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? :-)