the Irish Revolution of 1798. It is an interesting and often over looked time period because the French Revolution was going on as well. But it was the revolutions in both America and France that spurred the Irish to rise against their British overlords. The group of rebels was called The United Irishmen, but sadly their attempts failed, and it was another hundred plus years before another rebellion was attempted.

I'm looking forward to writing more this weekend. The novel centers on Sophia Granger, the youngest daughter of a minor aristocrat living in Ireland. When her family falls on hard times, she marries a wealthy lord. Sophia is unaccustomed to the glittering society of Dublin, retires to her husband's estate after she discovers that her husband has no intention of keeping his wedding vows. Rambling about her palatial new home, she soon meets a poltical revolutionary. And naturally she falls in love and is then confronted with a moral dilemma she knows not how to solve. And as rebellion erupts across Ireland, what ensues is not pretty. But do not fret--there is a happy ending, just not the one you would expect.
Some of my inspiration came from the story of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, one of the leaders of the United Irishmen. Fitzgerald was the son of the Duchess of Leinster, nee Lady Emily Lennox (one of the famous Lennox sisters chronicled in Stella Tilyard's The Aristocrats). Lord Edward did not meet a happy fate--he died in prison of wounds sustained while trying to evade his captors. It's a shame--he was quite a handsome lad, don't you think? But like all good heroes, he was memorialized all over Ireland and continued to be an example through later Irish uprisings.

So how about you all? Working on anything new? Or just trying to get through the week?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Now on Facebook...

So I took the plunge and started my own Facebook author page. Slightly premature, maybe. But oh well, it passes the time. If you are interested in following me there, please click on this link:

Just remember that you have to be signed in to get to the page. And don't forget to like me! Please. As soon as I get 25 likes I can get a real URL. YAY!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

When to edit...

I'm in the midst of a quandry.

I received the first half of my novel back from my beta reader and while I agreed with her comments, I have no clue as to how to apply them. Or even if I should apply them. And if I do apply them, is it worth my time because maybe I'm crazy and I have no chance whatsoever of getting this thing repped. Yeah, it's time for me to start second guessing myself apparently.
Courtesy of

So my main issue (or rather my beta reader's main issue) is that the voice of my novel is too authentic. She did admit that she generally shies away from the time period because it is so formal. Perhaps I need to get more feedback before I make any substantive changes. But then again, I'm on a deadline. And still yet, the idea of doing line-by-line edits again is so not appealing.

So my question for today is when do you decide to make changes to your writing? Do you have any suggestions for keeping me sane since more edits are probably in my future?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

It's been a while....

But I have good reason. You want to know why?

I'm finished.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the next to final draft of "The Enemy Within" is complete. And not only complete, but off to my beta reader in its entirety. I'm just so estatic I can't help but grin like a fool. I think I am more happy now than I was when I finished the first draft. Of course, I am absolutely freaking out with fear as well. I have never released the whole thing to someone before, so I don't know what the reaction will be. I have gotten good reviews from the few chapters I have released before, but I am trying to keep my feet firmly on the ground.

An excellent plan if I do say so myself.

So how about you all? Do you have any momentous occasions to report?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Brief Post...

So apparently the chest cold from the black abyss has sapped my creative energy in addition to my physical energy. It has been over a week now since I first started sniffling and I'm still hacking like a sixty year old woman who smoked a pack of cigarettes a day. I am actually longing to go home as we speak, but unfortunately, I sapped my sick leave account in the height of this mess. So onward I trudge....

Anyhoo, I shall be brief, but I thought to share a post from super-former-agent-extraordinaire Nathan Bransford. He has been doing a great series this week on how he writes and I have found it extremely informative. Today he shared his query letter, the one that got him representation for his JACOB WONDERBAR Series. It is very interesting in that it breaks many rules that are commonly bandied about on various internet writing forums and blogs. But it really is a great letter and it has inspired me to incorporate some of the elements into my own query letter (that is finished even though there is still work to be done...sigh).

