Category: In progress

Plot bunnies – with big, nasty teeth.

Jun 8, 2011 by

I don’t write fast enough, that’s all there is to it. I’m halfway through one book, a quarter of the way through another, have outlines and notes for at least three more, and now have more unresolved plot bunnies than ever before. And the worst thing about it is that they are absolutely useless for incorporating into the Works In Progress.

I have a tough time with plotting. Characters—no problem. Dialogue—bring it on. Settings, descriptions, research—I’m right there. Plots… oy vey iz mir. My plot bunnies tend to be vague ideas for a story involving characters that I love (“Let’s put them in such and such an impossible situation and see what they do!”) but when it comes to actually plotting out the scope of the story—hopeless. I could never write a mystery or thriller, because it requires the verb to plot.

Not just plot, but intricate plotting. Setting timing and dropping hints and twisting the story around so that you end up precisely at the point you need to be. It’s not how I write. I throw the characters into the deep end and see how they want the story to go. Seriously, it’s a crapshoot. And given that I am totally not a multiple-draft kind of writer, it really is up to the characters to tell the story in their own way. They’ll take over anyway; might as well let them.

For example: Finding Zach? Had a completely different ending mapped out in my mind involving David’s art, a scar, and a tattoo. The characters had other ideas, and the tattoo never saw the light of day.

 If it’s a short piece, it’s different. In those cases it’s usually the end I write first, or at least I’ll have a good idea what the end will be. Since there’s not a lot of time for character development, short stories have to have a plot, but size constraints mean that the plot will be fairly simple. I can do simple. It’s maintaining plot for the length of a full-sized book that’s the hard part.

So right now, I have this story I’m working on, with a whole bunch of characters that I love, and vaguely ahead is some kidnapping plot, or maybe a custody battle, or something… something…

And in the meantime, my characters are all talking nineteen to the dozen in my head and making me crazy because I can’t write fast enough for them. They all want their happy endings. They all want their resolution. They all want their climax (in more ways than one) and their denouements. They’re all yelling at once and it’s making me crazy.

So shut up, John and Nick and the rest of you. You’ll get your say, sooner or later. I can only write so fast!

We haz blurb!

Mar 23, 2011 by

“Charming rascal Tristan Northwood seems to have it all: an ancient name, a noble inheritance, a lovely wife, and a son he adores. Women love him, men admire him, and it seems there is nothing he can’t do, whether it’s seducing a society wife or winning a carriage race. Little does Society suspect that the name means nothing to him, the fortune is in his father’s controlling hands, and he has no interest in his wife except a very distant friendship. Society bores him, and he takes dares because he only feels alive when he’s dancing on the edge… until his wife’s brother comes home from the wars.  

“Decorated war hero Major Charles Mountjoy jerks Tris out of his despair by inspiring feelings of passion Tris had never suspected himself capable of. Almost as terrifying as those feelings for Charles are the signs Charles might return his affection—or, even worse, that Charles sees the man Tristan has been trying so valiantly to hide from the world.”

Gulp.

It’s getting to be kinda sorta real. I’ve gone through the first batch of edits, have submitted the cover art specs, done the dedication and the acknowledgements, and now authorized the above blurb. Far as I can remember, I’ve just got the second round of edits and the galleys left. Oy.

In the meantime, Lynn is sending me some short stuff for the Daily Dose to edit, for which I will get paid. Woot!  It’ll be good practice for possibly more editorial stuff.

And I’m getting to the exciting stuff in the fantasy short story I’m working on. Still have ambitions of getting it finished by the end of the month, which is just about a week away. Not sure where I’ll send it; a day or two ago I just assumed it would be DSP, but then I got an invitation to submit from Amber Allure, so now I’m thinking I might branch out a bit. I have a hard enough time keeping myself straight with one publisher, but I’d like to see what other peeps have to offer. How weird.

Taking a break . . . but still working

Feb 14, 2011 by

I’m clipping along on a short—either a short story or a novella—and am enjoying the break from the novel that is my current official Work In Progress. I’ve found that occasionally doing a short while in the process of writing The Novel helps with the pacing; I did two while working on Kindred Hearts, and while Going Like Elsie (working title) isn’t as complex as KH, it’s still a novel, and complicated.  Breaking it up with a short piece hopefully will get the creative juices running again. I have more ideas for novels, but I refuse to start them until I get this one done. Harrumph.

