A reminder that St. Martins Press is hosting this amazing sweepstakes for Romance Awareness Month! It goes through August 16, 2020, so jump over there to win this awesome collection of romances in a variety of subgenres!
A bit ago on the podcast, I was discussing how “we” – as a culture – tend to give active roles in a story to the male characters. In a story where the male and female protagonists have equivalent roles, or even when the female protagonist has a greater role in the overall story, it tends to get described in terms of the actions he takes. This tends to be unconsciously done, and not intentional – but it IS a reflection of our overall culture and deep programming.
As an example, I mentioned reviewing the catalog copy for THE PROMISED QUEEN. This is book 3 of the Forgotten Empires (THE FIERY CROWN in the sweepstakes is book 2) and for those of you who’ve been reading the trilogy so far, you know that the story is evenly split between Queen Euthalia (Lia) and Conrí (Con). If one of them has more emphasis in my mind, it’s Lia. But when my editor, Jennie Conway, sent me the catalog copy (this is what goes to bookstores for ordering, etc.), the story sounded to me much more like Con’s. Here it is:
Conri, former Crown Prince of Oriel, has claimed the hand that wears the Abiding Ring, but the prophecy hasn’t been fulfilled. He and his bride, Lia, Queen of Calanthe, are safe on her island kingdom – for now. But Calanthe isn’t the haven it once was. Now that blood has been spilled on the island, the truth of Lia’s powers—and her deep connection to Calanthe—will be revealed. As the threat of Emperor Anure intensifies, Conri and Lia will have to put their trust, and love, in each other to stop the emperor once and for all. In the thrilling finale to the Forgotten Empires trilogy, the fate of the world hangs in the balance as Con, Lia, and their allies sacrifice everything to save their kingdoms.
Now, there is a hard limit for characters and spaces, but can you see the subtle ways the copy points to Con having the most active role? One flag is the reference to “He and his bride.” Why doesn’t it start with Lia and mention her consort? Then Lia’s powers are revealed – but it doesn’t sound like she has anything to do with that. So, I revised it to read:
Conrí, former Crown Prince of Oriel, claimed the hand that wears the Abiding Ring, but the prophecy remains unfulfilled. Queen Euthalia of Calanthe returned to her island kingdom, but broken in mind and body. With the blood of war unleashing ancient terrors, Calanthe isn’t the haven it once was. Lia must use her magical bond with Calanthe to save their people while Con fights to hold off the vengeful Emperor Anure and his wizards. Con and Lia will have to trust in each other—and in love—to fend off ultimate disaster. In the thrilling finale to the Forgotten Empires trilogy, the fate of the world hangs in the balance as Con, Lia, and their allies sacrifice everything in a final bid to destroy the corrupt empire.
See how I gave both characters equal weight in the actions of the story? Editor Jennie loved this version – and I’m so appreciative that she gives me the opportunity to make these changes. I think if we all become more aware of these unconscious biases, we can begin to rid ourselves of the programming that created them.
Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is “Choosing your freedom – Traditional or Self-Publishing?” We’ve been asked which freedom we picked: the freedom to write without getting into the business side or the freedom to control it all? I bet you know what my answer is…
We’ve been on a long road trip this last week, seeing all kinds of family. And leaving the cats behind, like the monsters we are. Here is Jackson showing off his best Pitiful Abandoned Kitty face.
Thus, I’m late posting today. But so it goes!
I’ve shared this news elsewhere, but I’m happy to share again here! Many of you have asked what I’m up to with various writing projects, including a few delayed ones. (Yes, the next Sorcerous Moons books are coming – I promise!) Basically what happened is that I changed agents back in February/March. And then I worked up something entirely fresh for New Agent Sarah Younger. Basically I gave her a list of ideas, we debated them, and I wrote 100 pages of one of her top three choices – the one I loved best. We went back and forth on it with several revisions. That’s a great benefit of working with an agent as sharp as Sarah. She gave me great feedback on the book, tightening it up and making it the best it could be. Basically we spent three months working on this.
Which meant I kept setting aside other writing projects to work on the next round of THRONE OF FLOWERS, THRONE OF ASH. Thus my entire schedule getting delayed and shuffled. The beautiful part is, when Sarah took this out on submission, we had tons of interest, multiple offers, and a sale two weeks later. And here it is!!
These books won’t start coming out until 2019, so now I can go back to a regular schedule. Which absolutely means finishing both the Sorcerous Moons and Missed Connections series. The other thing that happened is that Kensington, who published my Twelve Kingdoms and Uncharted Realms books, started up a new SFF (Science Fiction and Fantasy) imprint. They wanted to publish THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE, but that would have delayed its release until March of 2018 and I knew you all would have fits. (See? I do love you and want you to be happy. I really do!)
