Friday, April 30, 2010
Have you heard about a new writer named Mia Marlowe? There was a notice on Publisher's Lunch recently about some multi-books deals for her. Guess what? She's me!
Alicia Condon of Kensington has acquired my Touch of Seduction trilogy for their Brava line. Since my first book for them, Touch of a Thief, has paranormal elements, Alicia requested I take a new pen name. I chose Mia Marlowe. If you'd like to know more, please visit Mia Marlowe, a little blog where I've been quietly cataloguing my writing odyssey as I expanded into a second publishing house. There is a static page with an excerpt from TOUCH OF A THIEF I hope you'll enjoy. (And please click to follow my blog there. It looks so lonely with no friendly followers!)
I say second publishing house because I'm thrilled to report that Leah Hultenschmidt of Dorchester wants three more books from me as well. And since she realizes how difficult it is for an author to promote more than one pen name, these books will also come out under the new Mia Marlowe name.
If you're a writer, you are allowed to hate me a little. Six contracted novels and a novella is an embarrassment of riches. But remember, now I have to deliver those 7 manuscripts over the next 15 months. It'll be a little like doing NaNoWriMo every month.
But I am thrilled and terrified in equal measure and hope you'll come along with me as my career takes a new direction.
Thanks to all of you who've been dropping by the blog this week while I've been gone. I'll enjoy catching up once I'm home on Sunday.
So, any questions about my news or about my time at RT?
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Ripper, My Love
You've already jerked my attention in with this title. Ripper My Love is a little like Springtime for Hitler. You don't think of either of them in connection with romance, but you've definitely piqued my interest.
Well that is a good start, but please don't get too excited Emily. It is fun playing with this story. And because JTR is an unknown, my imagination can run riot.
He stood back in the shadows and watched as the young redhead tripped, then reached out to steady herself against the wall. She didn't look as if she had been under the influence of alcohol, as many of the women in the area were. The watcher decided to stay within the blackness of the shadows, this was not the girl for him tonight.
I think you should use was instead of had been in the second sentence. Had been indicates something in the past when he's noticing her in the now. You're telling us she didn't look as if she was drunk, then you show us by having her steadying herself. Don't tell, then show. Just show. Your last sentence is actually two. Replace the comma with a period. By telling me now that this is not the girl for him you yanked away all the suspense. How about letting him consider her longer before deciding to pass?
I must remember to address both these issues. Letting him consider her a bit more, is something to ponder over. Thank you Emily.
Kitty lifted her skirts as she stepped gingerly through the dirty alley way, the gas lamp flickered and cast shadows about her. Never one for being nervous of her surroundings, Kitty felt a new sensation, a feeling of being watched or followed. No noises had made her skin crawl, just a feeling deep inside. She walked a little quicker and the clip of her heels echoed around the dimly lit, narrow lane.
You've switched POV characters from one paragraph to the next. Generally, that's a no-no. The reason to pick a character and stick with them is that this is how we begin to identify with the character. In order to build suspense, you must stay with the Ripper or cut the whole first paragraph and build on her sense of uneasiness through her POV. Replace the comma with a period and separate the first sentence into two.
I had considered using the first paragraph as a mini prologue. It is a paragraph I do not seem to be able to remove. It is a stubborn one. You are quite right, and I will put it to one side in favour of Kitty.
Now that's an interesting idea. If you decided to do a mini-prologue from JTR's POV, might I suggest you don't have him decide against choosing her for his attention until the end of the chapter when you can book-end it with a mini-epilogue from him? Just double space both places to indicate a POV switch.
Her father would skin her alive if he knew she had taken this way home. Before the new street lamps had been put in place, the city of London was in darkness and she would never have walked home this way. She mentally chided herself . (, o)Only a few weeks previous, a woman had been murdered in the area and they hadn't caught the murderer yet. Some of her neighbours with relatives near the murder scene, had been told the woman had been hacked to death, but her friend, Billy Irish said she had been cut up by a professional.
Ok, your heroine is in danger of being TSTL. If she's going to take this dangerous way, she needs a compelling reason. Otherwise we'll be disgusted with her for taking unnecessary risks. Your reader wants to walk in the heroine's shoes. Make sure we understand why she makes this risky choice. (Hint: The motivation of someone else's danger is the best reason for your heroine to do something she knows is risky.) There's a run-on sentence here that need to be broken up into two. You can see how I replaced the comma.
Oh, no. It sounds so much meaner in words than in just letters and my goal is not to be unkind. TSTL means "too stupid to live." Sorry, but the point is still valid. This reminded me a bit of the teenage slasher movies where everyone knows something bad will happen if she goes into the creepy basement, but she goes anyway. Now if there was a child in danger in the basement, we'd love her as heroic, but doing something dangerous without reason makes us doubt the heroine's intelligence. We want her to be smart. Sometimes I'm guilty of making my heroine do things to facilitate a plot point, but I always have to trash it and think of something else. It's wrong to make a character do something that makes her less a heroine just to fix a plot problem. Don't let her take a foolish risk without reason.
I see what you mean about Kitty having a reason for taking a risk. I will have a rethink, thanks.
Billy never said any more than that, just 'cut up by a professional'. Kitty often wondered what sort of person would be considered professional in Billy's eyes; maybe he meant a doctor. One of the surgeon types who cut off her mother's leg when the ulcers ate deeper into her flesh. If the woman had been hacked to death it would probably have been by a gang member from the riverside.
I'm seeing a pattern of run-on sentences so I turned them orange. This way you can take a look and decide how you'd like to break them up. One of the reasons I read my work aloud is so I can can catch overly long or awkward sentences. Anything I stumble over or have to take a breath to finish needs to be revised.
I want to leave you breathless Emily, but not this way. Thanks, I will set aside an edit session to rid myself of this bad habit. The run on sentences need addressing. I am going to have a reading out loud session with my beta reader soon. This will be the area I will focus on.
'Cut up by a professional', the words made Kitty shudder, it was a horrible thought that the murdered woman's life ended in a neat and tidy killing. Carried out just to satisfy another's need or fantasy. Maybe she had fallen behind with the rent and the landlord arranged her demise.
Kitty allowed her mind to continue along the morbid path of murder, her blood ran cold at the thought and she regretted walking through the short cut. The next time she returned from visiting her friends she would walk down Whitechapel Road. It was probably much safer, as there were more people walking along the street. She could hear the noise from the crowds turning out of the public houses and theatres in the distance, Kitty wished she was amongst them at that present time.
I'd cut the green sentence because it's telling and your next sentence shows the same thing.
How many times have I read this and not realised the repeat? Thanks and I will remove it. I think it reads much better without it.
It's a common error. I catch myself at it all the time. We do it because we're too close to the work and don't see it without a little time and distance.
She shivered from the chill of the night air, and as she did so, she lost her footing, she reached out to the wall to steady herself. If anyone had seen me then, she giggled inwardly, they would think I'd been helping myself to the ale at Mrs Ringer's.
I italicized her thoughts. To indicate it on a manuscript, you should underline what needs to be italicized. Actually, I think this is your first paragraph right here. It's what the Ripper sees at the beginning, so if you've decided to go with Kitty's POV, this is the same starting point. Plus your heroine comes across as charming in this self-deprecating moment.
Yes, I had forgotten to correct this thought section. I will ensure I do it when I rewrite. With regards to the first paragraph, I am going to do just as you suggest. It opens up the first chapter, and gets across what I am aiming for.
As she walked on she was relieved to see the end
And Glynis had to end on an incomplete sentence since I'm a stickler on my 500 word rule.
I'm afraid your work is suffering from the same problem my excerpt had--no one for your protagonist to interact with. Starting with lots of internal dialogue is not going to grab an editor.
