Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Last Day of Nano and Pushing Your Limits



Today is the day: last chance to finish our Nano novels. If you haven’t finished yet and you’re not sure you can make it, push yourself! Even if you don’t win, you’ve done something amazing, and every word you do will make you prouder of yourself.

Also, none of us truly know our limits. You might not be able to win today, but there’s only one way to find out.

Take me, for example; last year, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to win Nano at all. This year, I never thought I’d be able to write 10,000 words my first day, or finish the rough draft, or participate in a six hour writing session.

I want to encourage you – really encourage you – to push your limits. It’s exhilarating! Think of it like you’re charting unknown territory inside yourself. Ignore the guilt and ignore the pressure; pushing limits is and adventure, and it should be fun.

Don’t be afraid of failure. If you don’t fail, it means you could have done more. Success is a sign that you need to try harder.

Good luck in all your endeavors!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Scary Mary and Query Letters

This video is hilarious:

Pretty creepy, huh?

Imagine watching this preview and getting excited to see Mary Poppins. After watching it, you'd be understandably upset. The preview did not tell you what to expect, so what good was it?

Query letters work the same way.

Once on a forum I read a great query letter and offered to beta read the book. It wasn't anything like the query, so I thought the book didn't turn out the way she intended. I kept telling her to change things to make it match what I thought it was supposed to be. 

Halfway through, I realized I was giving her the wrong advice because I was looking at the book from the wrong angle. She didn't think her book was exciting enough, so she "improved" it in her query.

Her query deceived me, and it effected the way I read the book.

I read another query on a forum for a book that was... there's no nice was of saying this... it was awful. I'm talking so bad that no query letter could sell the poor thing. That author has issues; I still feel icky thinking about it.

Everyone kept telling him to cut stuff because it would turn agents off. The only query letter anyone was happy with was one that said nothing of what the book was about.

After I told him his book was gross and got reported to a moderator (bite your tongue, Teralyn, for heaven's sake), I told him there's no point in trying to trick agents. If your query is true to your book and the agent doesn't like it, she won't like the book either. 

If your query isn't true to your book, the best agent for you might pass. She would have loved your book, but she never got to hear what it was really about.

One of my earlier queries only mentioned the last 40 pages of Sacred Fire because the climax was so exciting. A beta reader pointed out that any agent requesting the book would have to sift through 300 pages to get to the part that made them want to read it. Now the query says what my whole book is about.

Don't be ashamed of your book when you write your query. Write what your story is really about, and believe in it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Hated Rough Draft

I'm looking at my two rough drafts, trying to decide which one to revise, and I realize something...

Revising a rough draft is hard.

I haven't done this in years. I've polished third, forth, and fifth drafts, and I had critique partners and beta readers to hold my hand the whole time.  But this -- making a book comprehensible enough for a beta to even look at -- is making me cross-eyed.

Where do I start?

I don't remember ever feeling intimidated by a book before, but Fierce is making me want to cower behind my couch. I open the document thinking, "I'm the boss here, and no messy plot can scare me!" Then I skim over it and close the document, feeling like I just ran away from a dangerous animal.

I'm being a weenie beenie, I know.

Revising (for me, at least) is like chipping away at a stone; you gotta do one chunck at a time. All I have to do is make a list of everything I want to change, pick one thing, and go for it.

Alright, I'm going to open the document now.

Please don't eat me...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Vote for Goodreads Choice Awards

Voting for the Goodreads Choice Awards is open, and a friend of mine was nominated: Elizabeth Loupas, the author of The Second Duchess. I'm so excited and I have my fingers (and beagle paws) crossed for her!
There are two other authors I like who were also nominated: Michelle Moran's Madam Tussaud, also for best historical fiction, and Tea Obreht's The Tiger's Wife for best fiction.

Click on the link below if you want to participate. The deadline is November 30th.

Choice_logo_90x107

Vote now for your favorite books!

Friday, November 25, 2011

My Favorite Reproduction of Vesta's Temple

I ran a search for the temple of Vesta to see if any recent pictures have been posted online, and I found the most beautiful reproduction I've ever seen.




