Sunday, September 5, 2010

Featured Guest Betty Booher speaks: The Summer of Continuous Improvement

It all started with a rejection. Two. A dismal contest score.
That’s not exactly right.
It all started with Donald Maass. Washington DC. The Fire in Fiction.
Permission to get off the submit-submit-submit-keep-those-partials-rolling merry-go-round to stop, stare, play with my words again.
His advice, admonishment really, poked, prodded, needled through revisions, work on the next story, assorted conferences and writers’ meetings.
Then I decided to audition for the symphony.
I know. It was a crazy to compete with Conservatory-trained players from London, Paris, Iowa. But this wasn’t so much about competition as personal challenge. I practiced and practiced and practiced. Took private lessons. Examined every attack, every pitch, every release.
And I got better.
No, I didn’t win the audition, or even make it to the next round, but each time I pick up my horn I can tell. That intensive work, those hours in the little attic room, improved my ability, made the music better.
The tools to improve my writing weren’t nearly as obvious as playing scales and orchestral excerpts. Then Margie Lawson came to Portland to present her two day workshop. By the time that weekend was over, the reasons behind my rejections started emerging from the page like a ruddy sun ball through a coastal fog bank.
Ignoring the well-intentioned advice of some of my writer friends to return my story to the slush pile recycle bin, I made my way to the attic once more, this time armed with Margie’s lecture packets, a bag of highlighters, and coffee. A lot of coffee.
It wasn’t enough.
Don’t get me wrong. The coffee was great. It is Portland.
Margie’s lectures and exercises made me look at the page in an entirely different way. But I needed more. I needed to take the next step.
I needed to go to Colorado.
Immersion class was lecture packets on steroids. At 8888 feet.
I’m back in the attic now. Practicing scales and rhetorical devices and raising character stakes.
Margie Lawson armed me with a bucket full of new writing tools.
Donald Maass gave me permission to use them.
Thank you both!

Welcome to the next guest Betty Booher

RM: Welcome to Betty Booher another talented IMCer and Emergineer. She was a working on a paranormal romance, complete with scary ghost and all. Betty has a great voice. She had also a graduate of several Margie Lawson classes so she was our go-to person when we wouldn’t quite follow something. And very patient she was too. Betty plays a mean oboe – I mean, who would have thought we would be deep editing to live music? Yes, she brought her oboe. AND, she just got her black belt…but I’ll save that for her tell you more about. She’ll be checking in to answer questions this week; don’t forget to comment so you can be entered in the contest which is on till Sep 15, 2010
Keep an eye out for this fresh voice in romance – I for one will be pre-ordering her book when it’s out!
Over to the next post and Betty Booher! Ta da.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Back to editing

So this past week has been big for me on rejections. Well, I received two, from agents who had requested partials of Druid. Once I convinced myself this did not signal the beginning of the apocalypse, and that I still had a writing career ahead of me if I wanted it badly enough, I realized that as far as rejections go they were pretty good. Both agents commented on several positive aspects. But ultimately it didn't work for them. Both reminded me how subjective this business was - and I couldn't agree more. I mean, just look at the RITA winners this year. Anyway else unable to get past chapter two on a couple of those books? Now that doesn't mean the authors aren't talented - they just weren't my cup of chai. I remember mentioning this to one of my fellow Emergineers who practically begged me to keep going through one of them because she had loved the book.
So, I've picked myself back up, swiped off my dusty behind, and it's back to deep editing and re-writing sections of Druid.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Featured Guest Angela Foster speaks

