Monday, August 30, 2010

How to read a synopsis for problems

In my re-reading of Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies I was reminded of the importance of having an outline or a road map for the novel. It is also useful if you can read a road map for signs of trouble.
Signs of trouble include: no clear emotional hook, no clear internal conflict, a plot that means the hero and heroine will have to spend a long time apart, suddenly they are dating, lots of the turning points are caused by secondaries characters or the romance is not being moved forward.  The last four are evidence of a Sagging Middle Syndrome or SMS. All of the above will lead to revisions.
The thing about an outline is that is merely a map. You can put it to one side and write the ms how you intend but at some point you need to revisit the outline and make sure that everything is there.
So you write the ms and then you look at the synopsis to see problems.
I start with the setting, the internal/external conflicts of the hero and heroine -- these help  give the emotional hooks. Then using the words -- when the novel begins, I dive in. The first paragraph gives a brief summary of the set up (again these are the hooks that are going really grab the reader and keep her turning the pages), next comes the evidence of the growing attraction, the block moment and finally the resolution.
I also do a chapter by chapter outline.
So why have I been having so many revisions lately? The simple answer is that I haven't been reading my outlines carefully enough and I haven't seen the pitfalls -- in particular the SMS pitfalls. It is easily done. Thankfully my editors do seem to see them and tell me to pull up my socks.
So hopefully now I will pay more attention to the pitfalls BEFORE I turn things in.
And yes, I wrote my preliminary outline over the weekend as I knew the characters well enough I thought, but then realised that I had definitely had a few of the Signs of Trouble. So I will attempt to fix those and then write with the road map in the back of my mind. As I write somewhat into the mist, it is helpful to have an idea of where I'm going but not to refer to it constantly.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

To Marry A Matchmaker and creativity

My editor emailed yesterday to say that they have titled Henri & Robert -- TO MARRY A MATCHMAKER.  It brilliantly reflects the story so I'm very pleased with the title.

She also let me know that they want to offer me another four book contract. So I am pleased about that. It will be a small matter of hitting of deadlines!  But I should be able to do that. I am the one who set them and have no one to blame but myself.

I learnt a lot from rewriting TO MARRY A MATCHMAKER. One of the big lessons was never ever to take my process for granted and that  certain things can become rusty. Even if you think you know what you are doing, it doesn't hurt to go make to the beginning and revisit. In my case, it was revisiting Writing A Romance Novel for Dummies by Leslie Wanger and realising where I'd gone wrong. There is a lot of basic info in there. Info I once knew and then forgot. For example, you might know about the sexual tension between the characters but unless it is obviously on the page, the reader can't. Equally, she gave a few ideas on how to identify a sagging middle. One big red light beacon for me was the sudden focus on secondary characters. I had done that and it had to be resolved. Here I'd always considered that I was good at pacing.
Twyla Tharp in her book The Creative Habit gives the image of polish a clock face. It is about how dancers work on skills. It is a good analogy. However, you have to know which clock to polish!
The Creative Habit is another of those books that bears re-reading, particularly if you feel like you are in a creative rut.
For example she quotes the novelist John Gregory Dunne -- Because one has written other books does not mean the next becomes any easier. Each book in fact is a tabula rasa; from book to book I seem to forget how to get characters in and out of rooms -- a far more difficult task than non writers might think.
And further on in the same chapter -- The great ones never take the fundamentals for granted.

So fingers crossed that this next one goes easier and that I remember the focus and the main purpose of the story is the ROMANCE.
And it is a good reason why I'm pleased both books live on my bookshelves and I'm able to go back and re-read them.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Christina Philip's Upcoming Launch Party for Forbidden (plus contest)

As Christina is an old friend of mine and I'm thoroughly excited about her book:

To help celebrate the release of Forbidden, Christina Phillips's debut

Roman/Druid Ancient Historical Romance from Berkley Heat, she's holding a

launch party with lots of amazing authors and fabulous giveaways! (Including yours truly) In

addition, Christina's giving away a signed copy of Forbidden to one lucky

person who helps spread the love. All you have to do is mention the party

(you can copy and paste this blurb), being held from 1st to 6th September at You can Tweet about it, blog,

