Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Getting there

I've been writing all day, trying to make a self-imposed goal of writing 30 pages before Saturday. My hands ache from typing, but I am three pages from making it. When I do, I will have the first third of my next book finished. The first draft of the book, anyway. And in case you missed it, it is a sequel to "A Question of Boundaries" called (so far) "A Question of Trust."

I can't tell you the release date for "Boundaries" yet, but hope it won't be too far in the future. Meanwhile, here's a scene in which Caroline has her first ride in a steam carriage.

     Caroline couldn’t help staring. The vehicle looked like a steamcab, but instead of the bright red and yellow paint that proclaimed a vehicle for hire, this was larger and was black with silver trim. The seats were of polished leather and as she sat down Caroline noted they also were more comfortable. Steam was vented from a pipe under the rear chassis, where the boiler was located, but the hod for the coal was in the front, giving balance to the whole.
     “What do you call this?” she asked.
     “A steam carriage. There haven’t been too many manufactured yet. I was lucky to get one of the first ones available. While steamcabs are limited to city streets, this one can go much farther. And faster.” He reached under the front seat and pulled out two pairs of goggles, which he handed to his passengers. “You will need these,” he said.
     The women buckled the leather straps behind their heads and then replaced their hats. Nathan had also donned a pair of goggles and with a lurch, they were in motion.
     The steam carriage could go no faster than the traffic around it, but when they reached less populated streets, it took on a speed that was both frightening and exhilarating. Caroline guessed they were traveling at least as fast as a railway train. She pressed a hand to her hat to keep it from flying away. Tabby had a firm grip on her shawl, which threatened to take off like a kite.
     “If the roads were better, I could go much faster than this,” Nathan yelled over his shoulder.
Caroline didn’t catch every word, but she understood enough. “Goodness, how could we go any faster?” she gasped, tightening her hold on the armrest as they juddered and bumped along the cobblestone streets.
     “I’m going to be black and blue,” Tabby said into her ear. “I won’t be able to sit down for a month.”
     Nodding her agreement, Caroline was relieved when the steam carriage slowed to a halt by an open field. Nathan hopped out and handed them down. “I hope you aren’t too discombobulated,” he said. “The springs are supposed to ease the jostling.”
      “I suppose it would have been worse without springs,” Caroline said, refraining from rubbing her bottom.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

One at a time

Not "Once upon a time...," that honored opening to a story. But one at a time.

I've been asked did I ever find a publisher for "Wherever You May Be" and what ever happened to "Riverbend."  You may picture manuscripts in your mind as 1) on hiatus and 2) in a full body cast.

The truth is, while waiting for my first round of edits "A Question of Boundaries" from Astraea Press, I have started a sequel call "A Question of Trust." And started. And started.

Truth is, I can't seem to get past the first five chapters. Which isn't a bad thing, it's just that I want it to be the best writing  I can muster, and I keep seeing things I need to improve -- especially after the round of workshops I took in the past few weeks. But I did make a public goal at the April meeting of the Carolina Romance Writers that I would complete two new chapters by the May meeting. That's at least 30 pages, so I need to get busy.

As for my minister friend and his divided congregation (WYMB), I'm still looking for a publisher who will take on a story that isn't exactly a Christian book (i.e., with a message and lots of Bible quotes)  but a story about how hard it is to be a Christian sometimes. I'm still looking, but sort of have it on the back burner right now.

"Riverbend" needs a lot of editing, if I am to believe the rejection/critique I got after my last submission. It really hurt, but after eating a quart of ice cream and venting to my long-suffering husband, I realized there was a lot of truth in what the submissions editor said. I have plans for a revision that will make the story more believable, but...

One thing at a time.

Meanwhile, here is a snippet from "A Question of Boundaries."

     Caroline woke with a start when Mrs. Porter called her name and the newspaper fell to floor in a flurry of sheets.
     “I’m sorry I woke you, Miss. A gentleman is at the door asking for you.”
     “Oh. Have him come in, then.”
     “He says he can’t.” She made disgusted face. “Says he stepped in something nasty in the street and he didn’t want to track it inside.”
     Caroline stood and hopped a little on a foot that had gone to sleep. Trying to ignore the pins-and-needles sensation, she limped to the door.
     A man with graying muttonchops and balding head stood before her. He looked the very illustration of someone’s kindly grandfather. “Miss Featherstone?”
     “I have come with word of your father.” His eyes twinkled as if he had very good news to impart.
     “Father? Is he well? Where is he?”
     “He is very well, and he is waiting for you outside.” He stepped aside and indicated a waiting brougham.
     Caroline let out a happy laugh and ran toward the vehicle. The man followed her, but when she turned, bewildered at the carriage’s empty interior, his grandfatherly expression had disappeared.
     “Get inside,” he ordered, and for the second time that day, Caroline faced a weapon. The difference was this one was a derringer. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Conflict, the heartbeat of story

White waiting for the first round of edits on "Boundaries," I've been attempting to start a sequel.