But suspense might. If Kitty went this way because she's supposed to meet Billy, we could see her fretting and glancing over her shoulder. She could sag with relief when she hears the tune he always whistles coming her way in the dark. Then we could be privy to the realtime conversation about all the background info on previous deaths. Or you could stick with the Ripper's POV and have him shadow the two of them, gloating about overhearing the details of his crimes. And all the time we'd wonder if he was going to decide to kill them both.
Should I start it with Kitty or leave it with She? She shivered or Kitty shivered. I am wanting to change it to Kitty, the reader will know her name from the onset.
Definitely start with Kitty. You don't want to be like me and name the horse and the dog, but not the protagonist! LOL!
Glynis has sent me a new first paragraph to share with you, based on the critique:
Kitty shivered from the chill of the night air, and as she did so, she lost her footing. She reached out to the wall to steady herself. If anyone had seen me then, she giggled inwardly, they would think I had helped myself to the ale at Ma Parker's.
Yes! I like this better. And you can still work in the suspense through her POV. I hope you'll be giving her someone to walk and talk with as well.
Thanks for letting me take a look at your work, Glynis. Hope your public scrubbing didn't hurt too badly. I used my softest loofah, honest!
Glynis Smy was born in the UK, in the coastal town of Harwich. During her nursing career she wrote two poetry books, short stories and has been published in various magazines in the UK and Southern Cyprus, her new home since 2005.
Writing in the vineyards with no stress, has given her time and confidence to work her first novel, Ripper My Love. Check out her blog! It's a good one! http://www.glynissmy.com/
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
This is the accolade every writer longs to hear. And the best way to earn this ultimate compliment is by peppering your prose with hooks.
The dictionary describes a hook as a stratagem for snaring someone and writers need to snare their readers hard, fast and securely if they want to keep them turning pages. If a writer sprinkles her prose with hooks, she creates a path for her readers to follow through the narrative. In my workshop, My Husband Married a Hooker, I share tricks to help writers hook their readers using their title, their opening line, chapter breaks, embedded hooks and even the final sentence.
And hopefully hook their readers into searching out their backlists!
Here's the Reader's Digest version of the first part of that workshop:
Hooking with your title ~ Make ‘em pick up the book! The title is your foot in the door. It’s the first chance for you to show the reader what kind of story they’re going to get. CL Wilson’s Lord of the Fading Lands isn’t likely to be mistaken for a contemporary comedy. Why? The title is too reminiscent of Tolkein. This is one place where it’s ok to be like something else. You want to call an image to the reader’s mind that will tell them where your book falls in the grand scheme of literature.
Authors sometimes have no say on the final title, but make up a good one anyway. It's your first chance to hook your editor. I sold STROKE OF GENIUS on the strength of the title and a paragraph.
Why is it a good title? My editor loved the play on words. There's a hint of a naughty double entendre in the word stroke. It lets my reader know they're in for a sensual romp. And it gives a clue about my hero--the artistic genius.
Here are some good title tricks:
Something familiar—Take something your readers will recognize and give it a twist.
Play on movie titles: Karen Hawkins' Sleepless in Scotland.
Play on TV: Elizabeth Boyle’s How I Met My Countess.
Song Lyrics: Susan Elizabeth Phillips Ain’t She Sweet? (And of course, her heroine isn't!)
Old sayings: Mary Balogh's First Comes Marriage, Then Comes Seduction, And Last Comes Love. She's taken the old saw "First comes love" and given it a shake-up. Isn't that brilliant for a set of connected stories?
Series titles—Set up a recurring theme.
One for the Money by Janet Evanovitch. She has an unlimited supply of numbers for subsequent books.
A is for Alibi by Susan Grafton. Same principle, but only 26 available titles. Darn.
The Serpent Prince, the Raven Prince, The Leopard Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt. By repeating Prince in each title, she's given readers a clue that they are related stories. And if they enjoyed one, they'll want the next.
Alliteration—People respond to patterns. We crave it. Christie Craig’s Divorced, Desperate and Dating plays to our need for pattern beautifully. So does Mary Janice Davidson's Undead and Unpopular. I used this trick for my Distracting the Duchess, Pleasuring the Pirate and Vexing the Viscount.
There are plenty of good ways to develop a hooking title. Just remember, the goal is to surprise and delight your readers into picking up the book. Next Wednesday, I'll talk about how to hook your readers with the first sentence.
And even though I don't have my author copies of STROKE OF GENIUS yet, I'd like to give away one to someone who leaves a comment or question here today. When I get back from RT in Ohio, I'll have my DH pick the random winner, so be sure to let me know you were here.
Here's the discussion question:
What's the best title you've ever seen and why do you think it's a good one? If you're a writer, it's ok to use one of your own if you like! Just be prepared to share why it fits your story.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Emily: So, Connie, you've been writing for a good long while and have over 50 titles to your credit. You're a New York Times bestseller and were featured on the news program 48 Hours. Why do you think your writing career has been so long and successful?
Connie: I attribute my long writing career with connecting with my readers. I write what they want to read, what I like to read myself. I try to keep my writing fresh by mixing up the time frame and countries in which I write.
Emily: Now authors are encouraged to "brand" themselves by delivering a recognizable type of story with each book. What makes up the Connie Mason brand?
Connie: Each of my stories has elements of action, adventure, suspense, sensuality, and above all, romance.
Emily: I'm always curious about how other writers pull together the beast that is the novel. What is your writing process? Do you plan your stories out in advance or just write them as they come to you?
Connie: I always have a sense of where I'm going with a story and the characters, but even if I write a synopsis or outline, I never follow it. I write with my gut.
Emily: I usually say no one is born knowing how to write a novel, but it sounds like you were! You have traveled extensively and it certainly shows in your body of work. I think Antarctica might be the only continent that hasn't been the setting for one of your stories. But out of all the places you've been, what was your favorite trip?
Connie: I have visited or lived in every European and Scandinavian country, Eastern Europe and Russia, Spain, Portugal and Africa and Greece. I have also visited several Asian countries and lived three years in Thailand. It's difficult to pick out one country over another because there is so much to admire about each of them. But because of the difference in culture and religion, I'd have to say Thailand and Morocco.
Emily: My readers would love to know a bit more about you. Please share anything you'd like about your personal life--kids, grandkids, hobbies, etc.
Connie: I have three grown children, nine grandchildren, all grown except a twelve year old grandson, and two adorable great-grandchildren, ages 3 and 18 months. As many of you know, I lost my husband of 57 years two years ago. It was a shock which I am still coping with. As for hobbies, I take tai chi classes twice a week and read during my spare time.
Emily: I'm so sorry for your loss. I hope your kids and grandkids live close by.
I just have to ask, what's next after LORD OF DEVIL ISLE comes out April 27th--OMGosh, that's today!!!! (I'll have to sneak out of RT and run to the nearest bookstore for my copy!)
Connie: Thanks, Emily. This coming November, I'm taking my readers to Scotland with SINS OF THE HIGHLANDER. "Mad Rob" MacLaren abducts his enemy's bride at the altar, but never expected to fall under the lass's spell himself. It's a tale of honor, redemption and, of course, love.
Emily: Oh, yummy! Men in kilts! Thanks for sharing with us, Connie and I hope you'll come back when SINS OF THE HIGHLANDER hits the bookstores. And now, for a sneak peak at LORD OF DEVIL ISLE . . .
"The post as my mistress has been vacated. Would you be interested in applying for the position?”
“Captain Scott!” She raised a hand to slap him, but he caught her wrist and held it fast.
