I’ve gone Primal! Documenting my new Paleo/Primal Lifestyle

ImageI’m keeping this blog purely as my writer’s blog, but I thought I’d do a post to share what’s going on with me writing-wise and health-wise and give you a link to where I’ll be microblogging about my Primal lifestyle in case you’re interested.

I thought October I’d be using to brainstorm and plot a new novel for NaNoWriMo, but my agent nixed that. She doesn’t want me scattering my focus. Since I sent STEAM ME UP, RAWLEY out to my trusty Beta readers in the beginning of the month, it means I have nothing writing-wise to work on until that feedback comes in (next week for the last of it) and I can start revising it again. Luckily, this corresponded with my commitment to change my unhealthy eating habits. Since I’d reached a certain age, I’d started carrying an extra twenty pounds, but in this last year I added another ten, and my eating habits were getting horrible (sometimes having mini chocolate donuts, diet soda and popcorn for lunch).

After seeing pictures of myself at Dragoncon I finally had enough (it also didn’t help that none of my summer clothes fit me anymore), so I did a Master Cleanse diet. I’ve done them three times before in the past, and they always helped me kick my unhealthy eating and also drop 8-12 pounds. Also I normally only did it for 10 days. This time I did it for 18 days. I lost 12 pounds and about 5 inches off my waist! But normally you gain about half of it back, but I immediately switched to eating Primal/Paleo and I haven’t gained any of it back. I’ve now ended my third week eating Primal/Paleo.

Not having writing obligations has meant that I’ve been able to put my obsessive personality on learning the intricacies of eating and living this way, and use the time to learn and develop habits and shortcuts so that hopefully when I pick up writing again, it’ll integrate smoothly back into my life.

What is Primal?

primalIt’s a version of the Paleo Diet/Lifestyle, coined by Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple. Paleo is eating clean foods that don’t have any chemicals, preservatives or even additives like corn or soy. It also cuts out all grains. Primal is a little laxer, in that if you’ve done a 30-day strict elimination Paleo diet and then slowly add back some things like cheese or milk and it doesn’t bother you, then you can eat it (in moderation, i.e. it belongs in the tippy top of the eating pyramid). But it still needs to be clean, so my cheese is made from raw milk, as I have no problem with it. However, when I tried to add beer back into my diet (I love beer!) boy did it mess with my innards! So I’m going to have to learn to like red wine. Or try some gluten-free beer…

Anyway, if you’re interested in any of this, I started a tumblr blog, Primal FTW, so you can follow me there as I won’t be posting about it anymore on this blog.

What’s up with y’all? Have you started any new good habits?

Ack! I have a plot hole! Techniques to Solve in an Early Stage

download (5)So, last time I truly posted, I was taking a blogging hiatus to work on the sequel to MUST LOVE BREECHES. I’ve since then finished the first draft and have been working on high-level revisions since. I love plot and am a nerd about finding different ways to tackle looking at it. I definitely needed to find a different way to handle this one, because it had problems, and I knew it.

The biggest problem? I knew the ending before I ever started writing it, so my plot points just before the big Crisis were pushed to make this crisis happen. Result? It lacked believability and motivation. So much so, readers would’ve likely thrown the book at the wall.

Also, some of my major plot points were tied with the specific time period and I wanted to make sure the history was sound.

The first thing I did was make a spreadsheet with my scenes and it helped me a little–I saw gaps and plugged in new rows for scenes that needed to be there. When I thought I had it figured out, I transferred it to a Word Document that I created, where I just gave summaries of what happens in each chapter, a Chapter Outline. This I sent to one Welsh historian and a couple of Beta readers. Because of the possible plot problems, I didn’t want to wait until I had a readable full-length draft. I got great feedback and took that and revised the Outline again and sent it to a couple of other historians who helped me shore up the historical plot points.

But the Crisis? Yep, everyone came back and said it didn’t work–wasn’t believable. But it was the one thing in my whole plot I couldn’t throw out–it was the image I had in my head when I first started noodling this WIP around for possibilities and I also knew it was a strong image. So, it had to stay.

Back to the drawing board. I really worried each time I sat down to try to solve this that I wouldn’t figure it out. I felt like I was so close but couldn’t quite get there.

I could also tell that the Outline, while it helped as an instrument to gain feedback from others in an early stage, wasn’t helpful to me to try to make sense of it; I couldn’t play with it. Then I remembered my plotting board and fondness for stickies that I’ve used on other WIPS, so pulled it out and went to town.