I say "starting" because I haven't gotten past the first five chapters. I wrote them because I had to have five chapters to participate in a master workshop three weeks ago. Then I rewrote them using the information I learned there.

The next week I went to another workshop and learned even more. And rewrote again, looking for passages that had passive rather than active voice. It's an easy trap to fall into.

Yesterday I started chapter six, feeling I had a handle on the plot, but still knew deep inside something was missing. Then I read a post by a fellow writer that led me to an eye-opening article. Yes, I'd heard the same advice at both workshops, but it hadn't sunk in. Now it did.

The advice was this: if your character doesn't have an internal conflict that she has to solve by the end of the story, you haven't got a story.

Caroline and Nathan have to solve a political puzzle, and encounter danger along the way.  But combating physical dangers from both nature and man doesn't tell us much about the characters unless it shows us why their internal conflicts influence how they solve the outer conflicts (such as "am I going to live through this?")

Now Nathan has an internal conflict. He has to choose between loyalty to his sovereign or his wife. So I can see how his decisions would be based on whether or not he can tell Caroline what he is  up to. (Not that she doesn't guess anyway!)

To get to Caroline's conflict, I had to go back to "Boundaries." She has led a sheltered life and naively thinks she can find her missing father by asking assistance from the only person she knows who lives in Washington, her local member of parliament. But surprise follows surprise, and Caroline soon learns the world is not as safe or dull as she thought it was. When faced with returning to her former existence, she uses the confidence she has gained and grabs at a chance for a different future.

So I thought: what if Caroline sees that the life of adventure she shares with Nathan, traveling to foreign lands and discovering new customs, may be cut short by circumstances she both welcomes and dreads. She doesn't want to go back to her former life of dutiful daughter (now dutiful wife) and stay home while her husband has all the adventures she has come to crave. So she is torn between what she wants and what she knows she must do.

Now I just have to figure out the answer.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My "Sunday book"

Like most writers (I suspect) I subscribe to several magazine on--writing. One is the Romance Writers Report from Romance Writers of America. Every month it is chock-full of articles on every aspect of writing. I usually sit down and read it cover to cover as soon as it arrives.

This month there was an article by Holly Jacobs entitled "Sunday Books." These are the books she writes on Sunday afternoons. The rest of the week is devoted to the books she has under contract or is editing. Books, she says "...with publisher/line's requirements and editorial requests in mind." She is a professional "nose-to-the-grindstone" writer.

But on Sunday afternoons she writes the book that doesn't meet any demands or requirements. She writes the book she has had in her head and wants to come out. Maybe it will find a home. Maybe it will stay under the bed with the dust bunnies. She doesn't care.

I recognized myself in the article. "A Question of Boundaries" is my Sunday afternoon book. I wrote it because it was fun. I enjoyed creating the characters and the crazy twists and turns of the plot. I loved giving ordinary people extraordinary powers.

I wasn't writing with the eye to getting it published, although I did send it out a few times. No one was more surprised and happy than I when my Sunday book found a  home at Astrea Press.

It is totally different from "Angels Unaware," "The Lunch Club, or "The Almost Bride." And yet it isn't. It's still about a woman discovering her own strengths and finding love along the way.

Click here to read an excerpt. I hope it intrigues you!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Never too much

Do you ever feel as if you've taken on just a wee bit too much?

I don't know how it happens, but periodically I look up and find I've committed far more time than I have to spare.

But it's all good. I'm not complaining. It's just that things seem to come in bunches. Like when you wish for rain during a dry spell, and then when it rains, it doesn't seem to stop. Rain every day.

Through it all, the workshops and conferences and meetings, and the push and pull of daily life, I've tried to find time for writing. I was five chapters into my next novel when I attended a master workshop last Saturday. Since then, I've been re-writing every page to reflect the things I learned.

It's been difficult and exhilarating, not unlike climbing a mountain. I can't say I've reached the top, only that I''m trying my best to get there.

I wonder if any writer just sits down and lets the words pour out. I suspect most of them, like me, struggle to put the wordflow into the best possible order, and that only after much rearranging and shuffling via "cut and paste." And lots of hitting the erase key.

I'm not wishing I hadn't signed up for all these workshops and conferences, because every one has taught me something new and added to my small store of skills.

So I guess I should confess although I may be overcommitted,  I'm not overwhelmed.

 I'm sitting here singing in the rain.