It all started with a book. At least that’s the way I choose to remember it. I could mention the title, but it doesn’t matter to this story, so I won’t. One night, I sat on the couch and turned the last page with tears running down my cheeks.  Not the pretty heroine kind of tears.  No.  Big, wet ones that make your nose run and turns your mascara into a black river.
I was pissed.  I was in love with the hero.  And now, his life would go on without me. 
Stuff would happen to him that I didn’t know about.  All because the author had written, The End.    
After blowing my nose, I sat there, fondling the book cover and decided I wanted to write.  Write something so powerful that it makes girls cry, women fall in love, and readers dread, truly dread, the last page.
So, the next day… well maybe not the next day, but definitely the day after, I sat in front of my laptop and wrote my own story with my own hero.  It goes without saying that he’s super hot.  I’d totally marry him, have his babies, and rub his feet. 
And the sex.  The sex would be amazing.  Start-my-hair-on-fire sex.
I read my first draft and didn’t cry.  But I didn’t throw-up either so I wasn’t discouraged.  People kept talking about this editing thing, so the way I figured it, I had another shot.
Turning to the internet, I found interviews with authors.  Spent days reading them in hopes they’d share their secrets. 
What I saw were comments like, I don’t plot or outline because my characters talk to me.  I hear their voices in my head and simply translate them to the page.  And the very worst thing… I’m so blessed to have been given the talent to write.
Yeah, if I ever meet that girl, I’m stabbing her with my salad fork. 
But that nasty little voice in my head grabbed hold of the t-word and wouldn’t let go. 
Maybe that’s why my story wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be.  So-and-so had passed me by when handing out writing talent. 
All that enthusiasm about my hero and my sassy, yet feminine heroine fizzled.  Even the thought of hair-flaming-sex couldn’t arouse excitement.
Then, one day Yahoo took pity on me, and tossed me to Margie Lawson’s website.  
I took her on-line classes.  I hooked up with an editing partner.  Learned how to analyze best-selling authors’ work.  Hung out at her house with a bunch of super talented writers. And became a Margie junkie, addicted to her brand of teaching.
And you know what she taught me?  Those crazy writers who say crap like, my characters talk to me… well, they’re crazy. 
Good writers may be talented but that doesn’t matter.  At least not as much as I thought it did.  The writers who win, work harder. 
That filled me to over-flowing with hope and suffocated that bitchy voice in my head. 
Because I can work hard. 
Everyone can. 
I can get published.
I can make chicks cry.
I can make them fall in love.
Understanding that is the very best thing Margie taught me and everyone else who is fortunate enough to come into contact with her.
That knowledge is the very best gift I’ve ever received and the one I am most grateful for. 
Because it changed my life. 
The End.

Featured Guest Angela Foster

RM: Angela Foster is my featured guest this week. What a gal! You know how you meet someone and they just give off good vibes and you know you can be friends? I met Angela at the IMC worskhop in August, 2010. Somehow, as we all grouped ourselves around the room to work, Angela and I ended up sharing two ends of the same card table and a writing friendship was born. The kind, where as writers, you understand (when a huge sigh gusts your way) that she was just searching for that perfect word; or (when a muttered damn, damn, damn escaped from me) that I had simply found one of those duh! spots in my manuscript and I was wondering how I ever imagined myself a writer. Angela has a great voice. Ladies and Gentlemen, yes, that elusive ‘voice’ thing that they talk about in writing workshops. She’s funny and she’ll make you cry. Her current work in progress is a paranormal romance and I loved her main characters (alas, that’s all I got to read over those 4 days). Watch out for Angela Foster – she’s going to make it big. And when she hits those bestselling lists, come bribe me and I’ll tell you a story about a gal and a wolf. And nope, you’re not getting it out me now! Plus she makes the best coffee in a French Press. Welcome Angela, the floor is yours. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010


The Emergineers will be visiting here over the next few weeks. Post a comment in response to any featured guest's blog entry and your name will be entered into a random drawing. One lucky winner will receive a Margie Lawson Lecture Packet of your choice.

Contest rules:
Comment must be posted in response to any blog entry that has the title Featured Guest.

Contest duration: August 21, 2010 to September 17, 2010.

To be entered in the random drawing, your comment should be posted before 7 PM Pacific Daylight Time on Sep 17, 2010.

Please include your email in your post (so I can contact you if you're the winner).

If a name with no email address posted/linked is selected, the random pick will be made again (of the remaining entries), until a winner with a posted email address is selected.(Sorry folks, it's just too complicated to try and find you :o)

Good luck!

Featured Guest Maggie Jamison

RM: Today's featured guest is Maggie Jaimeson. Maggie took the Immersion Master Class with me (and five others). We had a wonderful time and I asked my fellow IMCers if they would visit my blog over the next few weeks. So, my first guest is Maggie Jaimeson. Maggie is a superb writer - author of both contemporary romance and YA. Her YA novel that we had the privilege of  critiquing during the IMC week is dark, tension-filled and a sure keeper. She paints a picture with her words that will draw you into her paranormal world.
Please help me welcome Maggie. Tell her what you think of her post and be entered to win a Margie Lawson lecture packet. Contest details in separate post.
Welcome Maggie, fire away! (And I am so there for your launch party ).