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It helped me a little, some of the smaller plot issues I was able to see and fix by adding new stickies and moving others around. But the Black Moment leading up to the Crisis was still a problem. So I went to my trusty Beta partner Jami Gold and sent her my bulleted list of events leading up to the Crisis and she came back with a wonderful idea for the motivation, but also helped me look at the Black Moment I had and came up with some other suggestions for how to have it play out. This got my mental juices unblocked and at the plotting board I began making stickies, rearranging scenes, and then also saw how I could tie her idea in with the Antagonist and pull it all together. I also then saw that having a change of location helped raise the tension and stakes. I was then able to see how the heroine’s personality could be tweaked to make it even more impactful. Excited, I typed up version 3 of my Chapter Outline and sent it to Jami and some new victims for feedback.

But I can feel it–I can feel the story works now. My gut wasn’t wrong when I finished that first draft, and I’m so glad I listened to it and found a way to get valuable input in such an early stage. I really dreaded revising this WIP with my gut feeling that way, worried that I’d go to all this trouble revising and polishing and then have my gut proved right when Beta feedback came back and pointed out the plot problems. Now I feel much more confident going into actual revisions; the framework for the story is much more solid. Now I can work on all the other fun stuff I like to do during revisions and get this revised and polished. Now, hopefully, my Beta readers will be able to help see smaller issues instead of pointing out big macro issues that should’ve been firmed up before I ever got to that stage.

I also liked working with an outline and fiddling with it, not touching my prose at all. It was much easier to see, without running the risk of overreading the WIP too early.

So, to distill this for others that might be in the same boat (I’m a “plantser” –someone who does some pre-plotting but pantses the rest of the first draft):

  • Take your first draft and make a chapter outline. Mine came out to ten pages.
  • Just like in the Beta stage, get a variety of folks to look at it. I had historians who knew nothing about the writing craft, as well as others who did. Evaluate their comments just like you would on a full manuscript. See a pattern? You have a problem.
  • Fiddle and revise. Go back to any tools you’ve used in the past to help you look at your manuscript differently (for me it was the plotting board)
  • Get someone who is deeply familiar with plotting and structure, and that you trust to be honest with you, to take a look at it

How have you handled plot problems in the past? Have you also pulled in outside eyes at this early stage? Has it helped you? What techniques have you used to look at your plot in a high-level way?

DISCLAIMER: I don’t watch Dr. Who, so I have no idea if the image I used is a fair assessment of that episode, but I thought it seemed appropriate to the post to illustrate a problem common to many writers when working out their plot. Plus, appropriately enough, it deals with time travel ;)

That Publicity Stuff…A New Review and an Interview

The obligatory linkage to the latest with BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS:

First up a review was posted today on Delighted Reader, with an A Rating. Here’s a snippet:

This was a fun quick read involving a quirky romance that was set up by a djinn.  Short stories and novellas can make me leery of wanting to give them a try because not everyone who writes one understands just how to achieve a good balance of plot, pacing and character development to fit into the page count they have.  Fortunately, this author did a great job so I ended up with an enjoyable reading experience that had me reading with a smile on my face and an ‘ah’ of satisfaction coming from my lips by the end….So, I can heartily recommend this one to those who enjoy a quirky magical contemporary Happy For Now with promise of the future romance with not a lot of time to read. – Sophia Rose, Delighted Reader

And then I visited Tara Kingston’s blog with an interview about a guilty pleasure and a little about what I’m working on right now…

Sick of me yet? Three more interviews…

Okay, so I got a little over eager and scheduled a ton of stops on various blogs to promote my newly-released erotic geek romantic comedy BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS. I hope I haven’t made everyone sick of me! I promise that next week, I’ve ratcheted it down to only three guest spots instead of five :) So here’s where I’ve been this week since my last BEER update:

BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS Now Avail for Pre-Order + 1st Review

BEER cover small

Came home tonight to some super awesome news that hit back to back! First I got my first review. Turns out I hit the jackpot, she’s not only a geek, but a Browncoat! Angie J at Twinsie Talk Book Reviews said:

Ok so this book is sooo fun. It is a quick 46 page ecopy book but it is filled with sarcasm, wit, sexiness and a lot of humor…The sexual tension in the story is great. I was laughing in the beginning and then saying “Hawt” towards the middle. When they finally *cough cough* well you know, it was gooood reading

Here’s the full review

Now available for pre-order

And then my publisher said they had it up on their site now available for pre-order! Yippee! Wasn’t expecting that til about Saturday! So, if you’d like to pre-order, go to Secret Cravings Publishing. If you’re on a Kindle, choose mobi as your file type… It’ll take about a week or so for it to populate to Amazon…

Pimping for guest posts

If you have a book blog, or you highlight authors on your blog, I’m available for guest posts, interviews or an author spotlight. Here’s my current schedule

Other news

Yesterday, MUST LOVE BREECHES was the overall winner (across all categories) in the Windy City’s Four Seasons contest!