“Miss Upshall, you are far too highly wrought,” he said silkily. He brought her wrist to his lips and brushed them across her pulse point, never taking his gaze from hers.
She tried to pull away, but his grip was firm and persistent. Like a bird charmed by a snake, she lost the will to resist and allowed him to continue to hold her hand. He stroked the back of it with his thumb. Tendrils of pleasure followed his touch, ebbing and flowing like a rising tide. She knew she shouldn’t allow it, but it felt amazingly good.
“In my experience,” he said softly, his voice a low rumble, like a lion’s purr, “when a woman protests this much, it means she hasn’t had the attention of a man recently and is in desperate need of it.”
That broke the spell.
“You conceited swine! Perhaps if you consorted with women other than barmaids and trollops, you’d recognize a lady’s revulsion when you see it."
His gaze dropped to her breasts, where the hard tips showed like a pair of raised buttons under the man’s shirt she was wearing.
“Believe me, Miss Upshall. I can read the signals you’re sending, and revulsion is not in evidence.”
Oh! I love it when a man sees through a woman's not-so-honest protest! Thanks for visiting with me and my readers today, Connie. I can't wait to read LORD OF DEVIL ISLE. Here's the buy link!
Leave a comment or question for Connie for a chance to win a title from Connie's backlist!
Monday, April 26, 2010
Take it away, Barbara!
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about endings—not that I particularly wanted to, but I’ve been writing and rewriting the ending of my September release, Tastes of Love & Evil, and it’s been a real struggle. My editor and I have been lobbing the last few scenes back and forth like unwieldy ping-pong balls. It has to be done, though. I think the ending of a story is as important as the beginning. You want to leave readers with a sense of satisfaction and completion (and of course you want them to come back for more of the same). I’m talking romance, mostly—the kind of story that has to end in a happily ever after.
As a reader, I’m usually happiest with endings that are short, even to the point of abruptness. The hero and heroine are committed to one another, the danger is past, and the future beckons. That’s it. I don’t need long-drawn out explanations and conclusions.
Even less necessary to me are epilogues, except now and then when they serve as a means of giving bad guys their comeuppance without clogging up the last few scenes. Generally, I don’t want to know what takes place after the story ends. I don’t want to be told then and there how many kids the hero and heroine have or what happens ten years later. I far prefer bits and snatches of the hero and heroine’s lives when they show up as secondary characters in other novels, because these are delightful and timely peeks into a familiar and sometimes beloved story world. As a writer, one reason I don’t want to write epilogues is because I’d be stuck with that future if I wanted to write more about those characters, and I can pretty much guarantee I’ll think up something better down the road. :)
Also (again as a reader), I don’t care particularly for anything too sweet or sentimental. I tend to feel that the sentimental stuff is so obviously implied in a love relationship that it shouldn’t have to be mentioned. The relationship’s success can be shown through other kinds of emotion and interaction—wit, mutual respect and trust, and so on. My preference for minimal sentiment doesn’t stop me from writing somewhat sappy endings, though (or so they seem to me).
Anyway, to get to the ending of this blog: What do you like to find when you reach the end of a book? Short wrap-up or epilogue? Do you want the mood to be sweet, sentimental, humorous, or sharp and tangy? Do you want to use your imagination, or do you like the author to tell you what comes next? How about the bad guys? Is defeating them enough, or do they have to be punished as well? (If they’re not already dead, that is. Killing the bad guys works well for me. Dust off hands, move on with life.)
A signed copy of Sunrise in a Garden of Love & Evil will go to a more or less random commenter.
Emily here again! Thanks for guest hosting today. I wanted to share Barbara's upcoming title as well. Aren't these beautiful covers? When you leave a comment or question, you might want to leave your email as well so Barb can contact you if you're her winner. Hope you're all having a great day! I'll be sharing my RT experience when I'm home next week!
Don't miss tomorrow's post. Romance legend Connie Mason will be with us, talking about her new LORD OF DEVIL ISLE!
Sunday, April 25, 2010
I'm going to be at the Romantic Times Convention all next week. Leaving this afternoon for Columbus to work with the Aspiring Writers program on Monday and Tuesday. It's always fun! Who else will be in Columbus? I hope to see you there.
If you're not going to RT, I've arranged a little online mini-conference for you on my blog with giveaways, craft workshops and some exciting news. Here's the schedule for www.emilybryan.blogspot.com :
Monday--Barbara Monajem and her SUNRISE IN THE GARDEN OF LOVE AND EVIL. Leave a comment for a chance to win!
Tuesday--Romance Legend Connie Mason and her first new title in two years LORD OF DEVIL ISLE! Leave a comment for a chance to win!
Wednesday--My Husband Married A Hooker, Part 1--I'm giving the Reader's Digest version of my writing hooks workshop.--Leave a comment for a chance to win!
Thursday--Red Pencil Thursday all the way from Cyprus. One of my regular commenters shares her WIP for a public scrubbing.
Friday--A New Direction for my Career--I've got some thrilling and terrifying news to share and hope you'll drop by.
I may not be able to comment through the week. You never know what the internet connection will be like when you travel, but I'll catch up with all the comments and questions when I return home on May 2nd.
Have a great week and
Happy Reading and Writing,
STROKE OF GENIUS, coming May 25th!
Friday, April 23, 2010
A marathon of a different sort is about to begin--the annual spring running of the authors. It's when we crawl out of our winter writing cocoons and hit the speaking trail. I got a little jump on it last weekend when I popped up to Maine to speak to MERWA.
Tomorrow I'll sneak down to Connecticut for the day to give my My Husband Married a Hooker workshop for Connecticut Fiction Fest. No, it's not what you're thinking, you naughty girl! It's about adding writing hooks. In case you can't make it, I'll post my notes here on the blog one day next week.
All my blog posts have to be set to go for next week because I'll be in Columbus, OH for the Romantic Times Convention and I'm never sure how reliable my internet connection will be when I'm traveling. If I can, I'll still pop by to respond to comments, but I'm only taking my baby computer with me and it's sort of an internet virgin. Since I do all my writing on this little 10 inch gem, I try not to expose it to anything that might gobble up my WIP. (I'm on p. 250 of a manuscript that's due June 1st, so I can't risk losing any of it. Yes, I have some new contracts and I'm so excited about it I'm about to burst, but I'll tell you about all that later. Suffice it to say, for the next 15 months, I'm going to be a very busy girl.)
For those of you who've never been, RT is a wild week. On Monday and Tuesday, I'll be working with the Aspiring Writers Bootcamp with Bobbi Smith and Judi McCoy. I love teaching and the students are all so eager to learn. Then during the main convention, I'll be on a How to Be a Blog Queen panel, signing at the bookfair on Saturday and hanging out with readers and writers at the after-hours parties.
I'm even co-hosting one this year--The Mad Hatter's Tea Party--along with Victoria Alexander, Renee Bernard, Kristina Cook, Genella deGrey, Charlotte Featherstone, Heather Graham, Carrie Lofty, Sally MacKenzie, Donna MacMeans, Amanda McIntyre, and Sharon Page. It'll start on Wednesday night at Midnight! If you're at RT, please try to make this party! Dorchester has sent out 150 copies of Distracting the Duchess for me to give away to readers. I'll be signing as long as they last!
It'll be a fun and exhausting week and I'll be ready to assume the writing position again once I get home late on Sunday week. (For those of you who don't speak Southern, that means Sunday after next.)
Here on my blog next week, we'll have a little mini convention with some special guests and some chances for YOU to win some freebies--Barbara Monajem on Monday, romance legend NYTimes Bestseller Connie Mason on Tuesday, Me on Wednesday since STROKE OF GENIUS is coming up very soon, Glynis Smy on Red Pencil Thursday and on Friday, I'll tell you about my big contract news! Please be sure to pop by the blog next week. I will be responding to comments once I get home from Ohio for sure.