Facebook, MySpace or anything! And then drop her an email at ChristinapPh @

gmail dot com (no spaces) to let her know. Please put Forbidden Launch Party

(or something similar) in the subject line. The winner will be drawn for

that on Monday 6th September.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Viking's Captive Princess UK cover and contest

I finally got to see the UK paperback cover of the Viking's Captive Princess. I love and adore the new look of M&B Historical. However, as my  senior editor warned me, someone in the art department called up the WRONG version of the picture. There is a huge anachronism on the cover. It is even worse on the hardback version. The US version has the correct picture. My senior editor has been hugely apologetic as she is a perfectionist. She did try to have it fixed and  the error is less obvious but the error remains.
If you can spot the mistake, email me  with VCP contest in the subject line and tell me what the error is to win a signed hardback copy of  The Viking's Captive Princess.  It is first name out of the hat.  Contest closes 31 August 2010. Void where prohibited.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New Voices Workshop Update

I'm giving a workshop for the New Voices competition. My workshop will be held at Knaresborough Library on Wednesday 1 September from 7 pm -9 pm. The first hour will be devoted to What is a M&B novel and the second is a hands on bit about Creating a Page Turning Novel.  The cost is £2.50 and includes a glass of wine or something. You can telephone  0845 300 5112 for more information and to book a place.
I understand that places do remain but I won't be speaking to an empty room.
To support the workshop, I am appearing on the Russell Walker show on BBC Radio York on 31 August. I am hoping that my voice doesn't shake or quiver and that I can put my points across in a lucid manner!

I am also giving a one hour workshop Creating a Page Turning Novel at the new Haltwhistle Library on Saturday 18 September 10:30 -11:30. I think it is free but there are no refreshments.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary

For a very long time, I have actively desired a book that would tell me what a word meant in a given time period, rather than if it was simply used. Words over time change their meaning.Various etymology sites helped but many times I was left floundering.
 And for years, I have silently gritted my teeth with the whole reticule/ridicule debate. Which came first? For me it seemed an impossibility that reticule was derived from ridicule.
Then the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary was published last year and I took possession of my copy just before the RWA conference. It is the definitive resource for such a thing.
In the question of women's bags: 1801-1806 they  were indispensables, 1801- present day reticule and 1805-1838 ridicule.  Handbag starts in 1923. Forgive me but I punched the air. 
It makes things so much easier to check on if a word had that given meaning during that period. For example, I checked hot-foot as he hot-footed up somewhere. Nope. Not in use with that meaning during 1848. I used ran like a redshank instead as it was in use.
It is also interesting to see when certain things start being named. It is sure to become an indispensable part of my revisions. It helps to give a more authentic feel to the work.
The entire book was 45 years in production and it is expensive.  There are two large volumes and a complicated reference system. I would imagine that most university libraries have it, but it is much handier just to be able to look up a word.
My very lovely husband said when I asked for it for Christmas that if I needed it for my work, I should just get it.  Luckily I did as the Folio Society had it on special offer and they are no longer stocking it. You can still get it through Amazon.
Apparently there are plans to put the whole thing on disc and cross reference with the OED. However, I like paper. You discover things as you flip through, staring at the mouse-print.
If you lust after words and their meanings, or if you write historical novels, this is fantastic resource.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Head of the Litter Box Santitation Department

Heathcliff in a cake box
My mother sent me a t-shirt Litter Box Sanitation Specialists local 429. There is also a black silhouette of a cat sitting on a litter tray. No guesses who is in charge of poop scooping in this house.
I decided a long time ago that it was far easier to do myself than waste my breath assigning the task to the children. The children are better now and they will empty the trays if they notice. Operative word -- notice.

Heathcliff and Mr Darcy are clean cats and they require clean trays.  Because I like the pine scent, I use the compressed wood pellets. It is just easier to deal with.

We are not going to talk about dog accidents. Both children gained gold stars today as they successfully dealt with one while I was away having my eyes checked. Poor Hardy ate something that disagreed with him (my personal bet is rotten duck egg) and his stomach has been poorly. He is on the mend now and is as bouncy as ever...He is just spending more time in the kitchen and outside as it is easier to clean up...Here's hoping that he learns to stay away from duck eggs...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Noble Captive on sale today and a sale

Michelle Willingham let me know that A Noble Captive is on sale at eharlequin today. You will need to enter  the code YARD08N and they can get the book for $1.99.
You can read an excerpt of the book here.

