Just Keep Swimming!

I had a rough day yesterday – I got exactly what I asked for, and I whined like a two-year-old when I actually got it.

I’ve finished a book. Well, finished in the sense that I made it all the way from “Chapter One” to “The End”. The writers amongst you will understand that now the real work begins.

I sent my little ms out to my crit partner, aka The Book Midwife. She is one of the most insightful readers I have ever met, and she pointed out exactly what was wrong with my story. Indeed, a lot of her comments were things I knew, but was refusing to acknowledge, hoping that readers wouldn’t notice. (Yeah, right.)

So when my darling DeAnn gave me her thoughts, I thanked her and buckled right down to work, right? Oh, kids, y’all know me better than that!

I pouted. I cried. I stomped around the house swearing that I was done writing. (As if the people in my head would allow that.). I misbehaved badly.

And then a friend – one who knew nothing of my tantrum – posted the quote below. I think it was a sign from God, the universe, the Force, or whatever you conceive the higher power to be.

I’ve apologized to DeAnn, and I’m doing so again now. I’m sorry that you gave me exactly what I asked for and needed and I was too childish and self absorbed to take it graciously. I wish I could promise it will never happen again, but my capacity for childish behavior exceeds all bounds. I can say that I deeply appreciate all the work she did, I value and agree with her comments, and I will TRY to be better in the future.

And as far as my writing, as Dory told Nemo: just keep swimming!

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Thursday Thought: First Drafts

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Thursday Thought: Anais Nin

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You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing.

Cover Story: The Girl on the Golden Coin

GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN: A NOVEL OF FRANCES STUART

Once again, I’m here to introduce you to one of my incredible crit group ladies. Today it’s Marci McGuire Jefferson, who has written an absolutely lovely book about one Frances Stuart, who served as the model for “Britannia” on years and years worth of British coins.

I’m not going to waste your time babbling; I’m just going to turn today’s blog over to Marci and let her tell you all about her book!

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Marci Jefferson’s first novel is about Frances Stuart, who rejected three kings and graced England’s coins for generations as the model for Britannia. The book will release February 11, 2014 from Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin’s Press. But pre-order this week and comment on Marci’s blog (link below) for a chance to win a pair of sterling-silver pearl-drop earrings like the ones Frances wears on this elegant cover (be prepared to present your receipt).

http://marcijefferson.com/category/blog/

MORE ABOUT THE BOOK

Impoverished and exiled to the French countryside after the overthrow of the English Crown, Frances Stuart survives merely by her blood-relation to the Stuart Royals. But in 1660, the Restoration of Stuart Monarchy in England returns her family to favor. Frances discards threadbare gowns and springs to gilded Fontainebleau Palace, where she soon catches King Louis XIV’s eye. But Frances is no ordinary court beauty, she has Stuart secrets to keep and people to protect. The king turns vengeful when she rejects his offer to become his Official Mistress. He banishes her to England with orders to seduce King Charles II and stop a war.

Armed in pearls and silk, Frances maneuvers through the political turbulence of Whitehall Palace, but still can’t afford to stir a scandal. Her tactic to inspire King Charles to greatness captivates him. He believes her love can make him an honest man and even chooses Frances to pose as Britannia for England’s coins. Frances survives the Great Fire, the Great Plague, and the debauchery of the Restoration Court, yet loses her heart to the very king she must control. Until she is forced to choose between love or war.

On the eve of England’s Glorious Revolution, James II forces Frances to decide whether to remain loyal to her Stuart heritage or, like England, make her stand for Liberty. Her portrait as Britannia is minted on every copper coin. There she remains for generations, an enduring symbol of Britain’s independent spirit and her own struggle for freedom.

ADVANCE PRAISE

“In her wonderfully evocative debut, Girl on the Golden Coin, Marci Jefferson recreates the fascinating story of Frances Stuart, whose influence over England’s Charles II became the talk of a nation. As vibrant and delightful as the woman it’s based on, Girl on the Golden Coin is a jewel of a novel!”
—Michelle Moran, New York Times bestselling author of The Second Empress and Madame Tussaud

“Beauty is not always a blessing, as young Frances Stuart finds out when her lovely face pits her between the desires and politics of rival kings Louis XIV and Charles II. Frances makes an appealing heroine, by turns wary and passionate, sophisticated and innocent, as she matures from destitute young pawn to the majestic duchess whose figure would grace Britain’s coins for centuries. Her struggles to support her loved ones, uncover her family secrets, and somehow find a life of her own amid the snake-pit courts of the Sun King and the Merry Monarch make for lively, entertaining reading in this lush Restoration novel by debut author Marci Jefferson.”
—Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of Mistress of Rome