There's nothing like trying to visualize something in your head and finally seeing it exactly the way you pictured it. (If they ever made a movie out of my book, just seeing the set would make me excited enough to wet myself.)

Although the picture is beautiful, it's not the most accurate. The roof is wrong; on ancient Roman coins, there is no second level. There's supposed to be a grate surrounding the outer wall (I have yet to figure out why). He also doesn't have enough steps. I don't know why an ancient historian took the time to specify that the temple of Vesta had nine steps, but whatever.

If you want to see the most accurate model of the temple of Vesta, click here.

Here's what the temple looks like today:



Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you have a relaxing day, your food is delicious, and your football teams win.

Usually the holidays call for a story, but I told all my funny Thanksgiving stories last year in the article Thanksgiving Burritos and Burnt Honey Horns. Good times.


My extended family has a particular attraction to this holiday, since we're Pilgrims...literally. When I became a Pilgrim, I did a little research to find out the difference between a pilgrim and a pioneer. 


I found out "pilgrim" specifically refers to people traveling for religious purposes. The way I see it, Thanksgiving should be a celebration of religious freedom as well as gratitude.


I gravitate toward misunderstood religions in my writing, mostly because as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I belong to one. 


If it weren't for the Puritans and our country's founding fathers, who sacrificed so much for our religious freedom, God wouldn't have had the opportunity to reveal the church to Joseph Smith. Even with the standard of tolerance in our country, the early saints were murdered and driven out of their homes; at any other place and time, the church never could have even got off the ground.


I owe the Puritans a great debt of gratitude. 


This Thanksgiving, that's what I'm going to focus on; my ability to believe what I want without getting hurt and the ability to do what I want without being ridiculed.


Here's an article my church wrote about the same idea. I read it after writing this article; I guess we were just on the same wavelength.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Holding it at Pompeii

When I visited Rome to research Sacred Fire I was eager to visit Pompeii, but I had no idea it would be as amazing as it was. Andrew and I petered around looking at temples and senate houses, thinking the center of town was the only thing we would see. Then we walked up a hill and saw Pompeii is an entire city. Houses stretched as far as we could see.

I turned to my husband, wide-eyed. “We’re going to be here a very long time.”

It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The streets are preserved, as well as the surrounding houses, the bases of fountains in crossroads, and murals. Shrines were still there, as were pools and gardens and vineyards. I felt like I went back in time.

Oddly, one of the most preserved places was a whore-house. The walls are pasted with the most graphic porn imaginable (though I admit, I don’t have the greatest imagination in that department).

A couple was looking through the tiny rooms with nothing but a bed in them. They had confused looks on their faces. “What do you think this place is for?” asked the husband.

Since the house was right behind a theater, the wife said, “Maybe these were dressing rooms.”

I laughed out loud. “These were no dressing rooms,” I said, pointing to a particularly vulgar painting.

They peered at the painting, then pulled their heads back. “Oh,” said the wife.

We spent seven hours in that city. At some point, both my husband and I had to go to the bathroom. We knew there were restrooms at the entrance, but it was on the other side of town.

“Surely they’ll have a portapotti around here somewhere,” I reasoned. “They wouldn’t leave us stranded here with no way to go to the bathroom.”

I forgot we were in Italy, which has no public bathrooms to speak of. Italians must have bladders of steel.

Hours went by and we still couldn’t find a portapotti. Our need to go got worse and worse. Eventually we could hardly stand it anymore and knew we’d have to make a break for it and get to the entrance, but the site was going close soon. We didn’t have time to come back.

“There’s more I want to see!” I told my husband

I could tell the wheels in his head were working. “What are you thinking?” I asked.

“Well, there are a lot of houses here, and there are a lot of empty rooms.”

I gave him a blank stare. “I’m not going to pee in Pompeii.”

“We don’t have much of a choice,” he pointed out.

He was right. I had to go so badly, I was practically dancing. Plus there were wild dogs all over the town, and surely they peed in the rooms too.

We found a small, inconspicuous house and took turns standing guard. As I was crouched down taking care of business, I wondered who used to live in the house. He probably never would have guessed a few thousand years later, a tourist would come and pee in it.