Writing Update – NaNoWriMo and More

NaNoWriMo

Wow, Day 28 already?! If you’re also doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) like me you’ve only got today through Friday to reach 50,000 words. I’m on track so far with just over 45K written as of last night for my new novel (my fourth full-length novel) NOT ANOTHER DARCY, which is a meta fiction romance where literary characters come to life. I’m having a lot of fun with it, but I’m going to keep this post short, because, you know, need to get in the wordage this morning before I head to work.

I’ll post next week about the experience and some things I learned, plus a new spreadsheet I created for plotting, but right now I wanted to touch base with everyone and see how you’re doing with NaNoWriMo? Are you on track? Have you already hit the magic number? If you’re struggling, don’t look at the final number you need to get, try to instead focus on how many words you can write in an hour and try to clear blocks of time with no distractions and hit that goal. And keep going for another block of time. I can’t recommend the Twitter hashtag #1k1hr enough–it’s saved my bacon a number of times! By focusing on smaller goals, you reduce the amount of stress/freakout you’re experiencing with the number of words needed to finish. Good luck!

Writing Updates

Some of you have been asking about MUST LOVE BREECHES and what’s happening with it now that I have an agent. Unfortunately, our plans to submit Nov 1 were derailed due to Hurricane Sandy, so we’re going to submit in early 2013.

My first release, BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS, is still on track to be released on December 19th with Secret Cravings! Right now you can add it to your Goodreads shelf until it becomes available for pre-order on the Publisher’s site. Sadly, it probably won’t make it to Amazon’s database until after Christmas. Does anyone have any tips for me on pimping it? Still learning the ropes. Thought I’d make a postcard of the cover with a QR Code on back for buying…

How about you?

This is an open thread to pimp your upcoming release, or to share how you’re doing on NaNoWriMo!

ALSO, TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO BACK UP YOUR PROJECT! I’ve heard horror stories, just saying…

Throwing Confetti! Cover Reveal for Beer and Groping in Las Vegas!

I can’t quite believe it! This is my first ever cover! And it’s HERE! And I absolutely adore it! The awesome Dawné Dominique is the cover artist.

The other good news is that the publication date got moved up from January to December! So here’s the skinny:

BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS
A contemporary geek romance
Publisher: Secret Cravings Publishing
Release Date: December 19, 2012!!
Length: Novelette

Blurb:
Can a djinn and a magic slot machine bring two geeks together?

Riley McGregor is a geek trapped in a Good Ole Boy body and as owner of a microbrewery, smart chicks never look at him twice.

Rejected by a geek who wanted to “trade up,” Mirjam Linna would rather immerse herself in work than be the girlfriend-of-the-moment. Stranded in a Vegas hotel, she accidentally makes a wish—a night of hot sex with the man of her dreams. It’s granted. She agrees to dinner, but afterward, she’ll say thanks, but no thanks, and see what’s on the SyFy channel. But when they meet, they’re surprised to find they had a shared connection in their past. Sparks fly as these two learn to be in the moment, be themselves and find love.

Fans of Star Trek, Star Wars, Monty Python, Firefly and Marvin the Martian will enjoy this romantic comedy.

What do y’all think?

I got an agent!! No joke.

I can finally announce the news officially that I’ve been hinting about in posts.

I GOT AN AGENT!

The news became official while I was out of town for Georgia’s Moonlight & Magnolia Conference so I could only announce my good news on my social networks. For some reason it won’t feel really official until I can post it on my blog (apologies to those who’ve already heard the news).

My agent! Maura Kye-Casella with Don Congdon Assoc.

I actually ended up with three offers of representation, but ended up going with the fabulous Maura Kye-Casella with Don Congdon, Associates. For those fellow sci-fi nerds out there, their founder discovered Ray Bradbury, how cool is that? In romance land, she represents Sophie Jordan and Colleen Gleason! It still feels a little surreal and that I’m talking about this happening to someone else.