So who's going to RT and who can I count on to keep the blog fires burning?
Thursday, April 22, 2010
by Janet Louise Campbell
Lots of great novels have a person's name in the title. The Great Gatsy and Angela's Ashes come immediately to mind. Part of a title's function is to indicate what sort of story we'll be reading. The question I have after reading this title is 'Is this a romance?' And bear in mind I'll be looking for Macy to show up pretty quickly.Yes, Macy will be showing up in Chapter 1. I chose the title for various reasons. Macy’s father owns a bakery named…Macy’s Place, of course. After his death, she will have many choices to make about this bakery. And Macy is quite lost, still looking to find her place in life. Being a romance, her journey is about finding out where she belongs…and with whom!
“A vida vem em ondas como o mar.”
Life comes in waves like the sea.
-Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes
I adore having a poetic little post-it before the beginning of a chapter. That's why I had quotes from Mlle. LaTour's Memoirs in Vexing the Viscount. But I wrote that fictious courtesan's memoirs, so there was no problem excerpting it. If Mr. Moraes' work is not in public domain, you will need to obtain permission from him, or his publisher to use it.
Yes, I did consider this. I hope to use it but know I may have to give it up!
An exotic setting, if this is a romance. Personally, I applaud you. I love unique settings. But generally speaking, the romance market wants American settings for contemporary and English ones for historical. Choosing something else is a potential problem, but if an editor falls in love with the manuscript, they'll work something out. However, be aware you may have given an editor/agent a reason to say no just with your setting.
Great point. I have always written whatever story is in my heart, regardless of what an editor might think. And while I do start (and end) in Brazil, the majority of the story happens on Cape Cod. By the end of the prologue, the reader will realize this character is leaving for America.
No problem then.
Leandro Cabral da Rosa wedged the untouched bottle of milk into the back pocket of his jeans and cradled his infant son against his chest. António continued to cry, refusing to be pacified. It was as if he already knew.
Oh, good hook. Something bad is about to happen. Beautifully telegraphed.
“Ele ainda chora?” Leandro’s mother asked from the doorway.
I like books that sprinkle in a flavor of another culture or language, but if you do it, make sure we can figure out what's been said from the context. I have no idea what the mother asked here. You don't want to confuse your reader or worse, make her feel stupid and left out of what's happening. I would prefer to see the question in English, with maybe a Portugese endearment tossed in. You've set me in Tiradentes. I figure they're speaking Portugese without being shown.
Yes, I’ll definitely clarify this!
If this means yes, have him nod. If it means something else, you need to give your reader someway to figure it out. But be aware this early in the story, she may decide it's too much work.
Flavia wiped her hands on a faded green apron as she entered, and Leandro could smell the savory aromas of the roasting meat, rice, and beans she was preparing for lunch.
Excellent inclusion of other senses besides sight and hearing. My critique partner from Seattle is always encouraging me to make sure she can smell the scene.
I once read an interview with an author who said she made sure to use all 5 senses in every scene. It’s often a challenge, but I try my best.
“He misses his mother,” Flavia continued in Portuguese. Her head barely reached Leandro’s chest, and she had to reach up to take her grandson into her arms.
“Gabriela was never uma mãe to my son.” Leandro stretched his arms and shoulders.
Again, be wary of using too much foreign vocabulary, but this time, I'm guessing that means 'mama'. If that's not what it means, I'd advise cutting it. But even if I guessed correctly, you slowed me down with it. Not what you want. If you use foreign words be sure to underline them in your manuscript so they will be italicized in the final print.
“No, but he does not know this. He cries for what he has lost. For what he will soon lose again.”
At only fifty-one, Flavia had long dark hair already streaked with gray. Her face, with its deep-set wrinkles, was somehow more inviting, somehow wiser, thanks to those etchings whittled over the years by life. By worry. By heartache. Her eyes were dark but loving, knowing eyes that had seen little of the world but experienced much of life.
Sharply drawn characterization. In just a few sentences, I know who Flavia is.
“He has all the family he needs with three generations living under this roof.” Leandro offered his mother the bottle of milk. “And Carlos’s family so cl—”
“I saw the books,” she interrupted quietly, pressing the nipple to António’s lips.
Your dialogue rings so true. That's just how a mother would broach a thorny subject, blurting it out before she could call the words back. I'm a little confused though because it seems she's asking if he's going somewhere when she already knows he's leaving from the "For what he will soon lose again” comment earlier. Make sure there are no logic holes in your story.
Great catch! I missed that.
The English books Leandro had studied in school. The language he hadn’t spoken in almost twenty years. He nodded, unwilling, unable, to look her in the eye.
“I lost your father and your brother to that place. And now you will go also.”
Ok, now we're getting to the conflict. You might want to remove the parts that indicate the mother knows the decision has been made earlier. Otherwise, she's just nagging not reasoning with Leandro.
“Yes, father is gone, but Samuel—”
“Nossa Senhora! Samuel and his obsession with America. He is the same as his father.”
Don't know what Nossa Senhora means other than that she's disgusted with Leandro. Give me more context so I can puzzle it out if you want to leave it in.
“I cannot believe that.”
António finally stopped crying and accepted the milk Flavia prodded into his tiny mouth. He quietly suckled, as if listening to a conversation that would have great impact on his future.
Remove as if, because he is listening whether he understands it or not.
Interesting suggestion. I guess I have trouble considering an infant really listening but I guess he is.
“He will be released soon, Mamãe.”
You've thrown out a lot of names and male characters in a short time. We have Samuel, his father, Leandro's father and brother, even Antonio as possible candidates for the He in this sentence. And released from what? Prison? Be specific.
I like Mamãe. There's a word I can read right through with no trouble. You give the flavor without confusion.
“You do not know this, Leandro.”
He caressed his son’s tiny bare feet, feeling the hollow anguish of leaving deep inside his gut. Separation. The fate of so many Brazilian families.
Love the tiny feet. Beautiful detail that lets us feel his loss. We respond to heroes who feel this deeply.
I really enjoyed writing about a Latin male. They dance with passion. Sing. Feel deeply. They are often strong and male without having to prove it with machismo. I hate to generalize but this has been the case with so many that I have met on my trips to Brazil. Maybe that’s why I also married one!
“And António? What of your son?”
“I am doing this for meu filho. And for you and Samuel and Eliana.”
I think you should say him instead of meu filho. We already know they're speaking Portugese. You don't need that here. This is the prologue. You want your reader to rip through to the 1st chapter, not get bogged down.
I will definitely be cutting some of the Portuguese. I can see how too much will confuse and slow down the pace.
“This is what your father once said to me.”
Leandro spun around and stared hard into her eyes. “I am not him.”
“I am sorry,” she whispered, nodding slowly. “You are not. And will never be.”
“I work and work, but our money has no value. Still we have nothing. The wealthy and the corrupt have everything. You see the money that is coming here from America. The jobs. The new houses. The cars. Two more classes have emerged in our society. Those with family in America and those without.”
Clear motivation for our hero. He wants to provide for those he loves. I like it.
“I do not need a new car or a new house.”
“You need to live.”
Janet, you've constructed a moving opening here. The agony of Leandro's decision to leave is palpable as is his mother's sorrow over losing yet another of her men to America. Your choice of details is deft and vivid. There's some seriously good writing here. However, I want you to think long and hard about the amount of Portugese you've included. I recommend no more than 2 phrases and only if you can give enough context to make clear what the words mean. Does chapter one start with Leandro in America? If so, I think you're onto something. Have you submitted this to any contests?