In other news: my editor emailed me last night to say that my latest revisions did the trick and they were thrilled to accept the manuscript for publication. Hooray. As anyone who has been reading this blog for the past year, this book has caused me all sorts of difficulties but I bleived in the characters and really wanted to tell this story. I think it has paid off. It is set in 1848 Corbridge in Northumberland. More on publication dates etc as I know them!

My daughter had solid AS results which means she can apply for the couses she wants at the universities she wants to apply to. So cause for celebration there.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bits and bobs

First the Lymphoedema update -- the arm slowly deflates. It is getting better and does look like an arm. And I suppose as I don't have bat wings etc, I should be grateful. And yes I know that it could have been much, much worse.
As I am healthy, we are going to a sleeve that squeezes more.  The physio is trying to sort this out. Until then, I can wear two sleeves. Basically the physio's thoughts are that it took an age to get to where it was (and quite frankly if it was like it is now, I won't have gone to the doctor's) and therefore it will drain slowly.  It was great when I was in Orlando and only wore the sleeve and glove a little bit. However being back home means all the time except at night. 

Second, I'm waiting for my editor to get back on the revisions I turned in. Fingers crossed here. While I wait, I'm doing research for the Sinai one and I'm revising the paranormal. Believe me it needs a lot of revising as the romance needs to be brought to the fore and sensuality increased. The early connections were missing as well.  It is a matter of doing the revisions and trying to get it up there.

Third I need to get more hens as we are down to 3. This is a job for this week. Mr Fox appears to have gone else where for his snacks. The duck population is down but not out.

Fourth tomorrow is AS results day. Tension runs high as basically I want to know how my daughter did. We will cope with whatever but it is the not knowing that is the problem.

Fifth My daughter says that my two good finds from the RWA are Jodi Thomas and Toni Blake. I've haven't read the Jodi Thomas yet, but I do like Toni Blake and her Destiny books. One Reckless Summer arrived yesterday and was the perfect fodder for my daughter to forget about the AS results. I thought it excellent as well -- sexy and heartwarming. I inhaled it yesterday evening. And can't wait for the third. I believe Toni is working on a fourth. Read them if you haven't discovered them yet.
On the writing side: Basically, the books also showed me how much more I need to up my sensuality, particularly in the early stages. Do not assume the awareness is on the page. If it is in your head and not on the page, the reader can't know.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Inspiration and character traps

Hang around in Romancelandia a bit and you will see many authors use pictures of actors, models, polo players etc for inspiration for their characters. Some authors return time and again to familiar inspiration while others choose different ones. Both approaches can work because ultimately it is not about how a character looks but what is under his skin. However the first approach can lead to character burn out as you keep mining in the same place.
As you write more books, you need to be aware that your characters not only have to be different from each other but they have to be different from previous characters. They need to live and breathe. And readers if they glom on to an author may read a number of her books in quick succession. If your heroine always has silver eyes or black hair, someone may notice and be pulled out of the book.
You also can start repeating certain character traits or even ways characters behave. Suddenly instead of being well rounded, your characters become 2-dimensional. Some of that is because in the back of your mind, you are thinking how a particular actor might play that part. How his voice sounds. Or how he'd gesture with his hands. For example, in every movie, Hugh Grant seems to play Hugh Grant.
You can even think that you have built up this great and unique backstory, only to find yourself falling into the same trap. This is particularly true if you tend to write the same sort of core story. Or if you are exploring a similar theme to another story of yours.
I speak from experience here as some of the reason for the huge rewrites was that I gave into tempatation and reused hero fodder. Backstories were different but the characters were 2-d until I did a lot of remedial work. Your characters need to be unique. One way to do it is to think -- why are they different from my other heroes? What are they passionate about? How does that passion different from my other hero? What are their strongly held opinions? What won't they discuss? What truth do they hold dear that is different? How does their accent differ? Why is this actor not going to be playing himself but another role? Why is the reader really going to identify with this character? Why if a reader does glom on to your books, is this character going to stand out?