I thought I’d share a little about how it all happened for those of you still seeking representation, so you can see that it can happen to you. Like I said last week, I have patience and hard work to thank for this moment. All three agents commented about how “clean and polished” my manuscript was, and that they could send it out on submission right now. Squeee! So if you read last week’s post, that’s what I was hinting at, that all that polishing paid off!

Two of the agents who offered were the two I pitched to at RWA, so there’s several lessons to be had there. One, to tie into last week’s post (again), thank God I didn’t give in to my impatience and send them those partials right when I got back from RWA. This is NOT, however, an endorsement of pitching an incomplete manuscript! That is soooo different from the phase mine was in. Anyway, onward with my list. Two, pitches do work! Both said during our phone calls that they remembered the pitch and were intrigued from the start. Three, do your homework on whom to pitch to. It wasn’t random, I don’t think, that this all fell out for me this way. When I got that list from RWA, I researched every single agent on that two page list and narrowed down my choices to the ones I thought were my best chance. Actually, this segues into: Four, get ballsy. I thought Maura was out of my league when I pitched to her and couldn’t believe I had the nerve to do so.

Anyway, this all started happening one week after I began querying. One of the agents I pitched to made me giddy by asking to have my partial converted to a full. I felt like if nothing else happened, I’d at least made that milestone–that an agent had seen the goods and STILL wanted to keep reading. The next night, I got my first offer (from a different agent), which left me stunned! I alerted the other agents who were considering me, to let them know and gave them a time frame to respond. Monday, the second agent (the one I pitched to and who had converted the partial to a full) offered and now I was reeling. Thursday, Maura emailed to say she’d finished, said some very nice things about MUST LOVE BREECHES, and wanted to set up a call for Monday (this past Monday). Now I’m on pins and needles, not knowing if she’d offer. Obviously, she did, and I couldn’t be more thrilled! This doesn’t automatically mean it’ll find a home with a publisher, but I’m one step closer and feel like I have the best advocate for me! For those non-writer friends reading this, most traditional publishers will not look at unagented manuscripts so this is my only way to get into their hands and on your bookshelves.

So this is not only me sharing my awesome news, but also my way of encouraging you. Yes, it CAN happen. I thought this day would never come. I’d read and heard all the doom and gloom about how hard it is to land an agent. But don’t give up. Every time I got a rejection, I picked myself back up again and kept going, knowing that others would not, so I envisioned it as an opportunity to move into thinner ranks. Many fine writers give up after only 5 rejections. Don’t be one of those. I wouldn’t be in this position if I’d done that. Instead of giving up in the Spring when I faced rejection, I realized my manuscript wasn’t quite ready and did another Beta round and then did all the hard work of polishing that puppy up!

Are you querying? Do you have any specific questions about my path? Do you have good news to share too?

Make Sure Your Curtains Match the Drapes–Why Your Query’s Tone Matters

As some of you know, I’ve started the query phase again for MUST LOVE BREECHES. I don’t want to get too detailed about this for obvious reasons, but I did want to provide an update and a cautionary tale.

Some of you know I queried in the spring. I did a short burst to a few agents to test the waters and then stepped back and did another round of Beta readers. Last week, I finally finished revising and polishing from that round. So, initiating query phase again, but this time all out.

So, what’s one thing that I feel comfortable sharing with you while this is going on?

Make sure your curtains match the drapes.

If you’ve been doing your homework and reading blogs and lurking/participating in forum posts about this business, you know that this process is extremely subjective. I’ve also learned that from doing RWA contests. Therefore the varied responses from agents is something I understand (though of course sometimes I have to remind myself of this). But what does this mean?

Since it is subjective, make sure your query matches the tone and voice of your manuscript!

Often I’ll see queries posted in forums and websites for critique, and either due to a timidness on the part of the author, or because it’s been critiqued too many times, all voice, tone and personality is leached from the query. You basically now have very few signposts available to the agent for them to gauge your story. Most likely they’ll shrug their shoulders and say “Next.” You don’t want that. Sure, if you put your voice back into your query, you’ll get agents who’ll cringe or reject because it’s not their thing, but guess what? You want that to happen. You just saved yourself and that agent time, because you’ve successfully given them guidance about what to expect from your manuscript. However, your query now has the correct signposts to alert the type of agent who’ll love your story, and that’s what you want.

To give you an example, I just got this feedback from an agent based on my query and sample pages:

This sounds adorable! I’d love to take a look

Yay! Hopefully, I’ve matched my tone/voice in the query to my manuscript and she’ll still find it adorable. This doesn’t necessarily mean anything will happen with this agent, but my query did it’s job and alerted agents about what to expect with my manuscript.