Thank you so much! This is truly a book from my heart. I have only submitted to the Golden Heart. My agent has already read this novel, and I am working on her suggested revisions!
My Red Pencil Thursday guest author is Janet Louise Campbell. Janet inherited her mother’s love of books and her father’s Scottish tenacity. An avid traveler, she has lived in Mexico, explored Europe, and driven across America in a convertible. Janet enjoys reading and writing, photography and skiing, and hiking with her 100-pound yellow Lab, Jake. In 2007, she married Sergio, her own Brazilian hero. She lives on Cape Cod where she is at work on her third novel, MACY’S PLACE.
And now it is your turn! What advice do you have for Janet?
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Check out the rules here: Harlequin Historical
Assistant Editor, Sally Williamson will be sorting through the online pitches and choosing the finalists. If you do it, be sure to follow the rules precisely. Some of the more interesting constraints are that you must be available to chat at a specific time in their online chatroom if you are one of the finalists AND your manuscript must not have been published prior to this.
Not even self published.
Coming from Harlequin, I found that last one a tad surprising. I thought they were going to monitor their self-pubbed arm for positive sales for possible publication on their conventional publishing side. Hmmmm. If you have been contemplating self-publication, consider this a wake-up call.
Obviously, self-pubbing is not the stepping stone to publication it has been touted to be. When Harlequin first started its self-pubbed enterprise (which it has subsequently distanced itself from) I sounded a warning. Aside from separating an author from her money, self-publication stalls an author's writing growth. Sad as it is to receive a rejection, if we take them as a challenge to grow, they strengthen us as writers.
However much I decry the self-pub route, I think the virtual pitch is a good idea. It will give writers a chance to have a virtual "face-to-face" with an editor and a chance to express herself in the medium with which she's most comfortable--the written word.
Please let me know if you decide to go for a virtual pitch. What do you think? Are you planning to attend RT next week? If so, do you have a pitch appointment?
Monday, April 19, 2010
At first I wondered if I'd feel strange staying in the home of someone I didn't know. But our hosts made us feel very welcome. So did their cat Pooh. It's unusual to be greeted by a cat, but Pooh did.
The house was built in 1862 and is reportedly haunted. There have been sightings in the room we occupied, but we didn't see anything out of the ordinary. Fortunately, we weren't told about the resident ghost until the last morning. A writer's imagination needs only the tiniest of nudges, you know. Apparently, several visitors have seen a diaphanous male figure in the room, sometimes hovering above the female visitor's side of the bed.
I have no ghost story to share, but maybe you do. Have you ever seen something inexplicable?
Friday, April 16, 2010
This was the first of Ms. Day's work I'd read and it was marvelous! Her hero is a bastard born thief-taker.
A what? I hear you asking.
Before England had a policeforce, a private citizen with means might hire a thief-taker to solve a crime and apprehend the criminal. Sylvia's heroine needs just such a fellow. PRIDE AND PASSION is a Regency era HUMAN TARGET. I loved it.
Sylvia's prose is taut and elegant. Her characters are sharply drawn. And her love scenes are smoking.
I recommend you pop over to Sylvia Day's website to learn more and sign up for her newsletter so you can get a reminder when it's released next year. As I said last week, I don't do book reviews. But when I read something I love, I will give a recommendation. Consider it given!
Ok, now it's your turn. What have you been reading this week?
PS. I'm dishing my romantic plans for the weekend over at The Chatelaines today. Hope you'll join me there.
My blog guest on this past Monday, Adele Dubois, has chosen 6 winners who will each receive a heart shaped notepad. Here are the names:
Please contact Adele through her website with your mailing info and thanks as always for commenting. Your comments are what makes this blog such fun for me!
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Even for a pre-published author, this is very business saavy. In a writing setting, authors should always present themselves as their pen name. The only reason anyone needs to know your real one is if there's a contract in the offing.
As usual on RPT, my comments will be in red. Jordan Rose's responses will be italicized in purple.
“Lu? Are you okay in there?” Peter called from the hallway.
Jordan's using 1st person. Starting with dialogue is a brillliant method of telling the reader the POV character's name right off the bat!
I’ve been paying attention to your blogs! Everything may not have sunk in, but this important point hit home.
Which puts you ahead of me. As you may recall on my critique of my own sad first manuscript, I named the horse and the dog, but not the hero or heroine. Sheesh!
I stared at my reflection in the mirror. My eyes were doing it again, shimmering. The color was even changing, deepening. They were greener, like emeralds. But how could my eyes change? I leaned a little closer, opened them wide, squinted, blinked and focused. What the hell? How could this happen?
Ok, this is promising. You've raised some questions in my mind which is the writer's goal in every opening. Is Lu on drugs and hallucinating? If there's really something happening to her, her eyes need to completely change color, not just deepen. That can happen to anyone given the right lighting. A few unshed tears will also make someone's eyes shimmer. Do you mean her eyes were glowing? Was light refracting in them as if they were gemstones? Don't make your reader guess.
Point of formatting. In the version I received, Jordan had two spaces between sentences. That's what editors used to like. Now the standard is for only one. In case you're wondering, most also want 12pt Courier or Courier New and one inch margins all around.
Yes, glowing is more accurate. Although, her eyes have always been green, they are drastically different in this situation. There should be no possibility of wondering if it’s the light refracting or unshed tears. I think after describing them so many times in my drafts I assumed that anyone reading my description was right with me! I’ll work on clearing that up. Thanks for the formatting tip.
Ok. If her eyes are drastically different you need to be very specific on how. If they are normally the pale green of a new birch leaf and have now taken on the dark bottle green of a '48 Plymouth, say so. Do her eyes pulse between the two different colors? Make it significant so people know what type of story they are reading.
Deep inside, I felt the low, thrumming ache begin to build. “Oh, God. Not this again,” I whispered to my reflection as I leaned on the counter to steady myself.
Good. Now I have another clue that something out of the ordinary is going on, but I want specifics. Where is the ache? Her head? Her belly? Her chest? Thank you for resisting the temptation to have her give me a description of herself. Since Lu is standing in front of a mirror, your restraint is doubly commendable! Kudos for focusing on the unusual things happening to her instead.
But I can't resist the impulse to tighten your prose a bit. I have personal vendetta against -ly words and the word 'felt.' Try this:
Deep inside her chest, the low thrumming ache began to build.Thanks for this idea. When I wrote ‘deep inside’ I meant in the pit of her stomach, building up through her chest, practically taking over her body. I like your suggestion and would probably go with- ‘Deep inside my chest, the low thrumming ache began to build’ as the next paragraph describes the ache.
I like the idea of it starting in the pit of her stomach, growing and spreading. You should go with that. Don't be afraid to give your readers specific details. This way, your reader experiences the sensation with your heroine as she does, instead of being told the heroine 'felt' it. Oh! And good catch on my correction. You turned your version back into 1st person. I always use 3rd, so I was running home to mama.Thanks for the help with ‘felt’. It comes up a couple of times, and I’ve struggled with rewording to keep the reader active.
The constant pulse, separate from my own, called to me, almost like a warning of some sort. It quietly, steadily pulsed until it worked itself up into a cadence that my own heart tried to match. But it was too fast, too loud, too deep. My heart couldn’t compete. I clung to the counter, waiting for it to subside. The last thing I wanted to do was end up on the floor of the ladies room at the Christmas party.
I would cut every highlighted word in this paragraph. Read it aloud and see what you think. Sometimes, we weaken our prose with too many extra words, with qualifiers that negate what we're trying to say, or with redundancies.