Now whenever I think of Pompeii, I remember that a little part of me is still there.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

When You're Down on Your Writing

In case you missed my article yesterday, I won Nano and finished the rough draft of my book, Fierce. Wihoo!

I’ve mentioned already that I’m doubtful of its salability (not its quality, mind you). While writing the rough draft, this killed my desire to continue.

With the help of my readers, I keep reminding myself that if I believe this strongly in the story, it deserves to be written. If I drop this project, no matter what happens, I’ll regret it.

I had this problem with Sacred Fire. It wasn’t as bad, though, because I always believed Sacred Fire would be my debut novel. I was in two large critique groups in college, and I got overwhelming negative criticism. Mostly we haggled over historical accuracy. 

“Surely the Romans didn’t care that much about their gods,” they would say, or “The gods were so flawed, the Romans couldn’t have respected them.” (This comment was in reference to Greek religion.)

And, of course, “The Romans were immoral. Their culture was based on sex, violence, and corruption. This book doesn’t depict them as they actually were.” I wanted to say, What’s the source of your research? Gladiator? HBO?

One comment stands out to me as the most hurtful and frustrating of all:

In the first draft, Tuccia (my main character) was bitter and rebellious. In the end she made peace with her doubt in the gods and became faithful and dedicated. Readers hated this. Everyone wanted her to be rebellious to the end. Click here to see why that’s a terrible idea.

A girl spoke up and said, “I can see how this could work. The story could be a tragedy that ends with her being brainwashed.”

My jaw dropped. Could no one relate to a Roman who cared about her religion?

My greatest driving force was the purpose of the book. I’ve mentioned before that when you start a novel, it’s helpful to write a few pages on why you want to write it. I wanted to be the first person in literature to stand up for the Romans. Their culture had a lot of good in it and they deserve to be represented the way I feel they were. Billions of human beings have had their memory soiled, and it isn’t fair to them.

I would actually visualize myself going to heaven and being applauded by the Romans. It’s silly, I know, but it kept me going. I tried to write a book a Roman would like and I can’t help hoping some of them are up there reading it.

The purpose of my Amazon book is to write a commentary on the gender wars we experience today. The legend of the Amazons is more or less an analogy. I have three main characters; one demonstrates the consequences of male hostility, another demonstrates the consequences of female hostility, and the other represents the benefits of the two genders getting along.

Another thing that kept me going while I worked on Sacred Fire was the book itself. When I felt down, I would look at what I’d already written. I loved reading it, and I believed if I loved it so much, someone else would too.



What should I do now that I’m done with the rough draft of Fierce?

I could start researching for my next historical novel – the voodoo one, or Joan of Arc? I guess while I’m doing research, I can work on revising one of my Nano books – the ghost story, or the Amazon book? I just don’t know.

There’s not enough time in the day.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Night of Writing Dangerously

November 18

3:00 pm

It’s been busy at work. I found out I probably won’t get to go home for Christmas. I’m on the wrong side of the country. I didn’t write during my lunch break, which made me grumpy. My hip is hurting from when I was hit by a car while riding my bicycle. I foolishly read an article about a writer who has to make time to write between taking care of her babies, and I sneered and thought, Well, how nice for YOU.

I don’t like that I have to work. I don’t like this state. I don’t like my empty apartment where the only movement comes from a fish and cockroaches.

I would love nothing more than to go home and mope, but I can't. On a more optimistic day, I set up a Night of Writing Dangerously in my area: a Nanowrimo tradition where writers meet and work on their books for six hours late into the night. 

That's just great.

5:45 pm

There’s nothing like a cafĂ©; I walked in and was instantly soothed by dim lights and the smell of cinnamon-caramel coffee. I went upstairs to a mass of couches and found four of my friends with their computers already on their laps.

I set up a table near an outlet and stretched my fingers. So what if I felt crappy? I could totally do this.

9:00 pm

At this point I had accomplished so much that I was proud and exhausted. I was glad I came, and I felt better about life in general.

I looked at the clock. Three hours left. Oh, no. I started to wonder what I got myself into.