For those of you who have written query letters--did you stick to the tried and true formula or did go out on the limb? If you haven't written a letter yet--have you got something in mind already?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Reading Your Genre

I've been in a book reading slump lately. Ever since I sat myself down and committed to this whole writing thing, I have found it nearly impossible to find entertaining reading material. I suppose it will come as no surprise that since I write historical fiction, I read historical fiction. There are a few exceptions--Meg Cabot's Queen of Babble series or Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series, but I rarely deviate from the genre. And I've been a real critic lately. I don't know if it is because I view other historical fiction authors as my competition or what, but three out of five novels I pick up don't get finished. Either the pacing is too slow or the characters are boring. It's awful. My love for the written word has just been sucked right out of me. I eagerly watch for new releases in the genre and when I get my hands on them, I inevitably disappointed.

Now, I do have my old stand-bys in the historical fiction realm. Deanna Raybourn is a perennial favorite, as is Jennifer Donnelly. I watch their websites like a hawk for word of a new release. If only I could get them to publish their new novels sooner! But otherwise, I'm just underwhelmed with the historical fiction scene right now. It seems that historical fiction is starting to peak, and I'm beginning to wonder if quantity is sacrifcing quality. But then again I could be wrong, and my book is going to make it off the slush pile.

So do you read in your genre? If so, do you find yourself being more critical now that you are writer, or have you continued on as if nothing has changed?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Another Excellent Opportunity...!

I was cruising along the internets a little while ago and stumbled across a mention on the Query Shark site. Susie Townsend (who works with Janet Reid at Fine Print Literary) is doing a First Page Shooter project (or is it contest?) Anyhoo, follow the guidelines here and you may be chosen to have the first 250 words of your manuscript reviewed by Susie or her blogger assistant in crime, Joanna. Of course, everyone can't be critiqued so if your pages don't appear (in 120 days) you can assume that Susie didn't get the pages, your pages didn't have a lot to correct in them, your pages were so bad she didn't know where to start, or she couldn't read the pages because they were in a foreign language. Pretty good reasons, I guess....

I can give you a tip because I jumped on this and have already submitted my pages: you will receive an e-mail back stating that your information has been received. So if you don't get that response, then you will want to re-send again. And now you can eliminate the "I didn't get it" portion of the reasons why Susie didn't critique your pages. Of course, according to her blog, she has received over 700 e-mails asking for her critique, so I don't know about you, but I'm not holding my breath. It would, however, be totally awesome to have her review my pages since she is on the hunt for historical sagas. There are no genre guidelines for the the First Page Shooter project, but Susie is very big into paranormal romance, YA fiction, urban fantasy, and dark romantic fantasy. I figure that asking her to review pages for genres she is already interested in could not hurt!

In other news, I have to give myself a little shout-out. I edited five whole chapters last week and wrote some new material too! I am very proud of myself. Apparently the Irene Goodman opportunity was what I needed to get myself in order. Of course, I did not edit a chapter last night, so I think I will have to do double duty tonight to catch up!

Happy writing, folks!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Calling All Historic Fiction Writers...

I just learned that Irene Goodman of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency is so desperate for historical fiction she is holding a pitch contest. Are you excited as I am? I'm getting that buzzy feeling that I get when I want to do something and I have to do it NOW. However, I/you/we have until July to submit a pitch to her.

All the details can be found here, but the general rules are:

1. Must be a pitch only and be submitted by July 1, 2011. The pitch should include a brief plot description, main characters, time period, and setting. Irene will get back to you by August 15, 2011 if she is interested.
2. It must be historical in nature preferably set in Europe although she will be selectively considering some American and Asian settings. She is not interested in Ancient Egypt, Greece, or Rome. Also historical means the dawn of time to World War I.
3. The novel must be based on either real or fictional historical events. Novels set in both the past and present are ok, as is time travel, but paranormal elements should be limited at best.
4. The book must be completed or in its final stages. If Irene asks to see it, it must be ready.
5. Winners will be offered representation. There may be one or multiple winners (she is hoping for multiples, I believe).
6. The agency is not responsible for representing anything that may be close to what you submit due to the fac that they receive thousands of queries a year.

This is a massive opportunity, so if any of you are unrepresented, I would highly suggest submitting your work. If any of you would like to submit and want to craft pitches together, get in touch with me. I always need motivation and a sounding board!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

And on to Editing...