Good way to place us at the Christmas party, BTW.Thanks for cutting the extra words. Sometimes it’s hard to determine if I’m making the point with the less is more idea or missing the target, or am I just going that extra step of bogging down the prose with too many words.
The rule is always: Be clear. Use specific details and don't clutter it up with extras.
I took a deep breath in through my nose, held it for a second and closed my eyes. Concentrate Lucia. This will pass. You’ll be fine.
Is it crucial to know she breathed through her nose? Cut it otherwise. A second of holding your breath isn't long enough to be remarkable. Have her count to 10 in Mandarin or mentally sing 'Jingle Bells' or something as a grounding exercise. You might want to italicize Concentrate, Lucia. This will pass. You'll be fine. since all of this is her direct thought. The standard way to indicate a passage needs to be italicized is to underline it.
Good point on the breathing. I’d like to think she’s not a mouth-breather, so that detail is not necessary! Thanks for catching the internal dialogue error. I think I had removed the italics with the plan to underline the passage and didn’t follow through.
“Lu?” The door creaked, and a perfectly coifed head of blond hair appeared. Peter hesitated before leaning around the door. “Are you all right?” His midnight blue eyes locked onto mine, and in a flash they widened and narrowed. His eyebrows pulled together, and he stepped into the ladies room.
'Coifed' is both a historical sounding word and a feminine one. Is Peter gay? If so, you telegraphed it beautifully. Otherwise, a head of perfectly in place blond hair might be what you mean.Okay! He’s definitely not gay- so out with coifed! I’ll rework that one.
My critique group in Seattle had a bug-a-boo about roving body parts. They'd be all over you about eyes locking. Technically, their gazes locked, not their eyes. As my gal pals would say, "Ew" for eyeballs touching.I’ll have to agree with your critique group- eyeballs touching does sound gross! I’ll switch that for ‘gaze.’
“I’ll be right out,” I said and darted into a stall. Through the crack I watched him linger for a moment. He stared at the mirror as if he was watching my reflection in the glass. He fiddled with his tie and brushed lint from his tuxedo jacket before turning toward the door.
You can delete the 'said' diaglogue tag and just use the action I darted into a stall to indicate who's talking. The sentence 'He stared at the mirror as if he was watching my reflection in the glass' confused me. What are you trying to say? Was he watching the stall she'd darted into?
I stumbled a little bit on him staring at the mirror. In my mind, his gaze finds hers through the crack in the door. I’ll work on this too, he’s no superman, so he can’t see through the door! But I want to make it clear that he’s suspicious about her eyes.
In that case, you need for him to say something before she darts into the loo. As writers we have the luxury of knowing what all our characters are thinking all the time. Readers don't. And since you're using 1st person, your heroine doesn't either. She only knows he's suspicious if he says something or if she picks up on his body language. If you go with the latter don't make the reader guess. We need something concrete to show what's happening.
Up until this point no one had noticed my eyes. It was a blessing and a curse. I was terrified someone would notice and I’d end up in the midst of an exorcism. But at the same time, the fact that no one did notice made me wonder if it was really happening or if it was all part of my imagination?
I think you mean 'Up to this point' instead of until. No one has noticed them yet. Until makes it sound as if someone has.
Making changes to the description of her eyes in the beginning will help with this point. I think ‘until’ might be correct here, because Peter does notice them, of course, that may not be obvious enough in this draft.
Again, if it's only a slight change in pigmentation, that happens with hazel eyes especially depending on lighting and what the person is wearing. Even a total eye color change can be explained away by special contacts . . . unless the eye color is not one usual for humans, say orange or deep purple or pupils elongating into eliptical shapes or the color in her irises bleeding out to cover the whites of her eyes. I think something more drastic needs to be happening for her to be this freaked out.
I peered through the crack and watched the sparkling fade. My eyes were greener than ever before, but at the very least, they weren’t glowing.
Ok, now we've got better words, but even so, people's eyes are often described as sparkling or even glowing. But I doubt she could see her eyes in the mirror through a crack in the toilet stall. She'd just see the crack in the mirror unless her eyes were really doing some kind of space alien thing.
The onset of both the sparkling and the ache occurred around the same time the dreams increased. I’d been dreaming of the same man my entire life. We grew up together on a vineyard in Italy in the 1600s. Eventually we married. The dreams had always been nice dreams, nothing terrifying, nothing even remotely worrisome, until recently.
Lately I dreamt of Vittorio being attacked by a redheaded woman. I awoke more times than not in a state of grief so overwhelming that I’d rather die than take another breath. I was beginning to think I was losing my mind, or worse- being possessed by demons.
Now we're getting somewhere. Is this like a Somewhere in Time story? Could her eyes be changing back into the color they were when she lived with Vittorio? Does she think it's weird that she's always had these vivid dreams of someone she hasn't met?This story is about reincarnation and searching for her ‘original’ husband. Her eyes have been green in every lifetime, but the changes in them symbolize something that she doesn’t learn about until later in the book.
Unfortunately, after a nice long bit of showing what's happening to Lu, you reverted to telling for the dreams. I think I'd rather not have this info dump here. I'd rather you let me in on one of her dreams in real time as she's having it. You could toss in a short hook about the dreams here. Or give her a short flash of a waking dream. Emphasis on short because you want to keep the story moving forward instead of bogging down in a flashback. If there aren't any demonic characters in this story, I wouldn't reference them or exorcisms here because you're setting the reader up to expect them. And if they don't get them, they'll feel cheated. Chekov said if there's a gun in the 1st act, it must go off in the 3rd.Great point on the data dump. I’ll figure a way around this. The prologue to this book is one of her dreams, actually a nightmare and I was trying to make that clear with this, but I’ll work that out another way.
The story is an Urban Fantasy Romance involving vampires as the other main characters. So no demons, but for some people, vampires are not a far leap from demons!
Not being a vampire fan, I can't speak for others, but I am a bit of a theologian. Demons are angels who rebelled and fell with Lucifer. A vampire is a being who was once human, but has been infected through a bite from another vampire and is doomed to an eternal life with no soul and an unslakeable thirst. I still think the beginning of a story is when you set reader expectations. Begin as you mean to continue. What do you say, paranormal readers? Are demons and vampires synonymous enough that it's ok for her to mention them this way?
It's hard to reduce a story, especially one as complex as I suspect this one is, to a 500 word snippet. Thanks for letting us go to school on you, Jordan.Thanks so much for the critique. I appreciate the insight.
Jordan doesn't have a blog or website yet, so I can't send you elsewhere for more info. (Time to get on that, Jordan!)
Now it's your turn. If you're here, you're a member of the Red Pencil Club with all the rights and privileges thereto. Please feel free to speak your mind. I may have gotten it all wrong, so feel free to say so!
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Or have we?
A couple weeks ago, my former boss stopped my mom on the street in the small midwestern town where they live and told her she'd read my last book. And frankly, she was shocked by the sex in it. When I worked for her at the bank, I had always seemed like such a lady.
I wish she hadn't said that to my mom, but it made me laugh. If I wrote murder mysteries, I wonder if my ex-boss would assume I had a cellar full of dead bodies.
The truth is, I am a lady. A lady who likes to read and write about man/woman relationships and all that they entail. That means there are as many love scenes in my books as it takes to tell my hero and heroine's story. And I will follow the story where ever it leads without slamming the door in my reader's faces.
I write about life. All of it. It seems silly to me to censor out part of life that we think about a lot. That doesn't make me unladylike. It makes me honest.
Have you ever been accused of being "unladylike" for reading or writing romance?
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
This is a great service that isn't well publicized.
Any woman with cancer receiving Chemo treatments can get her house cleaned monthly for 4 months while she is in treatment. If you know any woman currently undergoing Chemo for ANY type of cancer, please pass the word to her that there is a cleaning service that provides FREE Housecleaning - 1 time per month for 4 months while she is in treatment.