I actually started Going Like Elsie during the writing of KH as my secondary project; after Finding Zach came out, I started getting anxious that people would want another contemporary rather than the historical, and so I came up with the premise of GLE.  It’s a lot more chatty and a lot less angsty than Zach, and I’m hoping to have it done by May, and submitted to Dreamspinner around then, with hopes of getting it released (if accepted!) by the time I go to New Orleans for the GayRomLit retreat. That would be awesome. That’s if Adam and Miles cooperate; neither of them right at this point is eager to make any sort of decision as to their relationship, and getting them to voice an opinion is tricksy. They tend to be smartasses and clever, and what drives me nuts is a too clever character. They’re slippery. They’re not as uncooperative as Tristan was, though. There were times I wanted to smack that boy.

The short is a fantasy story, set in a world I built some time ago for an epic straight fantasy that I never finished (sorry, Shannon!). That book was over 100,000 words when I fizzled out and not even half done with the story. (Someday I’ll go back and review it and see if it’s worth revising, maybe as a duology or trilogy. It has something like fourteen main characters…) Anyway, the short is set in a neighboring country in the dead of winter, inspired by the beastly snowstorm Chicago had two weeks ago. Two gay romances in the story, one an older couple, and one a younger. There’s also a mysterious wizardy person, a legendary monster, and some magic, of course. I’ve got the story line roughed out, including the climax and the ending, which tells me right there it’s a short piece. I never know what’s going to happen in a novel. Right now the working title is “Duty and the Beast,” but I know I’m going to want to change that!!

I’m really looking forward to going to New Orleans in October. My SCA friend and beta-reader Philippa is going with me, mostly because she likes New Orleans, and less so because she likes m/m (mine is the only stuff she reads). But it will be fun. It will also be confusing, because she tends to call my by my SCA name, Isabel, which is not the same as my real name or my pen name (obviously!). So people will be calling me Rowan or Isabel, and seeing as how just with Dreamspinner there is another Rowan, AND an Isabelle Rowan…  I can just visualize an incident with Philippa calling “Isabel!… uh, Rowan!!” and the real Isabelle Rowan turning around and going “What? Who are you??”

I’ll let you know if that happens. I’m hoping she has a good sense of humor about it… eek.

I was planning on posting today, anyway, really . . .

Jan 7, 2011 by

I was determined to post something today anyway, since it’s been a while and I’ve been wanting to, and was thinking about Douglas Adams and maybe doing something philosophical about his Hitchhiker’s series (not like anyone’s EVER done that before).  But when I opened my email this morning and saw one from Elizabeth, the publisher at Dreamspinner Press…  well, let’s just say everything I had thunk out about Hitchhiker’s suddenly went *poof* in a spate of “SQUEE!!”

Kindred Hearts has been accepted!!!  And will be released sometime in May.  ‘Scuse me while I go stand in a corner and scream quietly.

KH is a nervewracking book for me.  For one thing, it’s much more ambitious than Zach was.  There was a LOT more research to be done, and of course, I just did what I wanted to with Zach, since I pretty much didn’t know what I was doing anyway.  I still don’t know what I’m doing, but I have a better idea of what I SHOULD do, which freaks me out quite a bit.  Plus I have *fans* now (2 or 3 at least) so now I have to worry about whether they like it.  Didn’t I write something about expectations a while ago? 

Let’s face it, Zach was an experiment for me–can I finish a book and get it published–and now I have to put on my big girl pants and accept the responsibility of being a Real Life Author.  NOT THAT I AM COMPLAINING!!  God, no.  This whole thing has been a total thrill ride.  But I am so much more AWARE of things than I was a year ago at this time.  And I am not quite as confident about KH as I was about Finding Zach.

Oh, who am I bullshitting?  I wasn’t confident about Zach, either!  I was nervous as hell.  Just like now.  I wonder if it will ever wear off?