12:00 am

I did it. Holy cow. I took a half-hour break to talk to my buddies when the strain on my brain got to be too much, but I worked until 12 am.

And I reached 50,000 words. I won Nano.

And I finished my book. It’s so incomplete it feels more like a really long outline, but it has a beginning, middle, end… it’s a full rough draft.

I'll always remember my Night of Writing Dangerously. Never say no to adventures!

Friday, November 18, 2011

My Blog's One Year Anniversary


I started this blog about my writing experiences, complete with stories and fun facts, on November 18, 2010.

My first article was called Query Letter Hell. (Boy, am I glad I'm finally out of that stage. Writing a good query really was hell.) I complained about my awful job (which I don't have anymore, yay!). I talked about people who hated my story idea.

I went through my first querying process, including the thrill of receiving my first partial request and the disappointment of realizing I had to start all over again.

Finally, I talked about my excitement over finding beta readers who actually liked my work. I went to a conference that revived my need to be an author, and I practically fought and begged to go to another conference in San Diego, which was life-changing.

And now we're at the end of my eventful year when I started querying again.

It's been quite the adventure. Almost all my experiences and things I learned stemmed from blogging, as well as all the encouragement I needed. I'm so glad I kept this blog, and I hope to keep it for many years to come.

Thank you for your support!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Books I Read in October

Four more books, and I'll meet my goal to read 44 books this year!

The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb

Hallie goes to the house of her recently deceased mother to find out why her father said she died thirty years ago and discovers a dark family history full of ghosts and secrets.

This book is enthralling. Mystery layers on mystery until I was dying to find answers, and to see what would happen to the characters I had fallen in love with. It's a page-turner that's great to read in front of a fire on a rainy day, but not good to read before bed; it kept me awake because I didn't want to stop reading.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

In the midst of the Great Depression, Jacob loses his parents and house and falls into a circus where he meets the two loves of his life; the married performer Marlena, and an elephant named Rosie.

This was by far the most erotic book I've ever read. It was so graphic, it was educational; I took notes. Consequently I put it down for a long time, but it drew me back in. The book was #1 on the NYT Bestseller's List for a good reason; the characters, the setting, the story, the pacing, the voice, the descriptions... it was all fantastic.

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

In medieval Cambridge, England, four children are murdered and only an expert in death can help the king uncover the killer... an expert who happens to be a woman. 

This was by far the most violent book I've ever read. (It's been quite the month for me.) I should have known what I was getting myself into; it says right on the cover it's about murdered children. I always hate it when people criticize a book when they should have known they wouldn't like it before reading it. I especially hate it when people criticize a book for being exactly what the author wanted it to be. I always say, "If it's not your kind of book, you shouldn't have read it." Ergo, all I'm going to say about reading this book is, "Oops. My bad."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Encounter with a Voodoo Priest

A year ago I was in New Orleans, half for vacation and half for research on a book of Marie Laveau I plan to write. My mom and I went to the Voodoo Museum and on a three hour voodoo tour.

If you're ever in New Orleans, you HAVE to do this. It was an unimaginably awesome experience. I got to go to a temple with a shriveled creole woman surrounded by idols with a snake and a bag of bones to read your fortune. We visited Marie Laveau's tomb covered in offerings and red X's. I loved it!

Before going, my mom and I went to a perfume shop and found a bottle of Marie Laveau's original love potion recipe. It smelled divine... equally deep and floral with a hint of musk, much like how I'd imagine love would smell. 

I still had some on my wrist at the Voodoo Museum, where they sold what they claimed was the same recipe, only this one had the spell on it. I asked politely if I could just smell the potion to see if it was the same.

"I could give it to you for $15 dollars," the priest offered. 

I thought that was a fantastic deal, but I still wanted to smell it first.

"Put out your hand," he told me.

I did, and he made a cross on my palm and instructed me to smell it until the scent was gone. I looked at my hand and thought, Aw crap, he just put a spell on me. 

Sure enough, it smelled exactly the same! 

"I would like to buy that perfume," I decided.

Oddly, the priest got flustered and made excuses not to sell it to me. I was disappointed. I hoped I hadn't offended him by not taking the potion seriously; I think I made it overly obvious that I only wanted it because of the smell.