All she has to do is sign up and have her doctor fax a note confirming the treatment. Cleaning for a Reason will have a participating maid service in her zip code area arrange for the service. This organization serves the entire USA and currently has 547 partners to help these women. Let's pass the word and let them know that there are people out there who care.
Thanks for sharing this with me, Diane! I'd be willing to bet everyone who reads this knows someone who is or has or will be going through treatment for cancer. Hope this helps somebody.
Monday, April 12, 2010
My friend Adele Dubois agreed to give us a "behind the scenes" peek into her new book, DO ME GOOD. So without further ado, I happily turn my blog over to Adele.
I grew up in a household filled with drama--and I mean that in the most literal sense. Ours was a family steeped in theatre, art, and creative writing. We were voracious readers, too, and curled up in the family room with our books in the evenings. I was one of those kids who read with a flashlight under the covers when bedtime came too early.
You might think a family of artists would be disorganized and untidy, but our house was neat as a pin. Every night my mother would remind us to put our things away, saying, “The elves and fairies won’t clean our house for us.” That bit of training stayed with me the rest of my life.
The last time I warned my own kids, “the elves and fairies won’t clean for us,” the story concept for DO ME GOOD popped into my head. What if the elves really did help? What if they completed chores in the middle of the night? And what if they were handsome and sexy and…available?
And what if you accidentally caught one?
To my surprise, with a little research, I discovered that such immortals existed in Norse mythology. These pre-Christian celestials, called Nordic Light Elves, “came from the place between heaven and earth” under the rule of a fertility god. They were “fairer to look upon than the sun” and interacted with both gods and mortals. Their sole purpose was to work for the benefit of humankind.
Though I’m still waiting for the elves and fairies to clean my house, I thought it would be fun to offer the fantasy of capturing a handsome immortal who does chores to romance readers. I hope you enjoy DO ME GOOD. Coming April 14, 2010, from Ellora’s Cave.
Emily popping in here for a second. Here's the backcover blurb for DO ME GOOD by Adele Dubois
Penny throws her hot, but worthless mooch of a boyfriend out on her front lawn with his clothes, and vows never again to be a bum magnet. Exhausted by overwork and mountainous debt, Penny pleads for divine intervention.
Gunnar, a rebellious Nordic warrior cast into servitude by an angry god to learn humility, answers. While Penny sleeps, the celestial arrives to complete her chores, but she awakens and finds him. The handsome immortal kisses her, sparking a passionate, forbidden sexual encounter.
Dark forces seeking vengeance for Gunnar’s past misdeeds mark Penny as a target. To protect his lover, Gunnar tests immortality in a death battle using a god’s magical sword. But the strength of Penny’s love might be what saves them both.
Emily again. Thanks for sharing with us today, Adele. You know I'm a sucker for a Northman!
If you'd like to learn more, please visit http://www.adeledubois.com/ or stop by Adele's Blog.
And Adele has a special giveaway for 6 readers who leave a comment or question today--a heart-shaped notebook just right for tucking in a purse! (Sorry. Only continental US addresses this time.)
Friday, April 9, 2010
Besides, when I read, my focus is different than most. While I'm enjoying the book, I'm also studying the writer's craft, making note of how the author handles POV, characterization, pacing and the elements of storytelling. This week, Liz Carlyle gave me plenty to appreciate in her NEVER ROMANCE A RAKE.
In the initial chapter, her hero Rothewell learns he is terminally ill. He's lived a dissolute life and it's caught up to him. With that, Ms. Carlyle has put herself in the difficult spot of making someone whose health is dicey into an "alpha." Amazingly, she does it and in ways in keeping with his morose, nihilistic nature. I was fascinated by his climb out of the psychological pit he'd flung himself into while he found a reason to live in the heroine.
Another thing I enjoy about Ms. Carlyle's work is her subtle prose. She is a master of subtext and lays plenty of writing hooks to keep the pages turning.
My one beef is that this book is the last in a trilogy and since I hadn't read the other two stories, I was occasionally lost when she wandered into sections about people and events that happened off-stage, things that weren't directly related to the hero or heroine's backstory. I really didn't need to know some of it in order to enjoy this story. Connected books are fun and who doesn't enjoy seeing characters they already know and love, but please don't give an info dump about people who don't even make an appearance in the current story.
So now it's your turn. What are you reading now? What do you think about it?
Thursday, April 8, 2010
And Donna is entitled to ignore all of us!
Writers retain ultimate control of their own work. Critique comments are only suggestions. But none of us come down the mountain with our words carved in stone. I revise constantly and only the deadline to turn in the manuscript makes me stop! There are a million different ways to tell a story. Our job as writers is to find the best one.
This excerpt is from Donna's thriller INNOCENCE LOST. My comments are in red and Donna's responses are italicized in purple.
The elevator doors opened facing the sign for Children’s Psychiatry. Seth Bellingham froze. Places like this never changed. Dreary, gray waiting areas were filled with old, broken toys and troubled people. He felt like he was fifteen again, and angry with his mother for forcing him to come. Talking to someone wouldn’t help. No one understood how he felt and no one ever would. They kept asking him, how it made him feel. Why? They didn’t care.
You've got an evocative image here. Let's see if we can sharpen it up by adding some fresh sensory details and removing excess material. An auditory cue pulls us into closer POV. What does an elevator door sound like? Can we say 'The elevator doors whirred open facing a CHILDREN'S PSYCHIATRY sign.' I love that your hero freezes. Great way to telegraph a history. The "Dreary gray" sentence is a little generic. Can you give us a smell that will jerk your hero back into his 15 year old self?
Good catch, will work on this over breakfast with a friend, who knows this floor.
Scent is the sense tied to memory. I remember my tough guy dad blinking away tears after he opened a cabinet in my great grandparent's abandoned cabin and the smell of cinnamon flooded the room. He was suddenly a little boy waiting for the cookies to come out of his grandma's oven again.
Be careful using the word 'felt.' It is by definition telling instead of showing. Say "He was fifteen again ..." and we'll follow you.
Thanks, Emily. This was added recently by the gentle nudging of a CP. My inner self really didn’t want it. Jumping up and down saying Yeah, my instincts were right.
It's hard to overestimate the value of a critique partner, but ultimately, the decisions about your work are YOURS! That said, if you get the same comment from multiple sources, think about it long and hard before you ignore it.
The tap on his arm brought Bellingham back to the present. He saw his new partner and childhood friend, a tall, wiry, red head named, Jake O’Brien, eyeing him with caution before he asked, “Are you okay? Did they get the results back on your father’s tests, yet?”
Since we're in Bellingham's POV, be careful to only include details he would notice. Jake may be tall, wiry and red headed, but a guy isn't likely to think this way about another guy. We don't need to know those things about Jake yet. I'm more intrigued by the fact that he eyes the hero with caution.
Once again a point of discussion in critique group as to how much info to give. I prefer to hold back, others want more. Please, help me decide. I’m okay going with his new partner, but he is a strong secondary, how long do I wait to describe him? My gut says to give your reader only what they need to continue. Witholding info is one of the ways authors hook readers into reading on. Salting the character description in over the course of the first scene is the best way to go. He could fold his tall wiry frame into a crouch to pick up a scrap of paper under the desk, for example. He might shove his red hair out of his eyes or under a ball cap. However you do it, remember you're in your hero's POV. What will he notice about his friend, whom he's known a long time? That's all you should include here.
And I'm really glad you've dropped in a good hook about his father. Obviously, there's plenty going on in our hero's life even before he steps into the special world of your story.