“Girl on the Golden Coin is a fantastic novel. I couldn’t put it down. The plot is fast-paced and compelling, with intriguing characters, lush settings and captivating narrative voice. Jefferson’s debut paints an intriguing portrait of Frances Stuart, a novel worthy of the determined, golden spirit of the woman whose face became the model for Britannia herself.”
—Susan Spann, author of Claws of the Cat

“Girl on the Golden Coin is a sexy, exciting tale featuring vivid characters, rich historical detail, scintillating court intrigue, and a complexly rendered heroine in Frances Stuart, Maid of Honor to the Queen of England, who will capture the reader’s heart — as will the man she loves, that rascal King Charles II.”
– Sherry Jones, author, FOUR SISTERS, ALL QUEENS

FIND IT HERE:

Barnes & Noble

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/girl-on-the-golden-coin-marci-jefferson/1115382442?ean=9781250037220

IndieBound

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781250037220

Amazon

Goodreads

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17261011-girl-on-the-golden-coin-a-novel-of-frances-stuart

Dorothy Parker, Hating to Write, and Arabella’s 100 Challenge

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When you are a bright yet less than drop-dead-gorgeous girl growing up in the South, you have to develop the talents you do have. I was good with words, and my father’s family was blessed with a multitude of natural-born comedians and storytellers, so I worked with what the Good Lord gave me and became a specialist in snarky humor.

But one must give credit where credit is due. Back in the dim dark ages when I was in high school and dinosaurs roamed the earth, I ran across a poem by the Undisputed Queen of Snark, Ms. Dorothy Parker herself. You know the one, because all tragically misunderstood and literary-minded teenage girls know it: Resume. And I quote:

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.*

Whenever my heart got broken (a fairly frequent event), I would slope around the house, sighing like Ophelia on Valium, lamenting the fact that even suicide was too much trouble. Then I’d eat some potato chips and feel better.

Then, not long after discovering Resume, I ran across a copy of The Portable Dorothy Parker at DuBey’s Bookstore — that’s it pictured above. I can still remember the day I bought it; it was a life-changer. Not only snarky poems and epigrams for fashionably-depressed teenagers, but really beautiful, lyrical writing about women’s lives. I read that paperback Portable til the cover was all ragged and fuzzy around the edges. I still have my original copy, and every year or so I take it down and reread it from cover to cover. If you have never read Dorothy, do not delay — go get a copy now, and read it immediately. You will thank me for this. (To make it easy, here’s a link to buy it. Alas, I can’t find it in e-format, but it’s a keeper, so buy the hardcopy. Go to http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/portable-dorothy-parker-dorothy-parker/1103267365?ean=9780143039532)

And after getting my babies through their childhood and establishing myself in a dayjob career, I finally got to do what I had always wanted — I became a real writer, just like Dorothy. Her stories and essays about the writing life took on a new meaning for me, and I fell in love with her all over again.

But there is one major point about writing that dearest Dorothy and I agree on. To quote her again, “I hate writing. I love having written.” I love making up my stories. I love playing with words, making them jump through hoops and do their little tricks. I love thinking up fresh hells to visit upon my characters on their way to a happy ever after. But sometimes, when it is actually time to sit my butt down in the chair and put my hands on the keyboard, I feel that old teenage depression again. Dear God in Heaven, I dread it sometimes!

But you know, once I start, I realize that I, like Dorothy, absolutely adore seeing my shiny little stories taking shape on the page/screen. And then I can keep going until my DH comes out to the den and tells me “It’s 3 am, don’t you know you have work in the morning?” It’s the starting, not the writing, that I really hate.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, brings us to the point of today’s post — Arabella’s 100 Challenge. I will give credit for the idea to the fabulous Vicky Dreiling, who is one of the finest Regency Romance writers working today. What Vicky came up with is the best cure I’ve found for a procrastinating writer like myself. Here’s the deal:

You must write 100 words a day. Every day. No less than 100. Even if the well has completely run dry and your muse has stopped speaking to you. I will admit to having one very bad day where my heroine actually listened to the radio, and I got my 100 words by quoting song lyrics. (That scene was, fortunately, cut from the final manuscript!) If you write to 100 and want to quit, you quit. In the middle of a paragraph, in the middle of a sentence. You did your 100, and you were a success. That’s all that’s required.

But if you are anything like me, you’ll find that the only problem was the starting. For every time that I’ve quoted 100 words of Elton John songs and stopped mid-sentence, there are dozens where I’ve looked up a couple of thousand words later and realized how much fun my characters and I are having. I credit Vicky’s 100 Word a Day process for my last two manuscripts.