It wasn't until after I got home that I realized it was the spell that cost $15, not the perfume. So technically, I still owe him money.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Tentative Conclusion to My Vision for My Career

I wrote yesterday's post about two weeks ago. Since then, I've had time to really think about my career and who I want to be as an author, and I have an idea of what I want to do.

I'm going to finish the book I'm working on and then I'm going to shelve it. After Sacred Fire gets published, I'll publish two other historical books books about religious women. That'll be my niche. After that, I'll do some major soul searching and decide what I want to do with my Amazon book and my ghost story, as well as the rest of my career.

Who knows? Maybe by then, those two books will be a sweet memory from my past and not projects I want to pursue. Maybe I'll have enough loyal readers that I'll have more freedom to print what I want. Maybe I'll pay to have ebooks formated that I can distribute on my own, which won't put me on a bestseller list, but will at least get those books out there. Or maybe by then, I'll be ready to break out into a whole new style and none of this will matter.

Or maybe those two misfit books will take the world by storm. Dreams die hard.

Get back to me in five years or so and I'll tell you what I've decided.

Yup, this feels like a good business model. Except I still feel a little sick to my stomach. Maybe this is all too much to decide at once. I'm young and Sacred Fire is only my first book. I don't have to have all the answers right away... right?

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Vision for My Career

I already mentioned that when an agent is interested in your book, you talk on the phone and ask each other a bunch of questions; what editors they'll submit your book to, how involved they are in the editing process, etc.

When I was trying to make a list of questions to ask agents, a friend of mine suggested I ask the agent's vision for my career. She asked agents that question and was surprised by their different answers. I thought, "That's a good idea," and added it to the list.

It got me thinking. What's my vision for my career?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and honestly, I'm feeling a little lost. I'm the kind of person who loves adventures, trying new things, and never doing the same thing twice. This is a very bad thing for an author. You're supposed to be predictable enough that your readers will pick up your new book without even looking at what it's about because they know you write what they like.

This is the part where most blog articles go on and on about following your heart and breaking rules, but if I'm so much of a rebel that no one reads my books, what was the point? There has to be a happy medium between doing what you love and doing what makes you successful. 

I have six book ideas. Four of them are historical fiction and two of them aren't. I want to just throw the book ideas at my agent's feet and say, "Help." 

There are people who pick up books on Ancient Rome with no questions asked because they love that time period. That's great for me, but I'm not going to write about Rome again. When I publish my next book, I'll lose that fan base. I have an idea for a paranormal romance, which is an easy sell and could attract tons of readers, but those readers won't carry over to my next historical novel.

You might say I should only worry about one book at a time, but this is bothering me because I'm trying to get an agent. I want someone to represent me, not just Sacred Fire. An agent's likely to ask who I want my readers to be, and I need an answer.

Here's the BIG QUESTION, the one I need to figure out as soon as possible: Am I willing to give up a story idea that will hurt my career? Or am I willing to give up an agent who can't support the career I want?

What career do I even want, anyway?

There's only one thing I do know already; I don't want multiple pen names. I'm going to be flexible about a lot of things, but I put my foot down on that right now. Everything I write is mine, and it's going to have my picture and my name on it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I'm Feeling Doubts!?!

....and the Nano momentum comes to a screeching halt.

I'm going to be perfectly frank; my Amazon book is unorthodox at best. It doesn't fit the style or genre of any of my other books, and it's completely experimental. Part of the reason I'm writing it so quickly is because I don't want to waste too much time working on a book that won't get published.

I told myself to focus on the writing, not the future. I have plenty of perfectly reasonable historical fiction ideas, so it's not like spending a few months on a side project is going to kill my career. I also tried to remind myself how many people poo-pooed on Sacred Fire while I was writing it and how glad I am that I pushed through anyway.  

Just write the book, I keep telling myself. So what if it doesn't get published? You're going to write it anyway. Stop worrying so much. 

But I'm tired of telling people the idea and getting funny looks. I'm tired of being reminded that I'm a commercial author, not a literary one, that an alternate-universe version of Africa doesn't make sense, and that I'm supposed to stick to historical fiction.