Glad you liked this, made me smile.
One of the keys to creating characters that breathe on their own is the sense that they have a history, even if we don't know all of it.
Bellingham shoved the elevator door that bumped him for the second time, and stepped out. “I don’t know what the results are. The old man threw me out after I dropped my mother off.” He changed the subject of his father with years of practice and asked, “What do we have?”
Another good hook. Not only does his father have a health issue, father and son are pretty estranged. You've laid the groundwork for a solid subplot that makes our hero more interesting and conflicted.
Jake gave him the rundown. “The hospital security was here first, followed by a couple of uniforms. They secured the scene and waited for us. I got here a few minutes ago.”
You've told us then shown us. You don't need to tell us Jake gave him the rundown. Maybe you could have him flip open a small notepad if you need an action tag to make sure we know who's talking.
I like your suggestion, because I hate the line and tried to change it many times. Oh, and I plead guilty to lack of tags. The characters are so loud in my head, I seem to think everyone can hear them.
It's ok to go tagless. I prefer using action or better yet, unique speech patterns to indicate who's talking. Just don't tell us he did something, then show him doing it.
Bellingham followed Jake down the hall, past all the doors that normally would’ve been closed, hiding the private sessions of pain and trauma. Today the doors were open, filled with faces of doctors and patients curious about someone else’s misery. The last time he’d seen a place like this, he was a scared, lanky fifteen-year-old with dark shaggy hair, and a gut full of pain and guilt. His years in the military and on the police force created his muscular six-two frame, and taught him how to make use of his dark features and impenetrable aura to put fear in other people.
Another good peek into Seth's past, but remember we're in his POV. He isn't thinking about his muscular 6'2" frame, dark features or impenetrable aura. Those thing are better described by an interested member of the opposite sex.
Yeah, he’s not vain enough to think this way. My main goal was to compare his weakness to his strength in size, body power and emotional strength. Maybe, it’s the wrong spot and person doing the description. I think if I change it to this it may work better:
The last time he’d seen a place like this, he was a scared fifteen year- old, with a gut full of pain and guilt. His years in the military and on the police force rid him of the fear, but the pain and guilt still lingered and grew stronger the longer he was forced to stay in Maine.
Hooray for heroes who aren't vain! Yes, I like this change! Plus it makes me wonder what's forcing him to stay in Maine. Raising another question in a readers mind is an invitation for them to keep reading.
When Jake and Bellingham reached the door, blocked by crime scene tape, they ducked under the strips of yellow and black plastic to enter the office. Bellingham had become desensitized to dead bodies and gruesome scenes, unless it involved a child. He could ignore the stench, blood and decay, but the woman in sitting in her office chair before him stopped him cold. He rubbed his hand down the back of his neck to warm it.
Let's try a tightening exercise. Here's your sentence:
When Jake and Bellingham reached the door, blocked by crime scene tape, they ducked under the strips of yellow and black plastic to enter the office.
How about . . .
Jake and Bellingham ducked under the crime scene tape to enter the office.
Still your words, just less of them. I think it reads cleaner. Sometimes less really is more.
Yes, I like it. Less is more and good things come in little packages – hey, I’m little.
This is the kind of thing I try to do with my entire manuscript. Going sentence by sentence, ask yourself if you can say the same thing with fewer, crisper words.
If her door had been open, most people would have passed by not realizing anything was wrong. The beginning odor of death coming from the body fluid seepage was becoming noticeable, but her hair, make-up and dress masked the dead eyes and graying pallor visible upon closer inspection. The sick bastard who had killed her then brought her back to her desk had set her up for her day at work complete with her morning coffee and a bottle of water.
According to HOUSE (one of my guilty pleasures), when someone dies, all their sphincters relax. If you're going for the odor of feces, say so. It's pungent and shocking and a perfect sensory detail for this type of story. This one I’m leaving and for a good reason. My daughter gave a great workshop at the NEC conference with Jessica Andersen. They debunked T.V. “facts”. Yes, the sphincter relaxes, but it isn’t the only body fluid you lose. She explained the whole gory thing to me and said if it holds fluids, it lets go and from every orifice. Yeah, probably T.M.I. Ok! If you've learned to stand your ground when you feel you're right, our time has been well spent. An author has to choose what details she includes. But I wonder if we can personalize this detail more? How about The odor of death, the seepage of bodily fluids, assaulted Bellingham's nostrils. ? This pulls us into closer POV and makes the details matter more because our hero is experiencing them.
The last sentence is a little awkward. Let's slash a few extra words (mostly 'had's) and maybe break it into two sentences. How about . . .
Some sick bastard killed her, then brought her back to her desk. He set her up for her day at work complete with her morning coffee and a bottle of water.
I am taking the changes to this last sentence, it reads way better. Subtle changes, but great.
You'd have caught it yourself if you'd read it aloud. I find lots of my awkward sentences that way!
You've set up a compelling crime scene and a complicated hero. Thanks for letting me take a peek at your work, Donna!
Emily, this was a wonderful experience and not the least bit painful. What you suggested has made the beginning stronger and also reassured me in certain areas. You are offering a valuable service. Keep it going. Thank you.
My pleasure, Donna. As long as I have willing victims--oops! I mean 'volunteers'--I'll continue Red Pencil Thursday. If you'd like to have an online critique, please contact me through my website.
Donna Labbe loves reading hot romance and psychological thrillers, but wants it all in one book, kind of like chocolate and peanut butter. She's been writing sensual psychological thrillers for six years and finds it is a very therapeutic outlet for stress. While waiting for the call, she continues to create twisted villains. She's a PRO member of RWA, the New England, Maine, and KOD chapters.
Visit her website: http://www.donnalabbe.com/
Ok, now it's time for all you Red Pencilers to get a crack at this post. Have I missed something? Did I get something wrong? Please leave your comments and suggestions!
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
First of all, congrats to Marie D. of St. Charles, MO. She won the quarterly contest on my website and a $100 gift card is on its way to her as I type.
The fourth chapter of A DUKE FOR ALL SEASONS, my free online novella, is live now. Here's the link: Chapter 4. You'll still get to vote for the direction of the story and I welcome "write ins" if you have a unique idea you'd like to share. I have the most creative readers on the planet!
The prize this time (yep! You're still entered in a contest when you cast your vote!) is my Diana Groe debut title MAIDENSONG. This book is out of print, so it's a little hard to get elsewhere. It's the story of a Viking warrior who's oath-bound to deliver the woman he loves to the arms of another. Enjoy!
If you've been reading A DUKE FOR ALL SEASONS since the beginning in January, what do you think? Is the story progressing as you wish? If you could change something, what would it be? What do you think about Sebastian and his insistence on a contract?
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
I've got the coffee pot on. The kitchen table is cleared. I'm waiting for my criqitue partner Ashlyn Chase to arrive. (While we're waiting you might want to click over to her newly designed website! She's the one in the elf ears. I think the pic must have been taken at last year's Fairy Ball at the Romantic Times Convention.) She writes light-hearted, sexy paranormals for Source Books.
Red Pencil Thursday has been fun here on the blog, but these days with Ashlyn are for me. We brainstorm. We hack away. We generally have fun, even when it means we have to completely redo a scene. Even though I write historicals, we're a good fit. We see different things in each other's work. And if Ash doesn't understand something in mine that I think all historical readers will automatically get, it's a red flag for me to make sure my prose is clear. If I have a "wait-a-minute" moment with her stuff, she knows she needs to give the non-paranormal reader a little more background.
I share this for those of you who are looking for a critique partner. You don't have to stick solely within your narrow sub-genre. Just look for someone who honestly wants to improve their writing--and yours!