The problems with character traps is one of the reasons why it becomes progressively harder to write in a given genre. You pick the easy fruit and then suddenly you have to stretch. The learning to stretch is important. It is about going back to the basics and making sure that each one is unique.
This is one of the reasons why this time --Richard Armitage and James Purefoy  get a miss and Rupert Perry Jones a look in. After all there is always more hero inspiration around if you care to find it...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

RWA Workshop on Marketing for the Brave New World

I was very surprised to see that this particular workshop was not well attended. Personally I had thought there would be people sitting on the floor. It could have been the timing -- just after lunch on the Saturday  or didn't really say that this was SMP marketing and PR team plus a high profile book publicist and star agent. Mary Kay Andrews is a best selling NYT author and she brought along her team to say how they supported her and what could be done, particularly when budgets are cut to the bone. This wasn't a PAN workshop but something that was open to everyone.
There is a handout which I believe was mainly written by Meghan Walker and Mary Kay. Meghan Walker is a book publicist with Tandem Literary. It is worth its weight in gold.
It was recorded and perhaps that is the reason for the low attendance but I was surprised. It amuses me that so many people spend time in the bar when there is so much to offer on tap.
Anyway, it was highly useful, and Mary Kay did her job as she is now in my TBR pile.
But if anyone needed a primer on marketing, this was it.  Her message was the more you take on, the more the publisher is willing to kick in. You are your brand and your brand is you. Believe in it.
The workshop confirmed many of the things that were said in the Harlequin Digital Workshop and elsewhere -- Social Media is key. If you don't want to do it, maybe you can get a fan to do it. Only do what you are comfortable doing but make sure your website is up to date and there are BUY buttons for all major online bookstores, or at least have the ISBN. There was mention again of exclusive content which is only available from your website.
Don't waste time on bookmarks -- actually if you happened into the goody room on the Saturday afternoon, you'd see why. All books gone. All pens gone. A ton of paper left behind.
But you can also do things locally such as reaching out to local bookstores and libraries. Give workshops and reach out to reading groups. (Which reminds me -- I need to update my website and add the workshops etc that I am doing in the next few months...)
Stuart Krichesky mentioned the book Tribes by Seth Godwin and the importance of building communities. (Acutally I've read Seth Godwin's blog for years so I felt smug.) Krichesky also gave some pointers on twitter and how to use it. This tallied closely with the Digital workshop that Malle Vallik and Jenny Bullough gave on the subject. Twitter can be used as a listening station to see what others are talking about, it should be used generously and not as a hard sell. It is another way to engage readers. You should also use the search function and you should look at things that interest you.
The handout contains 10 things that an author can do and shouldn't expect the publisher or publicist to do for them but the most important thing is to use your time wisely. The Book must be done FIRST. It is only through having something to sell that you can get a return on the investment.
Anyway, it was a thoroughly useful workshop and one which was open to everyone. It is also why it pays to go through the workshop list beforehand and see what appeals.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

RWA -- The PAN workshops/retreat

One very big reason to go to the RWA National conference is the Published Author Network retreat and workshops. These workshops are not recorded and the only people who can attend are PAN members. The lists of the workshops are in your packet or in the PAN section of the RWA site. PRO members have their own track. The keynote speaker for PRO was Donald Maass so I was a bit miffed that I couldn't go.
For PAN, the keynote speaker was Lou Aronica who served as deputy publisher at Bantam before becoming the publisher at Berkley and Avon. He is now a NYT best seller in his own right and knows the industry.
He basically spoke about an industry in flux. There are real problems for bricks and mortar stores as people choose to buy books more and more online either from online bookstores such as Amazon or as ebooks. This has significantly reduced footfall in stores. It has also led to the large chains not ordering as many copies, but being quicker to reorder should the need arise.
The big problem for publishers is that there is currently no mechanism that allows the consumer to browse in the same way as they can in a bookstore. The consumer can not be caught by a random book on the shelf above the author they were looking for example. Publishers are having to learn to become business to consumer rather than business to business companies. (It was at this point I started to check off his prescriptions against what Harlequin already does and was pleasantly surprised at how much Harlequin was already doing.) Harlequin has been not only a b2b business but a b2c business for a long time. I had to smile when he mentioned that marketing people from P&G do not go to into publishing. Guy Hallowes, the former managing director of HMB was ex-P&G and made a point of hiring people with a small consumer goods background. For example, Mandy Ferguson, the current managing director of HMB has a marketing background in food and is credited with revitalising ryvita. Harlequin also saw the move to digital years ago and has worked hard to support all platforms as well building its own community.
He also pointed out that the move towards digital was accelerating driven by the falling price of e-readers. 8% of total trade is now digital. Romance for comparison is 13% of the total trade market.
Anyway, his big message was that the author must be prepared to do more and that Social Media could help replace some of the browsing experience of a bookstore. Social Media was a theme I heard again and again. Various agents I heard speak mentioned that you should put in your query letters about your Social Media expertise. However, several have cautioned that it is the BOOK that is important.
Aronica pointed out that the industry might be in flux but the romance genre was showing solid returns. I didn't stay for the Q&A as the Harlequin Historical tea was being held.
As with any change, you can either read the sky is falling or see opportunity.