The other day I decided to read my husband a chapter so he'd appreciate what I'm trying to do with this book, since he's skeptical. When I was done, he said, "That's great writing, but what about the genre hopping? Do you think an agent is going to be interested in this?"

That was it for me; I sobbed on his lap while he stroked my hair and tried to calm me down. It was at that moment that I realized I do care whether or not this book gets published. I want it to get big and change the world.

The next day I opened my book and just stared at the document. I didn't want to touch it. My spirit was broken.

What now?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Queries: The Waiting Game

I heard when you send an agent your book, they’ll call on the phone if they want to represent it and send an email if they don’t. I wasn't sure if that was true – as a newbie, I’m a victim to the wisdom on the internet – but for the past few days, I've kept my phone close by and haven't checked my email very often.
I sent my book to two people, and purely by coincidence, I’ve been getting exactly two emails a day. I hardly ever get emails in that account, so every time I see the number 2, I think, “Oh no! They both rejected me at the same time!”
Knowing I could get The Call at any time made me pretty anxious. I handle nervousness by getting overly prepared. I learned the zip codes of the agents so can I recognize them before I pick up the phone. (I was going to enter the numbers on their business cards to my address book, but I don’t know which number they’ll use to call.)  I found a room at work that’s usually empty where I could take the call, and I tested the reception in that room. 

Remember how I said you should get a writing friend/mentor who's been through this before? I talked to mine, thank goodness, and she said an agent will usually send you an email to set up a time to talk on the phone. Whew! I'll get some warning! 

During the phone conversation, you ask them a bunch of questions like which publishing companies they'll submit the book to and what about your book they want to change, and then they ask you a bunch of questions. It's like a date to see if you're a good match.

Boy, am I glad I talked to her. I can just see me getting an email from an agent, falling into despair over the rejection, only to find out the email says she's interested. That would be quite the emotional roller coaster.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go check my email.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Magic Labor Inducer: Me

I was four years old when my mom was pregnant with my brother. Being too young for the birds and the bees talk (an experience you can read about here), I was mystified by the process. I knew there was a baby inside but I didn’t know how it got there or how it was going to get out, and I remember being afraid my mom’s stomach would have to explode.

I couldn’t wait for my mom to have her baby. Someone must have told me you know the baby’s coming when the mother’s “water breaks,” so I asked my mother every day, “Has your water broken yet?” It was an odd thing for me to ask because her water usually didn’t break until she was already in the hospital.

“Not yet,” she’d always say.

It seemed like I had waited forever. Having never been a patient person, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I climbed up on the couch to sit next to my mother and I said, “Mom, I’m going to pray you so your water breaks.”

My mom explained to me that she would be a few weeks early and praying her might not work, but I had complete faith. I folded my arms on top of her belly, bowed my head, and said a prayer that her water would break the next day.

When I woke up the next morning, I ran to my mom and asked if her water broke. “Sorry honey, not yet,” she answered.

“That’s okay,” I told her. “I will pray you again and I know you will have the baby tomorrow.”

So I folded my arms and bowed my head on top of her belly and prayed her again.

That night in bed, for the first and only time, my mother’s water broke before she felt labor pains and before the baby was due. They called their designated babysitters and rushed to the hospital.

The next morning, the babysitters explained to me that my mother was in the hospital having her baby.

“I know,” I said.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How to Prep for a Book, Step 8: Query and Pitch

Last month I wrote a series on How to Prepare to Write a Novel, and I missed an important step that was very helpful to me:

Write your query before your book.

Last year, I had so much trouble writing a query for Sacred Fire that I'm not going to post links to all the blog articles I wrote on that topic. Just run a search for "query" and you'll see how much of a pain it was. People kept asking me, "What's your book's focus? What is your book about?"

It was so frustrating! I came to realize that my book wasn't as focused as it needed to be to fit onto one page. It was about so many things that it wasn't about anything. Writing my query helped me revise my book because it showed me what was really important and what needed to take a backseat.