How do you get through editing?

It's a pretty simple question that has many answers. But I don't know the answers and so I'm asking for help. With the exception of a few chunks, I'm solidly in the editing process for The Enemy Within. And I'm hating every minute of it. For one thing, after ten years of working off and on, I'm tired of tweaking. It is probably because I write a section and then I edit it. As a result my grammar and spelling is locked up, but now I'm finding out about my quirks--those things that first time writers succomb to. Filtering is my crutch apparently. And so I've been working on each chapter looking for those instances. But it is so hard. And I can barely find the interest to crack open my laptop and do it. I probably need to do a chapter a day and be done with it. Of course, my schedule of working extra hours at my job so that I can spend long weekends with my husband (who lives an hour and half away) is draining. Oh and then there's that pesky exercise thing too. I suppose I should be grateful that I don't have children in the mix because that would be disasterous.

I worry sometimes that I'm not hungry enough. I've done all the research, I have my query, I know who I want to query, but the bloody manuscript is just not ready. I should be burning up the keyboard, but I'm not. I cannot help but be disappointed in myself as a result. And maybe it is that disappointment keeping me back.

So folks--fire away. Please tell me how you are getting through your writing (or editing) doldrums?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Can I take a moment...

To expound on my great love for Sara Gruen's "Water for Elephants"?

Yes, I am about six years late in reading it. I generally shy away from any book that gets many accolades and ends up on the NYT Bestsellers List. Actually I avoid anything that is popular. As an aside, I have a confession to make: I have not and will not read the Harry Potter books.

So if you have not burned me at the stake for such a confession, allow me to go back to "Water for Elephants." My roommate/boss has the ultimate book collection (which is housed in my rented room), and since the movie is coming out this month, I thought I would give "Water for Elephants" a read through. I was holding my breath. Since becoming active in writing forums and on writing blogs, I have found it extremely difficult to read most of the books that I check out at the library. Either the writer's style doesn't click with me or the characters are not compelling. I have been extremely upset by this given that I have always been a voracious reader.

Needless to say, I finished "Water for Elephants" in 24 hours. It was a beautiful novel. The writing was fantastic and I'll venture to say that I hope one day to perfect that style. It was the perfect blend of creating a vivid world (and compelling characters) without getting bogged down in the language. It was just effortless. I kept thinking that there would not be a happy ending--it seems a book that good rarely has one, but I was completely shocked (and pleased) to find that it did. Now I am excited about the upcoming film and hoping (most likely in vain) that Hollywood has not mucked it up (cough: "Confessions of a Shopaholic"). Since its release coincides with my 29th (why cruel world?!?) birthday, I think I will be treating myself...or allowing someone else to treat me, which ever comes first.

So... What books have inspired you? Both as a reader and as a writer?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Can I Now Consider Myself Award Winning?

So I might not have locked down a National Book Award, but Jen from the blog "Jen's Bookshelf" has nominated me for a Stylish Blogger Award. Thanks so much Jen!

How stoked am I about this? Very. Of course, you all probably know now that I'm pretty easily excited about things. As a part of the award, I have to list seven things about myself and pass the award onto 15 other bloggers that I have recently discovered. I might have to restrict this to 15 blogs that I read, period--since I am not a big blog reader (Sorry! Don't throw rotten tomatoes at me!) I really need to work on this, I know.

Seven Things...
1. I'm an Anglophile. I blame my aunt for moving to England when I was a child. I went over for the first time when I was 10, and have been hooked ever since. The hubby and I are planning a trip for next summer as said aunt will be getting married. I'm fantasizing about scones already...
2. I'm 28 3/4 and I've owned 3 houses. Let's say that I've approached house buying with the same enthusiasm as I would buying clothes or books. This is a very dangerous thing--if you need more evidence just see my "about me" page.
3. I wanted to go to Morroco for my honeymoon. I'm very enamored of the mystique of that country. But my hubby wasn't too keen on the idea of being blown up (very Nationalist of him, I know), so we went to Ireland instead.
4. I have an 8 year old brother. If you're not much into math that means that I was 20 and a sophmore in college when he was born. Yes, we are an all American family. I can't wait to explain the concept of being an uncle to him (when the time comes).
5. I love to bake. I've contemplated going back to school to become a pastry chef, but my addiction to shopping prevents me from going without a steady income right now.
6. My hubby and I have been married for nearly 3 years, and yet we've lived under the same roof for roughly 6 months. Commuter marriages suck. There's no way around it. I promise.
7. While not the rockstar job that I thought it was going to be, my job is still pretty interesting. I get to do a lot of things that normal people can't--like visit nuclear power plants and ride in tiny boats through the middle of large bodies of water (it was sort of like a trip down Splash Mountain at Disney World).

