Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to Stormtroopers relaxing in a pool

Song playing right now on my playlist: “Sally MacLennane” by The Pogues.

Writing and the Writing Life:

Ada Lovelace:

Jane Austen:

In Geekdom:

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to Vader In A Kilt On A Unicycle Playing Bagpipes (I Kid You Not)

Song playing right now on my playlist: “Stray Cat Strut” by Stray Cats

Writing and the Writing Life:

Romance Writers:

Ada Lovelace:

Jane Austen:

Browncoats:

In Geekdom:

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to Vader Hugging a Unicorn

Song playing right now on my playlist: “Bittersweet Symphony,” by the Verve. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Writing and the Writing Life:

Romance Writers:

  • Sarah Wendell does an awesome post in reaction to 50 Shades and everyone in the media shocked to learn that women enjoy sex: Romance, Arousal, and Condescension
  • Merry Farmer writes an awesome post in reaction to a Philadelphia magazine article about the sorry state of the modern male which could explain why women like to read about Alpha males in romance: Where Have All The Good Men Gone?
  • Apparently we’re hitting the fruit too much, specifically cherries and berries, when describing nipples– this post will either have you chuckling or groaning: A Description of Nipples
  • Romance author Beth Dunn does an excellent and humorous overview of men’s fashion, specifically their pants, in the Regency and why some eschewed underwear (they didn’t want a panty line!) in her post at Wonders & Marvels: The Turn of the Leg

Ada Lovelace:

Jane Austen:

Browncoats:

And I’ll leave you with this:

Polishing my Pitch for the FF&P Fantasy on the Bayou Conference this weekend

funny pictures-RAWR! Iz I doin it rite? RAWWWR!!!I’ve had a nervous stomach since last Wednesday when I realized this conference was only a little over a week away. Now it’s only a couple of days. Eeep!

Been hitting the Chamomile Tea pretty hard to calm the ole stomach….

Reason I’m nervous? Not only is it my first writer’s conference, but I’ll be pitching to three agents. Never done it before. For the non-writers who might be reading this, I basically have about 8 minutes to verbally infuse that agent with a hot, burning need to read my manuscript. Can I say ‘Eeep’ again?

They say you should memorize about 3 to 4 sentences to pitch and that the agent will ask questions. Is that about right?

So I thought I’d indulge myself by running several by y’all. They say it also needs to sound conversational… So here it goes, FWIW:

A) MUST LOVE BREECHES is a completed 98,000 word time-travel romance. When a thoroughly modern American girl finds herself stranded in 1834 London, she must find a way home while navigating the pitfalls of London society, resisting her attraction to a hunky lord, and ultimately having to decide when her true home lies. 

or:

B) MUST LOVE BREECHES is a completed 98,000 word time-travel romance. It’s about a quirky modern American who has finally met the man of her dreams. There’s only one problem–he lives in 1834. She has sworn off ever doing the follow-the-boyfriend move again. But when she’s accidentally transported to 1834 London, she has a hard time resisting the hunky lord known as the Vicious Viscount. She wants to find the silver case that transported her through time so she can return to her carefully crafted life in the present, but when he asks her to pose as his fiancée for his own scheme of revenge, she ultimately has to decide when her true home lies. One of the fun things about it, besides the yummy hero, is that she is befriended by Ada Byron, Lord Byron’s daughter, and meets Charles Babbage, the inventor of the Difference Engine. I’ve tried for a light, humorous touch, while also exploring aspects of 1830s London that’s not typical: the scientific.

I know mentioning other characters in a pitch is usually bad, but the thing is, Ada Byron Lovelace is a major secondary character. She is one of the “high concept” things about the book. Whenever I mention she’s in it to someone who asks me what my book is about, they perk up with that bit. Also, it’s timely–Steve Job’s biographer’s next subject will be her. Folks into steampunk love Lovelace and Babbage.

I’ve tried to get my goal, motivation and conflict in each, my theme, and (B) also includes the Act One turning point.

I see (A) as my elevator/cocktail bar pitch and (B) as my actual pitch? Will I have enough time for B?

Some resources I found, if you’re faced with doing a verbal pitch session soon:

I’ve done my research on the agents, now I just need to nail down my pitch and memorize it. I’m also going into it with the attitude that the agent will know I’m nervous, it’s to be expected. Hopefully that will make me less nervous. I’m going to go in positive…

How about you? Do you have any advice? Are you going to the conference? Do you have any funny pitch stories to share?

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to a Mr. Darcy lollipop

Writing and the Writing Life:

Romance Writers:

Browncoats:

  • Check out this craft Browncoat who made a gingerbread house in the shape of our favorite ship.
  • Oh, love it! A new meme, this time for Browncoats. It’s Jubal Early logic. There’s not that many yet, and some of them aren’t that funny, but it just started a couple of days ago, so Browncoats, get busy ;)

Ada Lovelace:

Jane Austen:

In Geekdom:

  • For those geeky about books like me, you might enjoy following this tumblr account: bookshelfporn
  • And I’ll leave you with this:

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to Geek V-Day cards

Writing and the Writing Life:

Romance Writers:

Browncoats:

Ada Lovelace:

Jane Austen:

In Geekdom:

Six Sentence Sunday – 12/18/11

Today is #sixsunday where writers share six sentences from their work. I’ll share a snippet from my time-travel romance WIP. I currently have this out to Beta readers for feedback and hope to be in a position to query for agents in the new year. Here’s my working query hook for it: Isabelle Rochon has met the man of her dreams. There’s only one problem: he lives in a different century. 