To save myself a lot of heart ache, I wrote the query for Fierce first. It's rough and hasn't been critiqued yet, but other than that, I'm pretty happy with it. You can read it here. 

A pitch is like a one-sentence query. (And you thought summarizing your book in one page was hard!) I do not have a pitch for my book yet, and I need to get one. It'll be like a stake when storms rage and my tent is flapping in the wind.


Monday, November 7, 2011

How to Write a Sex Scene

I wrote my first Sex Scene this week... spelled with a capitol "S" because the idea of writing about it makes people tremble with fear.

I've already mentioned that it's difficult for me to decide what's appropriate and what's not. However, once I decided what I wanted to write, I discovered a trick to make the process easy; just say what happened.

That's what we do with every other scene. A couple is sitting in a cafe drinking coffee, you describe it. But a couple starts to be intimate... oh no! What do we do?! Chill out. Say what happened. It's a scene just like any other.

I did notice, however, that if you just say what happened, it can get overly graphic. People expect you to blush and turn away at some point. I've decided on a good rule of thumb; there's a difference between describing actions and trying to arouse the reader. If you finish your scene out of breath and searching the house for your husband, you probably took things too far.

What really bugs me isn't so much people who can't write sex scene  as people who insist you have to. It's not a staple. I know people who made a big deal out of how there was no love affair in Sacred Fire. I'd always say, "It's about a Vestal Virgin, not a Vestal Skank."

This really got under my skin when I got into an online conversation about me writing a book on Joan of Arc. Everyone adores her, and she's more of a marquee name than most heroines in historical fiction, but she doesn't show up in the publishing world as much as she deserves. There are no bestsellers about her. (Everyone keep your fingers crossed for The Maid by Kimberly Cutter, which came out last month.)

Someone said she's probably popular in non-fiction and not in fiction because she was a virgin. I was shocked. First off, you don't need a man in your life to live a good story, and second off, her life was full of war and miracles and visions and torture and sacrificing for God and country. I'll take that over a sex scene any day.

Friday, November 4, 2011

"I am the Very Model of a Wrimo Individual"

This video parody of Nano is so wonderful and amusing, I must have watched it a dozen times. The second video teaches you how to use the Nanowrimo.com site.

The website is incredible and I highly recommend you spend as much time there as you spend on your book because it is that cool.
Just as a warning, they updated the Nano site and several of the features he mentions aren't available yet, but they will be soon.

I promise won't talk about Nano all the time, since I don't want to bore readers who aren't participating, but I will mention it occasionally.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How to be Industry Savvy

One of my readers asked me how to become industry-savvy, which is almost as important as knowing how to write. FYI, I love it when readers ask me questions because it gives me ideas for posts.
I’m just waiting for the day when someone calls me out on acting like I know everything when I don’t have any experience. I don’t claim to be the most knowledgeable, but here are the resources I use:
Reference Books
There are tons of books on this very topic. The best ones are written by agents and editors. Donald Maas is my reference hero: I highly recommend his books Become a Career Novelist and Writing the Breakout Novel. Writer’s Market should be your Bible.
Fiction Books
I can’t say this enough: know your genre! Reading books in your genre will help you see what the trends are, what’s acceptable, what isn’t, what agents look for, what people want to see. Try to read the most recent and the most popular books.
I follow a few historical fiction review blogs and I read the summaries of the books they mention, since I don’t have time to read every book that comes out. I also like to skim Goodreads lists to see what books everyone is talking about.
Whenever you read a book , look in the acknowledgments to see who their agent is and look at the spine to see the publisher. Keep those names in the back of your mind. You’ll notice patterns and you’ll see who’s prestigious and who fits your style.
Blogs
This is my most-used reference because it’s easy and free. The internet is packed to the brim with advice you need. I recommend Janet Reid’s best twitter posts and there’s an amazing best blog posts of the week on a site with a name I don’t remember. It’s killing me that I don’t know what it’s called. Does anyone know? The blog focuses on children’s literature and it’s green.
Forums
Absolute Write Water Cooler lives up to its name; it has absolutely everything you need. Not only does it help with writing, but it talks about queries, agents, editors, self-publishing, freelancing, you name it. There’s an abundance of online writers willing to share their knowledge; take advantage of them.
Conferences
Need I say more? Go to conferences. Take good notes.
Writer Friends
I have a friend who recently got an agent. I have learned so much just by following her journey and seeing how her experiences play out (which, incidentally, is the whole point of this blog). Make friends and learn from them.
Anyone want to add anything? Let me know if you have questions!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Why Outlining is soooo Awesome