So anyway, here’s to Dreamspinner Press and the awesome staff there, and here’s to my beta readers Patrice and Shannon for being my number one fans, and Lynda, to whom I owe not only beta-reading assistance but research assistance and editorial assistance–she is Captain Awesome and I want to be her when I grow up–and to my best friend Vic for the years of phone calls beginning “Write anything lately” and ending “Keep writing!”

I will.  Keep writing, that is.  But for now, I’m going to sit on my laurels (I know several Laurels–SCA in-joke) and bask in the momentary pleasure of being psychologically affirmed, once again.  Then it will be back to the hairy task of edits and promotion while trying to finish the next book…

I’m kidding.  I LOVE THIS LIFE.  Giggle.  Squee.

Kindred Hearts is DONE. Sort of…

Sep 27, 2010 by

The first draft of Kindred Hearts is finished!!!  (“And there was great rejoicing…” at least at Chez Speedwell.)  I was beginning to think I’d never get it done.  But I sent it out to Beta Reader #1, aka Patrice, on Friday, so I’m hoping she’ll have a chance to read it this week.  I’ll be getting copies of it to my other two beta readers something this week, I hope.  Patrice is easy—she’s got a Kindle so all I have to do is format it as a prc file—but I give Lynda and Shannon hard copies in my (un)patented two-column pretend it’s a book format.  Takes time to put together.

 I reread it this weekend and it doesn’t suck, which is good; there have been times during the course of the writing when I absolutely HATED the thing.  Especially since it took so much longer.  I had to do a lot more research; although I love the Napoleonic Era, and am quite familiar with it, it seemed like every time I turned around I was needing to look something else up.  Then of course there’s the issue of trying to both write it so that it sounded appropriate for the period, but is still accessible to the modern reader.  In other words, accurate but not boring.  Tricksy!! 

 So now while it’s out at the betas, it will be percolating in my head, and while I am working on the NEW book (because I can’t just sit still; plus I have been playing with it for a while unofficially) I will subconsciously be doing some work on Kindred Hearts.  Har.  Thankfully, the new one is another contemporary, so any research will be much easier.  I was going blind reading the facsimile versions of 19th Century texts and letters.  (Because as wonderfully accurate as Georgette Heyer is, it is not Done to crib ALL your historical data from The Spanish Bride and An Infamous Army.  Although I did dip deep into both of those.  Mainly cuz they’re wonderful…)

 “Night and Day” will be appearing in the Dreamspinner Press anthology Myths and Magic on October 15th.  Day before my birthday, though I don’t think I’ll have my author’s copies by then.

Love’s Labours found

Sep 7, 2010 by

Got the edits today for “Night and Day,” my retelling of the Orpheus myth that’s going to be in Dreamspinner Press’s anthology “Myths and Magic” this October (my favorite month).  Surprisingly, there weren’t a lot of cuts, just the usual run of edits I have to review.  I’m pretty happy with the story in general; I think it’s some of my best writing.  I’m not particularly comfortable with the short story format in general, but occasionally something will pop for me and I’ve got a tale to tell.  I’m working on one now with a deadline of September 15th, and I haz me a suspishun that it’s not going to get done.  Doesn’t even have a title yet but it’s about Brian, the reporter from “Finding Zach,” and it’s a Christmas story.  If I don’t get it done by the 15th, I might just submit it as a stand-alone story and see if I can get it out there that way.  Or, if it gets turned down, I’ll… do something with it.

Shannon has finished the bookmark and as soon as we know the details about the printing, I’ll post them here.  The bookmark is gorgeous (see it at right!!).   It shows both the rowan tree (at the top) and both varieties of speedwell, the spire type and the ground cover.  She is a genius!!  I’m offering the bookmark—which will be autographed on the back—free to anyone who’s purchased an e-book (or anybody, really) and wants an autograph.  I mean.  Seriously.  An autograph.  From me?  The mind boggles.  I figure a print run of about two should do it.  But they are pretty.  So, so, so, so pretty.   I will take the rest and pin them up all over my house.  Shan is a fantastic artist—I have her artwork as a skin on my netbook—and I’m just amazingly grateful that she condescended to help me with this.  She has a deviantart.com account (www.happy-bird.deviantart.com) but I think she needs a website of her own so that she can properly showcase her stuff, which is really fabulous.  I’m trying to figure out what to bribe her with so she’ll redesign my blog headers.

