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Two Weeks To Go Before RWA Nationals

Where did the time go?  Granted, RWA hits a month earlier this year, but still, wow.  Time to start packing.

I’m happy to report that Book 1 & 2 of the new trilogy have both been delivered to my new editor at Berkley.  On time.  The books are not bad, by the standards of my first drafts.  But still, I’m already thinking of improvements, connections, and deeper layerings to add to them, when they come back from my editor.  Now onto the updates.

1) Three-Chapter Critique from Yours Truly

On the 13th of June my Crit for Water critique goes up for auction here.  If you need three chapters looked at, by all means bid.  It’s an excellent cause and I am a terrific critiquer.  (You didn’t expect me to say anything else on the eve of the auction, did you? :-P )

And Mary Baader Kaley at Not an Editor was kind enough to interview me about my approach to critiquing.  But basically, I’m a good fit for you if you really need your work looked at by a pair of fresh eyes and you actually want to know what’s not working.  I will tell you what’s working for me too, but I assume that you, like me, are more interested in what can be improved than what cannot be.

2) Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Face

more »

Just for LOLZ

I couldn’t resist. I could not. Once I saw that the site existed and I could make a three-D video just by typing, well, I couldn’t resist.

I think I went where no romance writer has ever gone. But that’s very likely because I am the frog at the bottom of the well who doesn’t know what’s going on in the big, wide world. So if there are other romance trailers made this way, please let me know. (I still think I must be among the first five, if not the first.) :-)

So here it is, a talking trailer for NOT QUITE A HUSBAND.

P.S. And I just learned this myself. Click on the little triangle at the bottom right corner of the youtube video. And then click on the little tab that pops up. It will recede the video and reveal both its url and its embed code.

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Directed by Sherry Thomas

The book trailer for Private Arrangements is up at YouTube.

And it actually tells the beginning of the story, a condensed version of the first scene of confrontation, just beyond what is in the excerpt.

Gratitude and acknowledgments go out to Jane of Dear Author, whose ROTFL video reviews for The Courtesan’s Daughter by Claudia Dain inspired me to make one for myself; to Diana Holquist, for her timely article, “The Down and Dirty Guide to Making Your Own Book Promo Videos” in the February issue of the Romance Writer’s Report, which provided very helpful resources; and to the wizards behind Windows Movie Maker, the easiest, most intuitive software I have ever come across.

I had tons of fun making this. I think I’m in the wrong line of work. Writing books makes me tired and haggardly, this makes me feel so young and hip. :-)

Hope you enjoy.

Live From New York, Anatomy Lessons

A few weeks back I blogged about the purplest sentence I’d ever penned: He was a burning pyre of concupiscence in a sarcophagus of despair.

Okay, you can stop chuckling now.

For that bit of over-the-top writing I have something of a semi-valid excuse. My agent, in her revision letter, had requested an additional love scene, a scene which I’d let fade to black in my original manuscript because I found it too daunting to do, given all the love, hate, anger, and anguish on the hero’s part, because of a course of action he’d already decided upon for the morning after.

When my agent insisted, I got to thinking, and came up with a totally new way of tackling it. I was so excited, I rushed to my laptop to finish the whole scene in one emotionally charged session. Ergo, the semi-valid excuse. It was done really fast and it was essentially a first draft when I dashed off the revisions to her. Had I a little more time, and a few more readings, I might have come to my senses and hacked the sentence myself.

There existed in my manuscript, however, a far graver error, that slipped by both my agent and me, even though I must have gone through the scene twenty times during the writing of the book.

The error took place in the aftermath of a love scene. She stands facing a table. He is behind her. Here’s the snippet. See if you can spot what’s wrong.

His cheek nuzzled against her neck. His hands were on either side of hers. They stood, practically in an embrace, with him leaning into her, surrounding her.

“Oh, God, Gigi,” he murmured, the syllables barely audible. “Gigi.”

She froze, the spell of the moment shattered. He had uttered that exact phrase on their wedding night, over her, under her, beside her, in what she had believed to be exultant bliss.

She twisted and slammed her palms into his chest. Her abrupt ferocity did not budge him, but his eyes widened in surprise. A moment later he voluntarily disengaged from her, withdrawing and stepping away.


See it?

