Saturday, August 27, 2005

January 28, 2005

Of shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings...
Back when I first started this blog, I said I'd talk about my writing, but I've never really done so. Partly because I wasn't writing a lot through Christmas holdiays, partly because I went through a time of discouragement. That last is pretty hard to admit. I hate being whiny. I've published 3 books with a co-author (if you came here from my webpage, you know that). We split after the third book because writing cozy mysteries really wasn't my forte, it was hers. Don't get me wrong, we parted on best of terms and we enjoyed the process. The first book was actually requested by an editor. She liked the premise so much, she asked us for a "series." So Pamela and I wrote two more. We'd finished the first two and had a comprehensive outline on the third when the editor informed us she'd left the company and would no longer be editing. Anywhere. Our books were orphaned. We found another publisher and the rest is history. I get royalties every quarter. Not a lot, but some .Since that time, I've only sold a bunch of short stories. The money's good, but I seriously need to get to work on a book again. I had two books circulating, but got rejections on both just before Christmas. One was with the publisher almost 4 years!!!I now have a request for an inspirational romance that is partly finished. The editor is aware the book isn't done, so I've been working to finish it so she can have the completed manuscript to peruse. In addition, I've been playing about with my first love - romantic suspense. I really love to read books with a twist, an edge, a bit of a puzzle. But I also like books with a certain amount of deep character. And I love connections. I don't want to write about orphaned young girls who have to depend on others to become Cinderella. Whenever I read romantic suspense, my first thought about characters is "What do their parents/siblings think of this?" I mean, if you have an FBI agent in your family - do you ever discuss their job? Aren't you curious? In mass-market fiction, some books do a bit of revealing about characters' family ties, but not a lot. Romantic fiction focuses on the romance, the suspense plot is often secondary. One of my friends asked, "Well, then...WHAT DO you want to write?" My answer was "Big sweeping romantic suspense with a bit of family saga thrown in - "Charlotte Bronte meets Alex Haley." (well actually, I wish I had the brains to write like Elizabeth Peters, but there's only one of her, alas!). The problem with my style of writing is BEGS to be a continuity, that is, a book followed by others about the same family. My books aren't catagorized on my computer by their titles. They're catagorized by which series they belong to. In one of my continuity series there will be at least 29 books! The first 6 are done. The others are in various stages of development. In all honesty, its actually 4 families, all related by marriage or blood. The bad thing about this style of writing is that one can easily have a "cast of thousands" which can and does confuse the reader. So, I try to keep most of the family out of the books until close to the end. Keeping the focus on the hero/heroine is the goal in romantic suspense, after all. Three of the finished books have been rejected, even though the editor who rejected sent a three paragraph letter praising my premise and telling me WHERE I should be selling it! I seriously considered her words, packaged them up to go out, went to read submission guidelines and discovered that every major mainstream publisher requires 90,000-120,000 words...I topped out at 80,000. She was not the first editor to tell me I have a mainstream voice. So many editors, critique partners and beta-readers have said it that I've finally begun to believe them. I have this Civil War novel going, too. Its not "gone With The Wind" at all. Instead, I spent hours doing research on one event. The Oklahoma Land Runs. And some of the history there was amazing. 10% of the Land Runners were not only women...they were freed blacks. That little point startled the heck out of me. This idea began brewing. The book is now encompassing The Civil War, Hancock's Brigade (Birney's Black Men - a regiment of freed blacks), Bleeding Kansas, Sherman's destructive March through Columbia, South Carolina (and Georgia), the Underground Railroad and Alan Pinkerton. The idea worked its way to fruition after I spent 3 days packing up my belongings and chatting with the moving guy who drove the U-Haul and who helped move my piano across town. He was telling me that most Civil War books don't deal with the ordinary freed blacks of the era. Its all about slavery. His grandmother was a freed black. I have another historical fiction set just before Santa Ana took on the Alamo, but its placed in what is now Austin, Texas and Stephen F. Austin's colony. Its brewing and only has a few notes, no synopsis, query or chapters, Then there's my sci-fi continuity. A 29 page synopsis doesn't even begin to hit the high points. Four books are planned. It's been in my mind for years and I've dabbled with it off and on over that time frame. I love to read sci-fi, but never thought I'd have the expertise to write it. But this book won't shut up. I developed all the characters to get them to be quiet. Then I wrote the first three chapters, just to avoid writing one of my Christmas letters one year. The synopsis is pretty comprehensive and I suppose I should work on it since I actually have a blueprint. The reason I got the idea to write a sci-fi is because of Marion Zimmer Bradley. A friend introduced me to the Darkover novels and I was hooked. I was stunned at her world-building. In all my other books, I was the storyteller, I simply told the story...but in sci-fi, you get to be God. You can CREATE a world with its own rules, anything you want! This appealed to my sense of control (yes, I am a control freak). But all of that said...well, I've actually written and finished 12 books. Every one of them has been requested by editors off query and synopsis. Every one of them has made the rounds at least once. Every one of them has recieved glowing rejection letters signed by real editors. I've never received a form rejection letter in my life. ALL my short stories have sold immediately with nary a word even CHANGED (except the Trues, they changed the character names, apparently that's common). So...what is the problem? I've had author mentors, expert critiquers, placed in writing contests and always get requests. And then the rejections come in. Self-doubt is ugly. Wheels spin in my head about my work. Am I too diversified? Is my writing erratic? Is it too many words? Or not enough? Do I need to tone down the science, or the world building or the suspense or the romance? What didn't work? Why do I have this heap of glowing letters, but no publication merits (on my own)? Anyway, I'm going through a phase right now where I am re-reading ALL my work - thousands of pages of it. And it all still looks good to me. I've laughed, I've cried and I wrote the damned stuff. I shouldn't be surprised, should I? But its like reading someone else. Its GOOD stuff. Okay, there's some dreck - plot holes and character development issues in a few places. There are books where I started in the wrong place - easily fixed. But as a whole, I feel I have some talent for mass-market fiction. I'll never be one of the intelligencia or literati, but I think I write good, saleable fiction. I suppose that's arrogant of me to think so. Ahhh, well. As it stands right now, I am only writing for me.And that pretty much sums up where I'm at writing-wise as of now.

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