I’ll go ahead and post my query (minus the opening personalized part):

Isabelle Rochon, a thoroughly modern American working at the British Museum, has finally met the man of her dreams. There’s one problem: he lives in another century.

When a mysterious artifact zaps Isabelle to pre-Victorian London, a thief steals it, stranding her in a place where nobody’s heard of toilet paper or women’s lib. Now she must find the artifact, navigate the pitfalls of a stiffly polite London, keep her origins a secret, and, oh, resist her growing attraction to Lord Montagu, the Vicious Viscount so hot, he curls her toes. But when he asks her to pose as his fiancée for his scheme of revenge, his now constant presence overthrows her equilibrium and kicks in her old insecurities. Why does he have to be so damn hunky, compelling and, well, Drool-Worthy? This is not what she needs. She’d carved off part of herself for another man before and is determined never to make that same mistake again. Staying would be the ultimate follow-the-boyfriend move. Besides, she’d just reassembled her life and getting promoted at the museum will ensure she can remain in London and the life she’s carefully built. In the end, she must decide when her true home lies.

MUST LOVE BREECHES is a time travel romance complete at 98,000 words. It features such historical figures as Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage. Fans of the TV mini-series LOST IN AUSTEN will love the modern woman’s fish out of water foibles, while experiencing a more scientific and mechanical London. It is similar in tone to THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE PINK CARNATION, and Katie MacAlister’s contemporary romances. It is a standalone novel with the potential to be a prequel in a series of steampunk romances.

I hold a Masters in Heritage Preservation from Georgia State University and am an RWA-PRO member, as well as a member of three RWA chapters: Gulf Coast, Hearts Through History and FF&P. My contemporary geek romance novelette, BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS, is contracted by Secret Cravings Publishing, and due to release in January 2013.

MUST LOVE BREECHES has finaled in ten RWA chapter contests in 2012–in the Regency/Victorian/Georgian category of the Hearts Through History’s Romancing Through The Ages contest, and in the paranormal category for Washington DC’s Marlene contest, San Antonio’s Merritt contest, Virginia Fool for Love contest, Celtic Hearts Golden Claddagh contest (winner), Greater Seattle’s ECO contest, Georgia’s Maggie contest, Utah’s Heart of the West contest, and Denver’s Molly contest, and in the time travel/steampunk/historical category of FF&P’s On the Far Side contest.

Are you querying right now? What have you found in regards to query tone and voice? If you’ve read MLB, do you think this query matches in tone and voice?

I’m a contracted author!

I’m so very excited to announce that I just signed my first writing contract! It’s for BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS, a 13K word novelette, due out in January 2013 by Secret Cravings Publishing!

I actually had two contract offers on the piece and opted to go with Secret Cravings, which I’m very excited to be a part of this established e-publisher.

I have to admit, I got choked up when I received Secret’s contract. I felt like all my hard work (and obsession with writing) had finally paid off, that it was a reality, that I hadn’t been fooling myself that I could do this.

This Sunday, for Six Sentence Sunday, I’ll post the opening six sentences to give you a taste :)

Here was my query, which I’ll use as my jumping point for my blurb:

Riley McGregor is a geek trapped in a Good Ole Boy body and as owner of a microbrewery, he’s just not meeting his type. Smart chicks never look at him twice. He’d like to find someone who appreciates him for who he truly is.

Rejected by a geek who wanted to “trade up,” Mirjam Linna has lost herself in her work as a computer programmer. When a djinn and a magic slot machine bring these two together for a blind date, Mirjam wants nothing to do with it. However, her sister threatens more drastic measures if she doesn’t take advantage of the offer. Mirjam agrees to dinner, but after that, she’ll say thanks, but no thanks, and see what’s on late night on the SyFy channel. But when they meet, they are surprised to find they had a shared connection in their past. Sparks fly as these two learn to be in the moment, be themselves and find love.

BEER AND GROPING IN LAS VEGAS is a romantic comedy with paranormal elements, complete at 13,400 words. Fans of Star Trek, Star Wars, Monty Python, Firefly and Marvin the Martian will enjoy this romance.

Obviously, I’m super excited for a number of reasons. One of them, oddly, is that I’m looking forward to the process: working with Secret Cravings on the cover, working with their editor to polish this puppy up, etc.!

I also want to thank my Beta readers who helped me get my submission to a place I felt confident sending it out. Thank you so much!

Anyway, just had to share :)

What about you? If you’re contracted, do you remember that first moment when someone actually said “yes”?