Maggie: Margie Lawson.  She is a force of nature when it comes to deep editing power but she is also a funny, caring, positive person.  That combination makes all the hard work of deep editing easier to swallow, and pushes me to be better even when I'm tired. I posted my initial experiences with the Immersion Master Class on my August 17th blog.  Everything still holds true five days later.  Today I want to talk about the daily implementation of what I've learned at the workshop and the decisions I'm making on how much time to expend on previously completed manuscripts.
Let's face it, most of us want to get our novels written, sold, and published as quickly as possible.  We want that validation that we can make money writing--both for ourselves and for our families who wonder if we are following (and spending money on) an impossible dream. Even though I LOVE the editing process, because I can see how much better my writing becomes, it takes time--lots of time.  And its hard. And its emotional because it involves cutting scenes and words I love. And there comes a point that I'm sick of thinking about it and just want the book sold..
I must admit, when I first left the class my excitement was also tempered by fear. Fear that the deep editing level required for me to be my best would require time I don't have. With a more than full time day job, my writing time is limited to a few hours each night.  I was afraid that would mean my ability to turn out a manuscript would be years in the making instead of the one to two novels I have been producing each year. As much as I loved knowing that I could craft sentences and paragraphs like a NYT bestselling author, I wasn't sure I could afford the time to do so. I also had to decide whether to spend time deep editing the four manuscripts I have been marketing or put most of what I learned into my current WIP.  It is NOT an easy decision for someone who wants every manuscript to be perfect.
In the past five days I've been re-editing a manuscript on contract with a short turn-around time.  Because of Margie's class I've learned something new about my writing.  First, I did a lot of things right before I took Margie's class.  Now I can actually recognize them and name them.  Second, I am able to more quickly pick up on places where my manuscript can be improved with a single line or a single word (this is beyond grammar).  Some of those are small edits like adding a dialogue cue on voice tone and quality, or shifting the order of words to place the power at the end of sentences or paragraphs.  Others edits are a bit more difficult like creating a fresh simile to heighten description, or adding a clear visceral response to heighten the emotion.  The most difficult ones are deleting paragraphs or (hyperventilation here) several pages because a deflated the tension. As of today I'm 104 pages into a 353 page novel. I've made changes on EVERY SINGLE PAGE I'm feeling really good about the changes I've made, even though this is not a complete deep editing pass.  That would take about 20 more passes, time I don't have right now.
After this editing pass, will this novel be the quality of a NYT bestselling author? Probably not.  But I didn't sell it to a press that is known for turning out NYT bestsellers. If I had a couple months instead of a couple weeks would it make a difference? Definitely. But NYT? Probably not because the story isn't transcendant. It's solid. It's good. It provides a great read. But, here's the thing. Even with this quick pass this novel is significantly better than it was when the editor offered a contract.  Before Margie's workshop I thought this novel was the best writing I was capable of producing. My critique group thought it was the best novel I'd written.  It was. It got me a contract with a small press. But I can do better. I will do better, even with my next novel for this small press.
I suspect that even a NYT author knows her writing can be better.  That's one of the battles writers face every time they look at the page.  When to stop editing. When to let it go.  For some of us, deadlines make that decision.  For others, it is an internal one. For me, I recognize that sometimes it is better to write the next novel instead obsessing over the last one. There is also something to be learned in starting again and crafting better from the beginning.  Yes, the words are important.  They are what makes the story sing.  The choice of words and placement and pacing may also change the story.  That is when you need to decide is it better to go backward and fix all of your past manuscripts? Or is it better to move foreward and take all the lessons learned, putting it into th next novel?
My decision is to do quick editing passes of my already completed novels.  I do want them to be better. I want all of them to sell and for readers to enjoy them.  But, I've decided my limited time on deep editing is best spent on my work in progress and on future novels. Why? Because I am a career author. I will produce many more novels, not just the ones I've already completed. I have limited time for writing. I can't do it all.  It's a tough decision but, for me, the right one.
During the master class I started deep editing my WIP from the first page. Because of this it will be stronger from the beginning to the end. I will take the time for those 14+ passes of each page. I will let the editing impact the story and the story impact the editing because I know it will make it the best novel I can produce over the next few months. Will it sell to New York at auction? It could.  Will it become a NYT bestseller?  It could.  That status certainly starts with great writing and a great story, but is also dependent on timing, trends, and tenacity of promotion. Will this novel be the best novel I'll ever right? No. I expect I will get better.  But it will be the best novel I've written to date.
Even if my WIP doesn't sell at auction, or doesn't make the bestseller list, I've learned writing techniques that will move me in that direction.  I've learned techniques that I can incorporate in every new novel moving forward. I've learned techniques that will help me become a better writer with each new book.  I'm convinced that there will come a point when it will payoff with better contracts and more opportunities.  When it does, ya'll come to my party. You hear?