I’ve said before that I hate to brag. I still do, though it’s a lot easier when all my dear readers congratulate me. Regardless of how special you all make me feel, I try to only demonstrate my awesomeness when it’s useful to my readers. Ergo, even though this is going to sound conceited, there is a point. I promise.
On November 1 from midnight to midnight the next day, I wrote 10,000 words.
I started to wonder how high my word count was when my fingers started to hurt at 6,500 words. After that, I kept typing and thinking to myself, “Holy cow, am I really still writing? Do I still have stuff to say?” I basically stared in amazement at my furiously typing fingers.
How on earth did I go from taking five years to write Sacred Fire to writing 10,000 words in one day?
Here is the point:
I came up with the idea for Fierce ten months ago and have been stewing on it ever since. Two months ago, I started to prep for the book. At one point it got boring and I started to wonder if writing 18,000 words of notes would be worth my time.
Totally worth it.
I’ve never had an outline so thorough, and I’ve never typed faster in my life. Some books don't lend themselves to this pace, and some authors just have a different style. That's okay.  However, if you can do the prep work I talked about in my How to Prepare for a Novel series, I highly recommend giving it a try. I’m going to do this from now on.
Here's a more important point:
 Last year, I struggled to get in my 50,000 words. I ended up writing almost exactly the right amount, and getting in those last words felt like wringing out a rag.
I would look at people on the Nano forums who had 100,000 words and wonder how it was even possible, and then feel like trash. It was silly; as if writing 50k in a month is such a failure!
If you write at all, you're doing something amazing. If you even attempt Nano, it will help your writing. If you win, you will have achieved a great feat that a hundred thousand writers lust after and only a third of them reach. If you feel you're able to push yourself harder...
...go for it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Works in Progress

As Teralyn Rose Pilgrim


Sacred Fire: Tuccia loves being a Vestal Virgin – an ancient Roman priestess charged with guarding the fire of Vesta – until another vestal is wrongly accused of losing her virginity and is executed. Despite her anger at the goddess for letting it happen, she refuses a priest’s advances, even when he threatens to accuse her of being impure if she doesn’t give in. Only a miracle can save Tuccia from execution… and she knows exactly what miracle to perform. Status: revision

Voodoo Queen: Marie Laveau is famous in New Orleans for being the most powerful voodoo priestess who ever lived. Her daughter is content to live in her shadow until she must take her aging mother’s place as the next Voodoo Queen. Status: research and plotting

Joan of Arc (no working title): Does the world need another book about Joan of Arc? Yes. Yes, it does. Status: preliminary research

Fierce: When Trinh is abandoned in the desert by her abusive husband, she has no choice but to live with the Amazons: a warrior tribe of women. Melanippe hates men as much as the next Amazon, until she falls in love with one. An act of kindness convinces Thaley – the future queen of the Amazons – to risk her throne to make peace with the men. Status: first draft.

As Catherine Swift

Hunger: Savvy is an energetic college freshman without a care in the word… except that she’s haunted. Her ghost follows her around but is easy to ignore until she meets Eric, one of many men “cursed” with an insatiable hunger to feel alive. Savvy’s romance with Eric sets events in motion that uncover the ghost’s secrets, reveal a cure for Eric’s problem, and present them all with one unspeakable choice. Status: first draft

The Biddenden Maids: Eliza and Mary are conjoined twins living in medieval England who only have each other. Mary becomes engaged to a man who’s willing to look past her abnormality… to look past Eliza. As a conjoined twin Eliza never thought she’d be lonely, but watching the romance between Mary and her husband blossom makes her feel ignored and unwanted. She longs to find a love of her own, until she starts to fall for her sister’s husband. Status: outline.
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