15 Blogs
I don't think I'm going to make it 15, but I will try.... I do have other interests beyond writing--namely decorating and design--so my list will be mixed.

1. Hyaline Prosaic - Rowenna is a fellow historical fiction writer who really delves into the day-to-day nuances of history
2. Lawthor - Mark is my critique partner and has just started his own blog which blends his expertise in the law with writing.
3. Steam&Ink - Published author Charlotte Jane Ivory is not only hilarious, she covers a lot of pertinent topics in writing.
4. Life Unstyled - Stylist Emily Hemson has an awesome house that was featured on a tour at Apartment Therapy, so I've been following her blog ever since then. Maybe it was the Union Jack pillows in her living room...
5. DIY with ADD: Misadventures in Renovation - ADD and her husband are renovating their 1890s townhouse, on a dime no less, and since renovating old houses and saving money are two of my favorite topics... I love this blog.
6. The Hevel House Project - a shout out to my friend Tiffany who has just launched a blog chronicling the re-design of her house on a budget.
7. The Grapevine Marketplace - OK, this is my mom's blog for her business which specializes in upcycled furniture and home accessories. Think Mason Jar lamps and shutter shelves. Since she is my cohort in crime and I follow her around on shopping trips, I had to mention it.
8. Twang & Twig - I discovered these gals on my recent trip to Texas. They are another upcycling business with the cutest stuff ever!
9. The Farm Chicks - Another upcycler, Serena chronicles the comings and goings of her business as well as cooking, renovating, clothing, and other wonderful things.
10. Victorian Antiquities and Design - Paul is a historic preservationist living in Cincinnati. I love him because he speaks his mind and he's a first rate advocate for historic preservation. Plus he is always posting old houses for sale.

Ok, I managed 10...I hope that counts for something!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Back from the Land of the Dead...

Hello, hello my dear readers!

I'm officially back from hiatus (which really consisted of dealing with the stomach flu and then a trip to Texas for an antiques show) and ready to get writing again.

I thought we could discuss e-publishing today. It seems that it is the topic of choice for a lot of bloggers these days, so I would like to know where you all weigh in on this topic.

My views are probably going to be controversial, so please forgive me in advance. I have hinted at this before, I'm sure, but my main view is that e-publishing is just too dodgy. Anyone can get a book published using this method, and that bothers me. It washes the market with fiction that might be otherwise unpublishable--which devalues those of us who are seriously pursuing the writing craft. Those of us who write and re-write, and re-write again. Those of us who research for hours a day on the right device to properly convey a character's foibles. Those of us who carefully hone our queries to the point that we think we might just go mad. I just can't wrap my head around anyone being able to publish a book without a screening process. And the consequences can be deadly--not only to the aspiring author but to other authors hoping to pursue the same medium. An example of this could be the recent review of an e-published author's work. The author totally freaked out when the reviewer pointed out the numerous spelling and grammatical errors. She blamed everything from the fact that she is English to the reviewer not having the corrected copy of the book. In the process, she made herself look very unprofessional. It was sad really, but one has to wonder how incidents like these affect other aspiring e-authors.

There are obviously some success stories--those few authors who e-published outstanding stories and then got offered a deal from a print publisher or are selling e-books like hot cakes. I know some of you who are cranking out your best work right now and will probably pursue e-publishing. How do you feel about this? Do you worry about being lumped together with others who may not have put the same amount of time and effort into their publications?