The saga begins....

Cross posted at The Emergineers

Maggie, thank you so much for setting up this new blog for us. What a great place to hang out with fellow Immersion Class members.

So here's my tidbit for the day. I have been deep editing using Margie Lawson's techniques and realized, I really have to go back and create a scene by scene story board. I hear ya (I'm groaning right along with all you non-plotters) but this is not so much about plotting as it is about helping me re-arrange my chapters for the greatest effect. The book is pretty well done (375 degrees, bottom rack, loosely cover with foil..not saran wrap. Yes, in my early cooking days, I did that once). But I digress - this scene outline (which some of the Emergineers have already developed) is integral, I mean absolutely essential to my editing.
So, I am in my study, my version of cappuccino/latte by my side, kitchen timer (courtesy of Margie Lawson) at hand, and a table in WORD started that outlines all my scenes in detail - POV, setting, theme, etc etc.  I'm calling it my story board - I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

99 degrees

Its 99 degrees in the shade. What a great day to sit in my cool study and deep edit, while occasionally gazing out at the Pineapple Palm tree outside my window and the Gila woodpecker who visits it daily. My first 5 pages are now kick-a*#, (courtesy of revisions) even if I do say so myself.

Monday, August 16, 2010

More on the Immersion Master Class

Here's another installment on my experience high up in the Colorado mountains at Margie Lawson's Immersion Master Class.  I have completely (and I do mean completely) reworked my first few pages based on all the tools Margie gave us over the last 3 days. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to have all this dedicated time to focus on my book. Now, the fact that there was no reception on my phone helped a great deal to keep me focused. My current WIP has been empowered and so much improved in such a short time, it has skid marks from stopping edits today as I took a flight back home. My fellow Immersioners (there were 7 of us) are fabulous writers and their comments and skill impelled me to greater heights. Stay tuned to hear from them in the days to come. They're going to visit and blog all about their experiences as well.
 Have you every read over your work and known you could better but you just weren't sure how to get there? The Immersion Master Class teaches you how! Margie not only gives you tools you can apply for the rest of your life, but she and her husband (and her neighbors) treat you like an honored guest. All in all, an amazing experience. Thank you Margie and fellow Immersioners.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Margie Lawson's Master Immersion Class

I have been on a mountain top (8888 feet to be exact) in Colorado, since Thursday afternoon, attending Margie Lawson's Master Immersion Class. If you're an aspiring novelist or heck even if you've got a couple of books under your belt, and you're wondering how so-and-so has made it to the NYT bestselling list (and you haven't), this might be the class for you.
It definitely is for me! I have learned about giving my writing more emotional punch, racking up the tension, making every page score high on that "who cares" scale - and I thought I knew how to do this!!!. Will I write the absolute piece de resistance? I hope. Will The Druid Came Calling become bigger (in terms of big story), better (emotion, tension, page turner), and make you care? I really think so.

This is a must-do class if you've reached the point where you think you've written the best you can. It's amazing what Margie will pull out of you. Besides, the tools she gives you to edit your own work? Every one of them is coming along with me on the long journey.

Kudos, Margie and thank you. 

 Back to deep editing - I have one more day here, yeah!

PS: Did I mention the food? Oh my! can you say gourmet?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

All that DRM stuff

I had read tons about Digital Rights Management, and I wasn't sure I really got  it. Then you know how you read something and poof, suddenly, it's as clear as you could want it to be? Cory Doctorow's piece on the PW website did that for me. Well done, sir.

Going all e-books

If you've been resisting the various e-book readers on the market (the Kindles, Nooks, etc), this may be the time to start accepting that e-books are here to stay. Dorchester Publishing has announced they will move to only e-books and print on demand starting this Fall. Since I started out in the e-book market, I have a fondness for it. Personally, I love my Kindle but I've heard others rave about the Sony e-reader and the IPad. Happy reading!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Journal of Popular Romance Studies Announces First Issue

Kudos to the JPRS team. The first issue is interesting and covers a wider range of topics (and yours truly has already commented on their website).