Tomorrow is the epidural for my herniated disc, and then I have two award scrolls to get done (gilded, calligraphed and painted) by Friday, and still get Brian’s story finished (did I say I suspected it wouldn’t get done?  I wonder why…).  I want it done by Friday so I can reread it at the baronial investiture on Saturday and get it emailed well before the deadline.

I think it was Douglas Adams who said “I love deadlines.  I especially love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by…”

One brief shining moment…

Jul 29, 2010 by

All Romance Ebooks has Finding Zach at number one in Reader Rated Romance at this exact moment.  Given the transitory nature of ratings, I imagine if I check five minutes from now it will be lower or possibly off the list altogether.  It’s been on the list continuously since it was released, so I guess it’s had a good run.  Sic transit gloria mundi and all that.  I’m enjoying the moment.

Amazon has a new version of the Kindle out.  I’m not rushing to buy; I still have plenty of room on the old one (the 2) so I’m good for a while.  And while the new one is smaller (nice!) it’s also thinner (yikes!) which would make me worry about fragility.  The 2 is just heavy enough that I don’t worry about breaking it (and believe me, if I sit on something, it’s broken).

I’m on a roll with the Regency (still temporarily untitled) and getting into some serious emotional crap between my boys on the eve of Waterloo.  They’re hashing out some intense stuff and it’s glorious.  Love that emotional crap.  In between moments, I’m frantically researching the battle(s) involved and trying to establish timing and placement before I write the scene where Charles is injured.  I’ve got the scene roughed out, but I need to make sure I don’t screw up the historical facts in the service of my story.  Don’t like that in other people’s books; not gonna stand for it in mine.

Lynda and Augie of Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore gave me three beautiful maps of the Waterloo Campaign.  I’m going to spend a few hours tonight poring over them for troop movements.  In between trying on my old garb to make sure it still fits before I pack it for Pennsic, where I will be poring over a whole different set of troop movements.

Yesterday was National Milk Chocolate Day.  Today is Cheese Sacrifice Purchase Day.  What???

Oh, and I submitted Night and Day to DSP for the anthology.  Won’t know if they’ve accepted it until probably after Pennsic.

Night and Day

Jul 16, 2010 by

Forgot to mention earlier that I’ve finished the first draft of a short story (longish, 15,000 words) that takes the Orpheus myth and sets it in a 1930’s speakeasy, with Apollo as a club owner and Dionysus as a gangster.  Fun to write, but still needs major edits.  I’m hoping it will be accepted for an upcoming anthology if I can pare down the wordage a bit.   It’s in the hands of Beta Reader #1 for preliminary feedback.

Now back to the Regency…

Can’t stop the music

Jul 13, 2010 by

Well, if one substitutes “words” for music.  I’m trying to write a short story possibly for an upcoming anthology and while the theme of the anthology dovetails beautifully with the story, the limit for submission is 12,000 words… and I’m already at 11,000+ and not anywhere near the ending.  Close to the climax, though.  There are some bits I can chop out of the beginning that won’t horribly affect my Deathless Prose, but unless the editors like it enough to include it anyway, it’s going to be more like 15,000 words.  Sigh.  I’m just not a short story writer in general; although I’ve done some in the past, it’s not a natural form for me.  I like getting into the heads of the characters and watching their personalities and backstories unfold.  With the short form, you have to kind of convey the whole personality in very short order, and in this case, anyway, Nathan’s personality is very much formed by his backstory, which is quite complicated.  And of course you need to avoid infodump.  PLUS it’s in second person, present tense, which is just plain weird.  I think it works for the story, though.