So, dear readers, who else needs a kick in the pants to get started? I’m throwing down the gauntlet — Starting August 1, we go 100 days of 100 words. You can report your progress on my handy-dandy Yahoo group I set up for the purpose. Remember, you don’t report how many words — this is not a oneupmanship adventure. It is a binary question — Yes, I did my 100 (or more) or No, I didn’t.

At the end of 100 days, the member with the most 100-word days gets a $25.00 Barnes and Noble gift card. If there is a tie (because I’m sure everyone will have made it all 100 days), we will keep going until there is one member left standing.

You’re on your honor here, kids. I mean, it is so easy to type a recipe or a poem if that is all you can come up with, and there is no reason to cheat. If you don’t do it, climb back in the saddle and get going again. Because, at the end of the day, the real prize is that bright, shiny new manuscript you will be making. And like dearest Dorothy, you know you love having written.

If you’re in, go to http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/Arabella100/ to sign up. All standard exclusions apply, void where prohibited, wash, rinse, repeat, do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

Let’s get writing!!!


*Dorothy Parker, “Resumé” from The Portable Dorothy Parker, edited by Brendan Gill. (1926)

THURSDAY THOUGHT: We Have a Prince!

Thou art fair, and at thy birth, dear boy, Nature and Fortune join’d to make thee great.
- William Shakespeare, KING JOHN, Act III, Scene I

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Cover Story: BECOMING JOSEPHINE

I’ve got a real treat for you all today! Y’all know that I am a member of the absolute best crit group on the planet, the Amazing SFWG. Last week you may have seen my interview with my SFWG sister Susan Spann, whose debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT, has gotten major (and well-deserved) buzz on several book review and discussion websites. If you haven’t read CLAWS yet, you should — it is a fabulous mystery, set in Medieval Japan.

And now, I’m about to introduce you all to another member of my crit group, the Fearless Leader of the SFWG, whose debut novel hasn’t even been released yet, but has already gotten a shout-out in no less a publication than the Wall Street Journal! Heather Webb has written a fascinating novel about the woman behind one of history’s most powerful men, BECOMING JOSEPHINE, which will be released by Plume/Penguin on December 31, 2013.

I’ve read sections of BECOMING JOSEPHINE, and I can assure you that, if you love romance and history, you will want to buy this book! Until New Year’s Eve, you will just have to content yourself with a glimpse of the cover, which is gorgeous. Too often, covers don’t do justice to the book, but I have to say that I love this cover almost as much as I love Heather’s story.

Here it is — what do you think?

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Friday Foto: Dang, I Clean Up Good!

Well, greetings from Atlanta and the 2013 Romance Writers of America National Conference! I am so happy to be here! Not only is this the one week all year that I am with thousands of other women who think it is perfectly normal to have talk to the people in their heads, but Atlanta holds a special place in my heart. The first book in my Oswald’s Corner Romance Club series is set in Georgia, both in my fictional town of Oswald’s Corner (Pop. 9,242) and in the real “Big Peach.”

And since I am determined that this is the year the Ladies of Oswald’s Corner find their way into hard print, I went all out and signed up to have my author’s head shot made at RWA this year. And, my darlings, Crissy and Damon of Studio Sixteen did a lovely job! I’m not sure it looks like me, exactly — but it looks like I want to look, so that is even better.

Let me know what you think — Given the raw material they had to start with, I think it’s a masterpiece!

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Medieval Ninja Detectives! CLAWS OF THE CAT by Susan Spann

Been a rough week Chez RomanceMama, my dear ones. Not gonna go into details, but I have learned once again that you never really know someone, and heartache can — and usually does — get let in the door by someone you trust.

But enough of that. There are a couple of extremely bright points in my life today. I’m heading to The Big Peach, Atlanta Georgia, tomorrow for the RWA National Conference, which is a high point of my writing year. But even more importantly, today is the Debut Release Day for a good friend and a great writer, someone you are going to hear a lot about in the coming weeks, months and years.

So to celebrate that release, I’ve got an extra extremely special post for y’all! If you read my facebook and twitter feeds, you are familiar with my crit group, the incredible ladies of the SFWG. (Don’t ever ask what it stands for. If we tell you, we have to kill you.) It has been a rare and wonderful thing, being in a group like this. Everyone is encouraging and supportive, while respecting you as an author and the craft of writing enough to tell you what you need to improve. All done with lots of humor, prayers, and virtual sangria along the way!

The first one of the SFWG that I actually met in real life embodies all those virtues, and she’s even more fabulous in person. Susan Spann is, like me, a lawyer in the day job, and she has a college-age kid, so we had a lot in common from the beginning. But I am simply in awe of Susan as a writer, and starting today, the rest of the world will find out why!