Journal of Popular Romance Studies

Cheers! Here's to a new academic department and adding my novels to my academic CV.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lackluster report on Georgette Heyer

Two posts in day? What can I say - people seem bent on making news (and not great news, either).

NPR ran a story about Gilded Romances Of Dashing Dandies, Brooding Beaus by Helen Simonson. Now anything that even remotely concerns Georgette Heyer arouses my intense curiosity and many times my ire. Read the rather lackluster report which persists in seeing Heyer as a romance author who, by the way – gasp! – also gave us some historical facts.And stand up for not calling reading a romance a damn guilty pleasure!

Heyer, even given her few historical inaccuracies around the Regency period (and who hasn't taken a few liberties in their writing?) and the fact they she wrote primarily romances, remains an incredibly gifted writer who can make me cry and laugh out loud on the same page - and this during the twentieth reading.

Texas screening e-book pricing

In my Publisher’s Lunch daily I see that Texas is one of the state making inquiries into e-book publishing prices. (....the Texas investigation we reported has been conducted in secret, and has involved extensive compliance efforts from multiple companies served with civil investigative demands: PL Aug 3, 2010). Now why does the news that the state of Texas is going anything in secret start to give me shivers, and make me want to hug my book rights to myself? Paranoid? Don’t think so…this is the state that is mandating which text books teachers can use, after all.

You can subscribe to and read more about this at Publishers Lunch

Thursday, July 29, 2010

And I can't sell a romance novel?

According to the USA Today (my trusted source for all things trivial):

75 million: The number of Americans who read at least one romance novel in 2008.

91: percentage of romance readers who are female.

31-49: Age range of the typical romance reader.

7: Number of days it typically takes a reader to begin and finish a romance novel.

And a few numbers from the USA TODAY Best-Selling Books list:

13: The percentage of total book sales that romance novels have accounted for in 2010, up from 10% in 2009.

25: The average number of romances that have appeared each week in the Top 150 in 2010, up from 19 a week in 2009 and 17 a week in 2008.

The article can be read here: Romance genre sweeps readers off their feet

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My left thumb

Who knew how much my left thumb did for me? I mean this is an integral part of my body and all this time I've been treating it like a stepchild in a fairy tale - worse perhaps. So what brought on this epiphany?
It all wasn't quite a dark and stormy fact it was ultra-sunny (this is AZ, so what's new). I was looking for my car keys in my purse as I walked to the parking lot, stepped off the curb. Simple enough, you say? Yes I say, but note that when you usually step off the curb, your brain or your conscious is expecting said step. Mine was buried inside my LL Bean bag. Ergo, I tripped, ripped the top of the very nice new red sandals I had on, and landed on my rear end and my left hand. [Digression: isn't that a cool line, Margie Lawson's lessons, you know ;o)
Now, I am not sure how this all played out on camera or to any interested watchers, my entire focus being to soften the hit that my computer was going to take. That said, I have strained (my diagnosis and since I have not officially and legally practiced diagnosing any medical condition for 15 years - this could really be anything else) my left thumb. Which brings me back to how many things my left thumb is crucial for - it leaves the bloody scrape on my right knee quite in the dust!

Getting 30 pages ready to submit to the agent who requested it. I wonder if my body is subtly helping me procrastinate? Oh, there's another book idea - a world where the body is sentient separate from your mind. Sure no one's done that yet? It could be the next Twilight. Anyone listening?

Have a good Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Progress - maybe

So! Almost a year since my last post. Mind you, I've been busy. Its not easy writing 6 chapters of various books. LOL.
At long last, I've settled in with one work in progress, tentatively titled A Druid Came Calling. What is this, you ask? An urban fantasy with strong romantic elements that has only been re-written about 17 times. Okay, if you know me, you know by now that's my exaggeration number! Still, its been rewritten a few times.
And I like it. It remains to be seen if the powers that be - agents and editors too.
I pitched Druid (as I fondly call it) at the Desert Dreams conference in April this year, and got 4 requests for a partial, and one for a full.
Sending those out, I thought - what the heck? (not always a good thought by the way) and also sent 11 more queries. Cold queries, slush pile queries. What was I thinking?

So anyway, here's the update:
15 queries sent
5 rejections
1 request for a partial (cold query response).

The nail biting continues.