Other PAN workshops I attend were things like what to expect from your agent in the New Age of Publishing with Robert Gottlieb. He really impressed me. And one thing he did say was that your agent (or yourself if unagented) must keep you informed about what is happening in the industry. Education about the business is vital.
However as the Death of the Midlist and Twilight of the Bestseller workshop pointed out -- too much emphasis on doom and gloom may be unwarranted. Both editors from SMP and Battantine/Bantam said that there was no golden age and that they are as eager as ever to grow authors. And they took issue with the title of the workshop. Many authors took several books before they became best sellers. Sometimes as in the case of Dan Brown, it did mean that authors had to be prepared to change publishing house. Ultimately what decided a bestseller was numbers.
Also listed in the PAN bit was the Harlequin Authors Forum which was for Harlequin authors only. Harlequin continued to impress, particularly after I had sat through all these things on social media and the need for authors to be proactive. Harlequin is a business to consumer business and they know their consumer. They are working hard at apps that will simulate more the browing experience in an online bookstore. They are also working hard with bricks and mortar stores to better utilise the power of the Harlequin series consumer. The research about her was very interesting. Basically women who read series read more of everything.

Anyway, I was very impressed with the quality of the workshops and really felt that they were worth attending as they gave me new insight. I had not expected to learn so much in such a short space of time.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

RWA 10 workshops -- Fire into Fiction (Part 2)

As long time readers of this blog will know, ever since Penny Jordan recommended Donald Maass's Writing the Break Out Novel about five years ago, I've been a fan of his work. So I jumped at the opportunity to hear him speak.
Donald Maass does a good workshop. And I now understand how to get people writing in a workshop without having to share or having a piece to work on.
The workshop was on scenes and transformations. It was all about making a flat scene work.
The exercises are in his book Fire into Fiction but they really made sense -- making sure the changes are marked and that you show that things have changed for the POV character. And in order to show, you need to find the point of change.
Equally to bring the character alive you need to think about the character's passions and opinions. When is the protagonist going to scatter the petrol and light the match? What are your character's passions and deeply held beliefs? Also what is it about this world that you have created that makes you angry? What is the question that none is asking? What is the unexpected grace? What is rare and delicate but is overlooked in your world? what is the strongest emotion that your character feels in a scene and what causes it? Details make emotions come alive.
He also pointed out that far too many people sitting in that room would be tempted to email the editor or agent that they had pitched the manuscript without first taking the time and trouble to make sure it was the best it could be.
In short there is always more you can do. Great story telling is the key.
If you have a chance, go and hear him speak. Failing that, buy his books and do the exercises, not simply read about them. They are good.

Monday, August 09, 2010

RWA workshops -- SEP's 6 Magic Words

I will admit to never having read Susan Elizabeth Phillips. This is a failing of mine that I intend to remedy. SEP's workshop really impressed. There is a handout for this workshop, but it is not taped. Despite the early hour of the morning, the workshop was packed and there are reasons why it was packed.
The handout is good but SEP in person is even better. Anyone who can quote Aerosmith that early gets my vote.
Her motto is Dare to Suck.
The 6 Magic Words to creating a Bestseller -- Keep the Reader in the Story.
Simple to say but hard to do.
Basically you are trying to create a compelling read, not a perfect one.
Her process sounds as chaotic as mine so I thought her idea of reading scenes after the first draft is completed to check on emotional growth was a good one. First read the heroine scenes, then the hero's. Finally read for the progress of the relationship.
Write to your strengths, and not just to the market. And remember it is what works for you, not what works for anyone else.
It is really all about keeping the reader in the story and creating compelling characters.
Unfortunately, I was exhausted by the end of the day and did not attend the Secrets of the BestSelling Sisterhood with JAK and SEP. I suspect it was wonderful.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Workshops I attended at the RWA -- Unusual Historical