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Susan’ debut novel, THE CLAWS OF THE CAT, is now in a bookstore near you! I’ve read it, and it is wonderful — a beautifully-written, intelligent story about (get this!) a medieval ninja detective. Yes, you read that correctly — Medieval. Ninja. Detective. What is there not to like about this concept?

And trust me, she carries it off — you will absolutely love Hiro, the hero. (And I love saying that, btw. Hiro the hero. Hiro the hero.) So, today, my darling readers, I am bringing you the straight scoop about medieval ninja detective stories from the author herself, Ms. Susan Spann!

Q. Tell us about yourself – you know, the who, what, where and why.

A. Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Arabella! As you mentioned, I’m a publishing lawyer by day, ninja author by night. I live outside Sacramento, California, with my husband, college-age son, three cats (one of which is so fat we can count her as two), a cockatiel named “Miracle” (because my son, then eight, said only a miracle would have made us let him have her), and a 60-gallon saltwater seahorse reef.

Q. And of course, we want to hear about your book.

A. CLAWS OF THE CAT is the first book in the Shinobi Mystery Series featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. It also has angry samurai, beautiful geishas, a Portuguese weapons dealer and a kitten thrown in for good measure. And the kitten isn’t even the reason I titled it Claws of the Cat!

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Here’s the slightly longer version:

“May 1564: When a samurai is brutally murdered in a Kyoto teahouse, master ninja Hiro has no desire to get involved. But the beautiful entertainer accused of the crime enlists the help of Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit Hiro is sworn to protect, leaving the master shinobi with just three days to find the killer in order to save the girl and the priest from execution.

The investigation plunges Hiro and Father Mateo into the dangerous waters of Kyoto’s floating world, where they learn that everyone from the elusive teahouse owner to the dead man’s dishonored brother has a motive to keep the samurai’s death a mystery. A rare murder weapon favored by ninja assassins, a female samurai warrior, and a hidden affair leave Hiro with too many suspects and far too little time. Worse, the ninja’s investigation uncovers a host of secrets that threaten not only Father Mateo and the teahouse, but the very future of Japan.”

Q. Everyone always wants to know where authors get their ideas, and I have to say that just saying “Medieval ninja detective” makes me want to read it! What was the initial inspiration for your story?

A. I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, getting ready for work, when a voice in my head said, “Most ninjas commit murders, but Hiro Hattori solves them.” I knew instantly this was a book I HAD to write. Also – like you, I love that the hero’s name is Hiro—I still smile every time I think about it.

Q. What drew you to that genre?

A. I’ve always loved mysteries and thrillers. I read my first Nancy Drew mystery in the second grade, and I was hooked. By fourth grade I’d moved on to the “hard stuff” – meaning Agatha Christie and P.D. James – and I’ve been reading in the genre ever since.

When first I started writing, I didn’t think I had the chops to write in the mystery genre, but eight years and four historical manuscripts later the ninjas attacked—and I realized that mystery fit my talents as well as my heart.

Q. What else do you have in the works?

A. Right now, more Hiro! I’m under contract for two more Shinobi Mysteries. Book 2, BLADE OF THE SAMURAI, is already with the publisher, and I’m editing Book 3, under the working title FLASK OF THE DRUNKEN MASTER. The series could extend for many more novels, but that’s for the readers and the publisher to decide. If so, I’ll gladly spend more time with Hiro and Father Mateo. If not, I’ll find new ways to kill off my imaginary friends.

Q. Plotter, pantser, or a combination? How do you do the work of writing your story?

A. Plantser!

I outline the stories before I write, with a two-column outline that tracks the characters onstage as well as offstage. I need to follow the offstage action because my supporting characters lie—they seldom are where they claim to be at any given moment.

Once I start writing, however, the outline becomes a guideline and the characters usually depart from it fairly quickly. In the end, the books are a hybrid of my plans and those of the characters. I admit we do not always see eye to eye!

Q. What is your best writing advice for all the hopeful authors out there?

A. Don’t give up.

At my very first writers’ conference (in Maui, back in 2003) I heard agent Kimberly Cameron say that “writing is a game of last man standing, and only you get to decide when you sit down.” Those words stayed with me for almost a decade, as I wrote and struggled and faced rejection over and over again. It took me nine years and five full manuscripts (500,000 words) to reach publication. Every day, every word, and every rejection was worth it in the end.

If you want to be published, you can be. All you need is the fortitude and the will to keep on writing and keep improving until you reach the “yes.” For some, the road is shorter and seems much easier than for others, but success is attainable for anyone with the will and the courage to persevere.

Oh, and here’s a shot of Susan’s incredible Coral Reef Aquarium — writing, law practice, family, and raising exotic sea creatures! She’s an absolute Renaissance Woman!

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Friday Foto: Andrea Kicks Off the Season

And it will be fine with me if she’s the only one we get.

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