Isabelle, the heroine, is trying to step her new friend, Ada Lovelace, through the events of the previous evening. She needs to convince Ada that she’s from the future. (You can see the other entries here.)

“All right, so we’ve established I’m from America. And this is unusual enough in your life that you would’ve heard of, say, a relative or daughter of a diplomat arriving in your social world. I also didn’t conform to etiquette and wait to be introduced to you. Can you think back to last night and remember anything else I did that struck you as unusual?”

“Besides not being able to understand the majority of your speech?” A smile quirked Ada’s lips.

To see snippets from others who are participating or to sign up yourself, visit here. Other participants who write time travel are Gayle Ramage, Ryan Derham and Jasmine Aherne.

Have a great Sunday!

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to Jane Austen to Klingon Monopoly

Writing:

Authors sharing some personal adventures:

Romancelandia:

  • An awesome video about why the Romance genre is scorned. Is it a revolutionary act?

Ada Lovelace:

Browncoats:

Jane Austen:

In Geekdom:

Adding Truth to Fiction Might Cause Hair Loss

demotivational posters - THE DIFFERENCE

Truly. How many times have you woven in cool tidbits from your research only to be slammed by your beta readers or agents/editors that it doesn’t sound believable?

And you splutter, “But… but… that really happened!”

We’ve all heard that truth is stranger than fiction, and that’s, well, that’s true. The problem is when you want to weave in those bits you’ve picked up, or even base your whole plot around a real life incident.

For instance, if you read about Victorian women dueling with swords while topless in a novel, would you scoff? Read on…

(How’s that for a teaser?)

But first, let’s back up a bit. Monday, author Amy Corwin wrote a post called Truth is Too Far-fetched for Fiction. In it she talks about how she got the inspiration for her book, The Bricklayer’s Daughter, from a real figure in history, Catherine Wilson, who chose to dress as a man. When she wanted to have her character marry, her editor drew the line and said it wouldn’t be believable. The irony was that Miss Wilson actually did marry to keep her identity secret.

Her post dovetailed with a draft I’ve had sitting in my blog dashboard on just this topic, so I decided to flesh it out for today’s post. Last month, I participated in a hashtag chat on writing historical fiction, and historical romance writer Isobel Carr brought up an interesting fact that would be hard to make believable in fiction, topless Victorian women dueling. But it really happened. I circled back with Isobel for this post and she said, “I do think that real history that doesn’t fit modern ‘beliefs’ about the past can be hard to pull off in books… Of course, I can’t help trying anyway…”

I’ve run into this issue too. Critique partners or beta readers marked parts of my WIP as not being plausible or flat out unbelievable. And nine times out of ten, it’s an actual historical fact. A lot of times it’s because readers improperly assign the sensibilities of the Victorian era to the Georgian era. I was able to get around this sometimes because I’m writing about a modern woman going back in time, so she acts as a surrogate for the modern reader. So when I got flack from critiquers about her riding alone in a carriage in 1834 with a man, I had her wonder the same and then remember that Jane Austen had a character do just that, etc. and have her reflect several times that things wouldn’t start getting prudish until later.

I’ve also heard people think everyone was short or that people didn’t live on average past 30 or something. They’ll see a statement like this in their textbooks in school:  life expectancy at birth in Medieval Britain was 30, and jump to the conclusion that people died on average around the age of 30. The problem with the last assumption is that it’s based on statistical averages from time of birth. Why is that significant? Because infant mortality rates were much higher back in the day and if you factored in all those deaths, yes, it brought the average life expectancy waaaay down. But if you lived past five, you had a decent shot of living into your 60s or 70s.  Now that infant mortality rates have dropped in some parts of the world, and sweeping epidemics like the Black Plague aren’t wiping out huge swaths of adults, the statistical average has risen.  I don’t want to turn this post into a rant on this specific topic, so I’ll cut this short. The point is, what you think you may know about history might not be true.

Another anecdote: I have a cousin who published a literary novel set in the past. It was well received, but the one bad review I remember well because the reviewer was hung up on the fact that some of the events described were just too unbelievable to swallow. The book was based in the South, the reviewer was a Northerner, and the things he objected to were actual incidents in our family. We’re wacky down here like that…

As a writer of historical fiction, it’s enough to make you want to tear your hair out, or bang your head against a wall until it bleeds. Especially if you get ripped by a reviewer who doesn’t know better. While you can have a dialog with your critiquers and tell them it’s true, you don’t have that luxury with a reader/reviewer. But yet you want to do your part to weave in some historical facts.