One of my fave workshops was the panel on Unusual Historical organised by my friend Carrie Lofty. Carrie has been a big moving factor behind upping the profile of historicals that are a little bit different. She is the main mover and driver behind the blog Unusual Historical for instance.

With this panel she assembled agent Kevan Lyon, Asian writer Jade Lee, paranormal historical writer Zoe Archer, and the winner of this year's Rita, Sherry Thomas as well as herself to answer questions. She also allowed me to give some input on the HH side of things as I have direct experience with them.

The turn out was average. It was late on Friday and the workshop was competing with the Harlequin series spotlight, several talks with agents about rejections and launching careers plus a PAN presentation by four booksellers. So it was great to see people there.

The good news is that UH is loosening. Berkley has bought Roman, Pocket has bought Carrie's Victorian set in South Africa, Avon has bought a Regency set in the Ottoman Empire. HH has bought Asian --Tang Dynasty (Jeannie Lin) and Medieval Japan (Ashley Grayson). HH particularly with its Undone is looking for new settings or new twists on old settings.

The bad news is that the bar is still set very high indeed. The unusualness of the setting must be off set by something. So make sure that your characters work very hard and the romance is top notch. Make sure that one of your characters is English. Maybe consider having them go back to England. Think about ways in which to get your reader hooked. When pitching, you might mention the setting at the end rather than at the beginning. Also if pitching something in a crowded field, think what is going to make your book stand out from the crowd.

There was a little discussion about research and how you go about it. Google Earth was mentioned. Anyone who knows me knows I love to go on book research expeditions. Also the growing genre of paranormal historical was touched on. Zoe Archer has a really exciting four book series coming out in the autumn.

The panelists did a good job. If you missed the workshop, I believe it was taped.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Top tips from the RWA conference

I learnt many things at the RWA conference in Orlando.

1. Always carry your business cards, even when you think you won't need them any more. While waiting for the shuttle bus, I encountered the editor in chief of Ellora's Cave who had the good taste to like my parrot earrings (I'm not interested in submitting but it was good to put a face to EC), an author who just sold to Carina and who scribbled down her email on the back of one of my cards and a Superromance author Jennie Watt who used to be in subcare. Luckily I had my cards, but my scrapbook will be short several cards. I am planning on scrap booking my conference! It is a way to use the cards I gathered, and to collate memories of a great time. Also making a scrapbook means it is easier to ask for cards as you are going to do something with them!

2. When sitting waiting for a workshop to begin, talk to people. I did and had some great conversations. Really lovely people go to the RWA conference and they are delighted to talk to you. Stuck for an opener -- ask why they are at the workshop!

3. Know when you hit a wall and rest. Carolyn Jowell had a great tip to bring energy bars. Next time. You hit a wall when the buzz because annoying instead of exciting. If you know you have to be on form for the evening, go back to your room and put your feet up.

4. Investigate the workshops you want to attend before you go and know why you want to go to them. I ended up with one duff workshop (the one I went to on the spur of the moment) but the others were gems. Do not hesitate to walk out before the end.

5. High heels can hurt. Take measured steps. For example, Jannette Kenny told me about moisturising the inside of my sandals BEFORE I put them on. Be prepared to go flat if you go high one day. A supply of blister plasters can help.

6. Be prepared to sit with strangers at breakfast, lunch and dinner. I had some great conversations with people who I never met before including a former librarian of the year and the current bookseller of the year, Gail Link. They were such nice people and really helped to make my conference. Especially Gail who told me where to eat breakfast on the first morning. Her award is so well deserved!

7. Practice your pitch as you might go blank as I did. Luckily the agent was nice and asked for the full. Also remember if you have chosen the right agent, they are going to ask for something IF it is in their field of expertise. They can't tell anything without looking at your work. The agent I pitched to helped me to see that I need to up the sensuality, and that a paranormal romance has a HEA, an urban fantasy doesn't. And be on time for your pitch. They do adhere to the rules. Some woman tried to muscle in on my pitch time. Thankfully the volunteer saw her off. One is polite but there are strict time limits.