Here’s what my editor, Caitlin Alexander, wrote on the page: “How can she slam her palms into his chest unless she turns completely around?” Then Caitlin put brackets around the word “withdrawing” and drew an arrow from the word to the part that said “twisted”.

I think my jaw literally dropped to the floor at that point, followed by hysterical laughter, thinking of what Caitlin must have thought but refrained from putting down on paper: indeed, how can Gigi do that, turning around, and hitting him, before he has withdrawn from her, unless he has—okay, let’s go with purple prose here—a love lance with the length and flexibility of a vacuum cleaner hose.

I’d have never lived it down had that made it to print. And you know some clever reader would have caught it and the Smart Bitches would be rolling on the floor laughing and blogging it. I’d have to forever hang my head in shame, the romance author equivalent of Dan Quayle. Worse, Dan Quayle only added an “e” to “potato”, I gave twenty-four whole new inches to the male anatomy.

That was my anatomy lesson from New York. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Professor Alexander. I promise to study harder for the next midterm.

Next Tuesday, hmm, I’ve both my contract and my author photo coming in the mail this week. Let’s see which one is more blog-worthy.

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He Was A Burning Pyre of Concupiscence in a Sarcophagus of Despair, or, What a Good Agent Does for You

He was a burning pyre of concupiscence in a sarcophagus of despair.

Yeah, I actually wrote that. Sounds like something that would have fitted right in at the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, Best Beginnings for the Worst Novels Never Written. And here I thought I didn’t do purple prose.

Fortunately for me, Kristin Nelson, my lovely literary agent, caught it and crossed it out right away. I remember staring at the bright red line through my darling words. I was highly tempted to reject that particular editorial change and reinstate the sentence. It was pithy, it was strong, and it was startling imagery. It was mine, my own, my precious.

I’m glad, however, that I acquiesced on that one.

In a way, that little experience is symbolic of the trust I place in Kristin. By now her niceness is probably legendary, but most readers of her blog probably don’t realize that she is also a terrific editor. Not that I went along with everyone of her editorial suggestions–Kristin would be the first to tell you that I struck out my own way on some major story decisions. But when she took the trouble to delete one particular sentence, it was my trust in her, rather than anything else, that made me go along, cuz I didn’t realize how ridiculous the sentence was until much later.

Give at that point we’d been working together only a couple of weeks, how do I know she is that good? Easy, because she sent me a long list of editorial points right after our figurative handshake and everything she asked for made SCHEMES OF LOVE stronger and better. Some of what she wanted made hellish rewrites, because she had exposed underlying weaknesses in the story that I hadn’t even considered. But judging by how quickly the story sold, and what a relative cakewalk I had with revisions from Bantam, it was well worth the effort.

How quickly the story sold brings me to another point. The first editor who offered for SCHEMES OF LOVE did it within three days after the manuscript began making the rounds. Part of it was pure luck, that the manuscript hit her desk when it did. The other part of it, however, had to be Kristin. I don’t believe any editor is ever completely free from the to-be-read pile. That particular editor, even in a moment of relative lull, probably still had various manuscripts lined up. That she chose to read what Kristin sent in right away tells me that one, she trust’s Kristin’s taste and selectiveness, two, Kristin probably did one heck of a job selling it over the phone.

The funny thing is, the ms sold to Caitlin Alexander at Bantam in the end. I have never heard of Caitlin before, nor was Bantam even on my radar–and I’ve been writing a while, and know the names of many editors at different houses. So this is where Kristin’s familiarity with editors and their tastes and what they are looking for really paid off big time.

Big time. Therefore, I don’t understand why Kristin even has to explain that nice doesn’t mean wimpy in negotiations. Ask anyone of her clients. They will tell you she is a tough, shrewd gal. Not beneath that niceness, mind you, because there is nothing surface about her niceness, it comes from empathy and sensitivity. But just right alongside each other, the triumvirate that is Kristin Nelson: shrewd, tough, and nice. (I’d throw honest in there too, but I don’t know the 4-part equivalent to triumvirate.)

I’d go on, but I’ve homework piled up and 4000 words to write for the week. Plus, I’d better disengage my lips before they become permanently attached to Kristin’s posterior (haven’t seen it, but I’m sure it’s nice too). Hehe.

Next Tuesday, But I’m So Much Better than What’s-Her-Name!

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