So, what to do? I don’t really have the magic answer as I’m not experienced enough of a writer. I’m going to share some ideas and then leave the floor to commenters…

1. Work extra hard with motivations.

One thing I did read from a writing book though has stuck with me: that when you weave in real life events (whether they’re incidents from your own life or historical tidbits) you have to work extra hard to setup the motivations of the characters in order to make the reader believe it.

Why is this? It seems to run counter to logic. But what happens is that in your mind, you know it’s true, so you inadvertently skip the steps you’d normally take in your writing of setting up the motivations for your characters. You don’t set it up as diligently as you would something you imagined, because after all, it really happened. I am so guilty of this. Right now I’m still having readers find it hard to believe that Ada Lovelace as a child never saw a portrait of her famous father Lord Byron. According to my sources, it was covered by a large swatch of cloth, so I added that little bit. However, beta readers and critiquers are marking it, saying this didn’t sound believable– wouldn’t she have tried to peek? Apparently she didn’t in real life. However, I need to come up with some kind of explanation for this to make this believable.

Another temptation for skipping motivation is because in real life it happened randomly so as a writer, you have it happen that way too. But in fiction, everything has a purpose and a reason to be there, and so it has to tie into that. It needs to be grounded in your plot and be a realistic action on the part of the character. Remember your motivation reaction units (MRUs) and ensure that this new event has a firm basis in motivation.

2. Perhaps take some world-building tips from paranormal and fantasy writers?

By definition, these folks are asking readers to believe in things that are fantastical. How do they do it? Recently, paranormal author Jami Gold explored how to make readers believe and she touched upon how romance novels are perceived as unrealistic. She countered with:

The romance novels I’ve found to be the least believable were those where the author didn’t do enough with motivations and/or actions to show why the hero and heroine were perfect for each other.

This corresponds with the advice I’d read about weaving in real life events. She lists some other solutions to help keep a reader believing and I think this can apply to historical oddities you’d like to include. A great discussion followed in the comments as well.

3. Make your character believe

One point I brought up in Jami’s comments was making your character believe. I used this tactic when I had early readers say it was too unbelievable to have two female mathematicians in that time period, but both of the characters were real historical figures (Ada Byron Lovelace and Mary Somerville). So I had my main character express her own surprise and acceptance, etc. We’ll see if that works…

What about you? What are some historical assumptions that drive you crazy as a writer? How do you weave them in/make them believable?

First stab at a query letter – whatcha think?

This past Sunday, I posted about my struggles to boil my novel down to one sentence: the dreaded logline. Since then I’ve researched some more and have discovered that I’ve conflated the hook for a query letter with the logline. According to Janet Reid at Query Shark, the logline should not be the hook. So, since I’m wanting to work on perfecting my query, I’ve been working on the hook and the rest of the letter. My goal was to write in the tone of the novel (hers and his). Here’s what I have so far:

Isabelle Rochon has finally met the man of her dreams. There’s only one problem: he lives in 1834. Talk about a long-distance relationship!

A dorky Southern gal, Isabelle works at the British Museum. She just wanted to know what it was like to live ‘back then.’ But not really. Stranded back in time, she must navigate the pitfalls of a stiffly polite London on the cusp of the Victorian era, find out how to get back, keep her origins a secret, and, oh, resist her growing attraction to Lord Montagu, the Vicious Viscount so hot he curls her toes.

To Lord Montagu nothing makes more sense than to keep his distance from the strange Colonial. However, when his scheme for revenge reaches a stalemate, he needs someone to masquerade as his fiancee. Who better than Miss Rochon? A bargain is struck. What he did not bargain for was the irresistible attraction that flares between them. Now, nothing makes more sense than to make their engagement official. Except to Miss Rochon.

As Isabelle searches for the silver case that transported her back in time, she is drawn to a man whom she cannot have. And his enemies want the case for their own purposes. If Isabelle can’t find and keep the case out of their hands, the future could be their playground. And she’ll be stuck in 1834 where they haven’t heard of toilet paper or women’s lib. The fact that she’s falling in love with Lord Montagu isn’t helping either. When she triumphs and gains the case, she’s faced with an awful choice: return to the comforts of the modern age, or do the ultimate follow-the boyfriend move and stay in 1834.

TO OUR FUTURE, is a 95,000 word completed time travel romance. I envision this as a prequel to a series of steampunk romances, since Isabelle befriends Lord Byron’s daughter Ada Lovelace (who many consider to be the first computer programmer) and created an alternate timeline whereby Charles Babbage completed his Analytical Engine and ushered in the computer age 100 years earlier than it really did.

What do you think? My next goal after getting this query sharpened is to come up with a better title!

Some links I’ve found since Sunday in case you’re also struggling like me (bless you!):

My takeaway this week is that when you do your research on the agents you want, see what styles they prefer as well. Janet Reid definitely didn’t like certain things that Kristin Nelson did, etc.

Are you in the process of querying? Have you written a successful one? Do you have any advice for us?