8. Seeing and speaking to agents can make you cross them off your list. There were some whom I decided were not right for me. One I knew that I'd had a lucky escape from when I heard the agent speak at a workshop. Others I heard speak and I immediately wanted to produce something good enough for them to want to take me on. There is no one right agent for everyone. I also know far more what I want from an agent.

9. Listen for key words at the conference. Right now -- it is how do you harness Social Media. Several agents I heard speak said to mention your Social Media skills in your query letter. But also the pitfalls of social media were pointed out. Ration your social media time. If your shop window is empty, you can't sell fresh air. The book is the most important thing.

10. Midlist is not dying. There was never a golden age. It is all about producing a great book.

11. Bookmarks and paper products do not move in the goody room. Books do as long as you do not put too many out at one time. Little and often. Carry one or two of your books with you. I had some great conversations with people and gave them my book because they expressed an interest. Hopefully they will enjoy Compromising Miss Milton.

And finally -- go to the RWA National Conference, it just is.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Typing with cats

Heathcliff has decided that he is an edit-cat today. I am forgiven for having dared to go away. Apparently while I was gone, he went and sat on my husband's knee!
Mostly as you can see, he climbs up and leans back against me. But occassionally I can get him to go into the top desk drawer. He got in trouble yesterday when he tried to sharpen his claws on my contract for Valeria and Piso. The contract is about to be posted... But he has decided that he needs attention.
The revisions are basically done but I need to do another read through and make sure that everything is as sharp as I want it to be. I want Robert and Henri's story to be excellent.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Back from the RWA

I am back! My updates etc are on the Pink Heart Society.
I had a marvellous time.
For me, conference was all about meeting people. I loved meeting so many people that I had corresponded with. Everyone seemed to be pretty much as I pictured them.
The Hussies were great. I was so impressed with Blythe Gifford and her glasses as jewelery approach. She also wears turquoise and has this marvellous zest for life combined with a totally practical business like approach. Blythe and Julia Justiss have been to so many conferences and it was a joy and priviledge to sit next to them at the Rita ceremony, not the least to hear about past conferences as pictures flashed up on the screen.
I loved the literacy signing -- feeling part of a huge event and the sitting next to some very nice authors from new author for a small press AT Stratton (Anne) to Blaze superstar Cara Summers and new superromance Liz Tailey. I loved meeting May from Mostly Romance in Taiwan. She gave me the most marvellous totebag that folds up into a strawberry.
Then there was the Harlequin party. It was truly legendary. The music. The company. Seeing Kim Young dance in red shoes. (I was pleased to learn that she was in flats the next day) as I was in awe. I doubt I could have taken three steps with out falling over, let alone dance the way she did.
Seeing Carole Mortimer get her plaque was a highlight. Later, she had some friends around for champagne and it was great to get to know Jenny Hutton better. I was able to listen as she explained to Presents author Kate Hewitt about what they were doing with Presents. The upcoming Wolf continuity sounds GREAT! I also know that I am profoundly grateful that Historical isn't like that (but then I always had difficulty colouring within the lines!)
The breakfast with the Harlequin Hussies was so much fun. It was great to meet some of my favourite authors and to finally see what they looked like!
I could go on and on. Very inspirational.
My favourite workshops were the Harlequin Digital workshop on the Wednesday (they are repeating it next year for Harlequin authors -- a must go!), the Susan Elizabeth Philips on the 6 magic words (I need to read her) and Donald Maas who not only made me think but showed me how one conducts a workshop of that nature.
Even though it was terrifying, I'm glad I pitched to an agent. I now have to revise the full of my paranormal. The agent was very helpful in giving me the difference between paranormal romance and urban fantasy -- if there is a HEA, it is a romance. That is fine.
My editor who does indeed walk on water sent back a few more tweaks to my latest so those need to be done. I promised her that she would get them by Friday. Unfortunately my husband and daughter refused to email me the manuscript so I am starting them today. I might not be around that much until these are done.
I did start the Sinai one and you know when you can feel that something is just going to be good...