The music analogy is important, because music is the framework for the story.  It’s set in the early Thirties, before there’s been any improvement in the economy; Prohibition is still in effect, people are on breadlines, and Cole Porter and the Gershwins reign in popular music.  The story’s called “Night and Day,” and takes place in a “supper club,” a front for a speakeasy.  Nathan’s an out-of-work singer who’s survived the First World War with a major chip on his shoulder, and the peculiar brother and sister who run “Starlight,” the speakeasy, are his road to recovery.  It’s been fun dredging in the depths of my memory for things older people have told me about that era.  So many of them are gone now that I’ve had to supplement it with internet research.  But one of the things I love best about writing this is the chance to incorporate the music of the time.  Nowadays jazz is sort of an esoteric musical form, with a reputation for being an “intellectual” exercise, but back in 1932, it was popular music.  The old standards, the songs by Porter and Gershwin and Berlin and Dorsey and Ellington and Armstrong, were jazz, but were what everyone listened to on the radio and in the clubs and on their Victrolas.  And I was absolutely blessed with a dad who loved this music (and yes, he called our record-player a “victrola” on occasion) and taught me to appreciate the craftsmanship that went into it.  Take a listen to a good recording of “Night and Day” and you’ll see what I mean.

“Embraceable You” is going to get into the story, too, one way or another…

Finally facing my Waterloo

Jul 6, 2010 by

Okay, now that we’ve all had a bad ABBA flashback (okay, I admit it, I liked ABBA), we’ll move on.  After having read two Lois McMaster Bujold novels (Sharing Knife: Passage and : Horizon) and feeling completely inadequate, and two Amy Lane novels (Truth in the Dark and Keeping Promise Rock, and I really need the sequel to that to come out soon, please…) and cementing the feeling of inadequacy, I tuned into Goodreads this morning to find a new, highly ambivalent review.  I take those seriously, so I was pretty down.  The positive review on the Ebay posting of a copy of Zach only did so much to make me feel better.  This all goes back to this weird philosophy that used to make my shrink CRAZY, which is “if someone says something nice about you, they’re being nice; if someone says something mean about you, they’re telling the truth.”

This is why I was in therapy.

Okay, so on to more positive stuff.  Although the first part of “Skylark” (working title) still needs some MAJOR editing and rewriting, I’m plugging along with the second part, hoping to get at least a first draft done by Pennsic.  (Pennsic, in case you don’t know, which you probably don’t because why in God’s name should you, is short for the Pennsic War, which takes place every August between the Midwest and the East Coast.  For two weeks, about 10,000 seriously insane people dress up like they live somewhere between 600 AD and 1600 AD and hit each other with sticks.  It’s TREMENDOUS fun.)  Pennsic is almost completely non-electrical, which means I won’t be doing much writing during that timeframe, so I’m hoping to get the draft done by then and loaded on my Kindle for reviewing and annotation.  Three of my beta readers will be camping with me, so if I can get it in shape for their perusal, so much the better.  But that means…  Waterloo.

Thanks to Lynda and Osprey Publishing (THE place for books on historical subjects, I kid you not), I have a book that lays out the details of the Waterloo Campaign in a way that even I, who despite my educational background has minimal interest in military history, can understand and use.  Maps, paintings, lists, charts.  It’s awesome.

I wish I had looked at it before I wrote the last chapter.  Major rewrites ensue.  You know, you get an idea of how something goes and then you just run with it, and then you come SMACK!! up against… um… facts.  Damn.

But Waterloo is just the most fascinating series of military blunders.  It really illustrates the importance of communications.  I mean, it took two months for the news of the end of the War of 1812 to reach America, another month for it to reach the British Army in the Caribbean, then another couple of months to get orders straight.  During that time Napoleon had escaped from Elba and reclaimed France.  So most of Wellington’s best troops were either still in America or on their way back by the time of the Waterloo Campaign.

Then, of course, there’s the series of faux pas that plagued both sides, but especially Napoleon’s.  Things like his staff not bothering to let Marshal Ney (who was commanding half of his army) know that he was needed in a particular spot at a particular time.  Whoops!  Lost that sortie!  Stuff like that.  Amazin’.  Or Ney himself thinking “oh, did he say he wanted us to capture that crossroads, or just check it out?” and not capturing Quatre Bras before the Dutch ever got there.  Kathunk!  There were a few on the British side, but not quite as many, because Wellington was kind of obsessive about communications.  Napoleon?  It was all about the charisma.  And frankly, how charismatic can you be when you’re suffering from hemorrhoids?

So, I need to rewrite the last bit where Tristan finds out what he really wants out of life–besides Charles–and where Charles (and Randy) find out what’s really important…

Stay tuned!!