I guess at the end of the day, I want to know that my book is good. And my standard for that is having an agent take it on, and eventually seeing it into print. Having my book on a bookstore or library shelf will be a tangible reminder that I have accomplished something truly great. But then again, I am the type of person who would second guess myself if I e-published my book. I would constantly be wondering if my material was good enough, if I was making a fool out of myself, etc. I suppose I am fine if my book is not good enough for an agent to take it on. Crazy, right? We spend all of this effort and time into creating characters and stories--it hurts to think about never "making" it. Maybe it is easier for me to deal with this potential outcome because I never thought my work was good enough to be published. I write because I would go insane if I didn't give my characters a voice, not because I want to get published. It's entertainment and if I get published, then awesome for me! But if I get rejected...well let's ask me again once I've shot off a few dozen queries. You all will be the first know, believe me. I'm sure my blog title for that day will be: "E-Publishing Here I Come!!"

I think another reason that I’m clinging to traditional publishing is that I'm just old fashioned (fancy that!). Sure, I'm blogging and Facebooking (but not Tweeting, mind you), but there's a part of me that is holding fast to the feel of a crisp book page in my fingers. So no, I don't own a Kindle or a Nook or an Ipad. I am generally the last person to get on board with technology or rather I rely on my father to buy me the latest gadget as a Christmas present. It was like the digital camera rage. When everyone was going digital, I was buying my first SLR film camera because I was in love with film. But I finally caved and asked for a digital camera for Christmas several years later. Sadly, the SLR has been gathering dust ever since. But one of these days, I will own a digital SLR because in the end, I have decided that seeing your photo before you take it is pretty awesome!

So in case you've lost count... What are your thoughts on e-publishing? If you are going to go that route, what convinced you to do so? Are you afraid of drowning in a sea of mediocre authors or am I just freaking out about nothing? :-)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

So I meant to take a break...

I was doing my morning meander through the internet and visited one of the blogs that I had bookmarked. "Steam & Ink" is the blog for author Charlotte Jane Ivory who writes Victorian Gothic thrillers. She recently guest wrote a very interesting post on questions to ask a potential agent. As mentioned, when you get the call for representation (especially after all those rejections), your immediate answer is "absolutely!"

But hold on there cowboy--it is extremely important to know what you are getting into. So before you sign on the dotted line, or in some cases give the verbal go-ahead, check out this post.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Where's Caroline?

I will be going on a hiatus from blog writing for the next few weeks. I've got a lot of personal stuff going on that is zapping the majority of my mental power. Add in my continuing quest to edit The Enemy Within, and I'm toast. But I promise to be back soon with more of my crazy thoughts and random questions, so hang tight.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Setting the Scene

So I started wondering the other night--does a writer's environment affect their productivity?

I wanted to say no at first. But then I thought about my most productive years of writing. They were in college where I was writing not one, but two novels at the same time. How one manages to write two novels while keeping up with 15 to 18 hours of coursework, I will never know. But I did it, and most happily. So what was the secret to my success?

Where I lived.

Courtesy of Historic Charleston Real Estate
I was lucky enough to attend college in Charleston, South Carolina, where the weather is absolutely gorgeous in the fall and spring, and completely heinous in the summer. As one of my professors said, "The early colonists must have thought they had landed in Heaven when they first arrived--at least until summer came and they thought they were in Hell."

Despite the rather hellacious temperatures, Charleston has atmosphere to spare. No wonder I was able to spend hours on end writing. In fact, inspiration came from my many walks through the historic district, taking in the centuries old architecture and beautiful gardens. Those were the days when I could mental write during my walks and promptly go back to my apartment and put it down on paper.

But since then, and until recently, my writing has been sporadic at best. No wonder it took me 10 years to finish The Enemy Within. After college, I went back to my hometown in upstate South Carolina, followed by a stint in Atlanta, then back to South Carolina, and then outside of Charlotte, and finally my current location which is about as inspiring as a stick in the mud.

Courtesy of Globus Journeys
I recently applied for a job in New Orleans, and while there is no way I can possibly predict the outcome (especially now with the current job crisis), I allowed myself to think about the possibilities of writing in such an atmospheric climate. How fabulous would it be to have a writing spot on a gallery overlooking a street in the French Quarter? Now that's inspiration!

So can you write anywhere, at any time, or do you need a little atmosphere to be at your most creative?