Monday, November 21, 2011

Critique Group

I am very lucky to have found a critique group to read Blessed Among Women.  Though it's a non-traditional historical (which I know makes it a tough critique) it does seem to resonate, and my group has so far been giving me dynamite feedback.  Apparently I have character on lock--setting is my issue.  I think that's a problem I'll continue to have.  I hate taking time away from my dialogue to describe things, but that's very necessary.  I need to make myself do it.  The world-building involved with the fantasy novel makes that a little less of an issue.

I've also been in the process of edit/re-edit/edit again/dammit, how'd I miss that typo?  The to-be-or-not-to-be nature of contractions in HiFi (how cool is that for historical fiction?) has also been bugging me.  On the one hand, we can't hope to approximate how people spoke with one another several centuries ago, which is why I'm more than tempted to go stylistically natural and let the characters have a conversation.  But on the other hand, there's a certain voice readers of HiFi expect, and if I don't deliver, it makes my book that much less likely to sell.  Well, less likely to get to the agent stage, honestly.

I feel tough.  July in Madrid made me believe that I could do things that I'd never have attempted otherwise.  And hell, if all else fails, I've got a vision board, dammit.  (Thanks, Happy Endings.)  If it's not this book, it will be the next.  Or, God help me, the next.

Friday, November 18, 2011


I know I'm not alone in this, but whenever I'm deep into a story I need the music to accompany it.  For Blessed Among Women I have no fewer than seven soundtracks (my husband made five--he's way more knowledgeable about current music than I am).  Some of them are general, some are geared toward specific characters, but all of them helped me to flesh out certain things and expand.

Sample of songs on Blessed soundtracks:
"There Is No Rose of Such Virtue", Sting
"Gotta Have You", The Weepies
"Only You", Joshua Radin
"My Body Is a Cage", Peter Gabriel (cover)
"Skinny Love", Bon Iver
"99 Problems" (no, really), Hugo (cover)
"The Scientist", Willie Nelson (cover)
"Scarborough Fair", Simon and Garfunkel
"Possession", Sarah McLachlan
"Fear", Sarah McLachlan
"King of May", Natalie Merchant
"Mess", Ben Folds Five
"Worn Me Down", Rachel Yamagata

There's much more obviously, so as I continue to work with Blessed I'll post more.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Checking Inbox

I have come to deeply detest the fine people that email ads, daily deals, etc.  Not that they've actually done anything wrong.  I did tell them that I wanted to know more about their various services (although Linkedin is wearing out its welcome, fast).  It's not them, it's me.  I have my gmail up all day, and every time I glance at it and see "Inbox (1)" my heart skips a beat.  Of course I'm hoping that it's Ms. Amazing Agent, writing to tell me that if she doesn't represent me then she's out of the business forever.  It's usually from J. Crew.

I finished the first draft of the first chapter revision/overhaul.  It was surprising how much of the original I was able to salvage (and gratifying, I had a lot of babies I didn't want to kill).  It goes to the critique group tomorrow, and to say that I'm nervous is an understatement.  As long as they don't tell me that it made their eyes bleed, or made them wish they were illiterate, I'll be happy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Just realized I have to overhaul my first chapter. Fuuuuuuuuu...

Likeable Characters vs. Unlikeable Characters

I had a friend read Blessed, and one of his first comments was that he didn't like Thomas (one of the MC).  I weirdly felt like I had done my job.  Because Thomas is really just a big baby.  He's selfish and sulky--mainly because he's a young man, and he's immature.  He's not supposed to be perfect.  He's got some deep-rooted psychological issues.  But I love him.  My husband loves him.  Because we know him really well.

The other MC, Joane, is just sort of blah to me.  She's nice, and she certainly grows a lot by the end of the novel.  But she's very vanilla.  I think what happens to her is more interesting than she herself is.  My favorite character is Thomas's brother, but I think so far I'm the only one that's read it that feels that way.

My husband, he is probably most intrigued by Marie, Thomas's wife and his personal antagonist (I wouldn't call her an antagonist in the traditional sense).  I really don't care for her, but a lot of people who've read the MS are interested in her.  You hear a lot at the beginning about what a nightmare she is (from Thomas, natch), and then she surprises you.  But I still get sick of her pretty fast.

And then there's the main antagonist, Richard, who everyone agrees is the worst.  And, yet, people tell me gleefully that they "like" him.  He's someone to root against.  He is not doing a half-assed job of being bad.  He is putting his whole ass into being a rat bastard, and he's really good at it.

Interesting to reflect on the lives that characters take on once their outside of your head.  I heard a story about Toni Morrison at a conference, listening to papers on her various works.  When asked how she felt about them, she said that they were wonderful, but that she had no idea what books those people were talking about.  It's disorienting to have a product of your head reflected back at you through someone else's eyes.

(And, yes, I have people other than friends and family reading the story.  I like my honest critiques as well as my flattering ones.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Writing Blog

I've set this up to be my writing blog, to keep track of my works in progress (and probably to also whine about the query process).  I currently have two manuscripts that I'm pounding away at:

BLESSED AMONG WOMEN, a historical novel very loosely based on the love affair between Henri II of France and Diane de Poitiers, set in the 1530s.  That one is in the final critique stage (I do so desperately hope), and I'm tentatively sending out queries.


SEASONS, a YA fantasy in which the seasons are created by a long-lived race of people in an isolated kingdom.  It's coming along nicely, I'm about 8,000 words in.