So, we said no on that, but they really wanted me to be part of this new imprint, so we settled on me writing a trilogy for them set in the Twelve Kingdoms world. It will be high fantasy, which means less of a romance arc. BUT, I’m pretty sure it will be Jenna’s story. For those of you who know what that means! We finished talking about that right before the other submission, so that got announced at the same time.
All that taken care of, our topic this week is Scrapbooking—taking stories from real life as the springboard for your stories and subplots. Come on over to get my take on blender settings.
I’ll get to that.
Friday dawned with me hustling to hear Susan Elizabeth Phillips workshop on the Six Secrets of Being a Bestselling Writer. I’ve heard her speak before and she’s dynamic, inspirational and spot on. I tweeted a lot of her workshop, which turns out to be useful because it’s almost like I took notes.
She says that a bestseller is first and foremost compelling. The six magic words are: Keep the Reader in the Story.
1st tip to keep the reader in the story: Craft. Bad craft pulls the reader out of the story. Good craft won’t guarantee a compelling story, but bad craft is certain to ruin it.
2nd tip: Characterization. Write characters the reader can’t bear to be parted from. In popular fiction, characters should be larger than life. As opposed to literary fiction, where characters are frequently the average or smaller than life person.
3rd tip: Have a believable plot. Don’t manipulate your characters just to advance the plot. The plot should aid how the characters change. Characters should be capable of doing something at the end of the book that they couldn’t do at the beginning.
4th tip: Keep the pages turning. Create a fast-moving plot to keep the reader in the story. The secret? Cut out the boring parts! The boring parts are usually backstory, description and research you love.
That’s the nuts and bolts. She said a lot more, but that’s the gold. Sounds like simple advice, but the hard part is following it.
I popped in on the St. Martin’s Press spotlight. Editors Jennifer Enderlin, Monique Patterson, and Rose Hilliard spoke. They were a breath of fresh air. They talked about how much they love writers and books. They refused to talk about what’s hot or not because trends are irrelevant. They want good stories. Interestingly, they also said they don’t make acquisition decisions by committee. It’s up to the individual editor.
In a serendipitous turn of events, I ran into Cynthia Eden and her fabulous agent, Laura Bradford, on the way to lunch. We scored a table directly behind the one reserved for the RWA Board of Directors and so had a great view of Jayne Ann Krentz for her lecture. She also writes as Jane Castle and Amanda Quick. While we ate, Laura told us an interesting story about how she’d tweeted “If you did decide to go w/ another agent, I would appreciate it if you would sell yr ms RIGHT AWAY, so I can have closure on my bitterness.” Followed by “Seeing news of your giant 7 figure deal helps me with my healing process.” A blogger tore her up about it, thinking she was insincere. It was a great insight into the agent’s world.
Jayne talked about her multiple pen names and reinventing yourself as a writer. Not many know that she invented the Amanda Quick name because she’d had several poorly received books under Jayne Ann Krentz. She’d become unsellable by trying to do paranormal romance before its time. She didn’t give up at that point, but reinvented herself as a historical author. Great testament to persistence.
That afternoon, I pitched to an agent and an editor. For those who have never seen the Great Hall of Pitching at an RWA National Convention, this is what it looks like. The people in front are queued up to check in. The rows of tables behind them contain an agent or editor on one side and a hopeful writer on the other. The cavernous room is filled with hush and angst.
My agent pitch did not go well at all. She glazed over immediately. Actually I think we just didn’t click with each other. I would say she hated me on sight, but that would be overly dramatic. The editor loved the sound of The Body Gift and requested a partial and a synopsis (which I now have to write -erf). Technically the agent requested, too, which was courteous of her. However, one of the great benefits of face-to-face pitching is getting a feel for each other. Even if my manuscript excited this agent, I don’t think we’d enjoy working together.
But then it was party time! FFP’s Gathering came off in a splendid way. Thanks and love to everyone who helped and didn’t mind me racing around like a mindless ninny. There’s the wrap-up of the costume contest, with our three celebrity judges conferring behind, from left to right, Chris Keesler, editor at Dorchester Books, writer Cynthia Eden and Lindsey Faber, managing editor at Samhain Publishing.
We stayed up way too late after the party, having drinks and talking. I particularly enjoyed hanging with Laura Bickle and Linda Robertson. Terrific writers and very supportive gals. They didn’t even mind that I wept a little into my martini over the lackluster agent encounter.
Saturday I spent by the pool. I hadn’t really played much during the conference. People kept asking me if I’d seen the sights and I kept saying, um, no, but it’s a pretty hotel!
One really lovely thing, an editor friend sent me a note about the lackluster agent encounter offering me a list of agents she likes and permission to name-drop her, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy.
By the time Linda, Allison and Laura suggested that we bail on the Rita and Golden Heart awards ceremony and hit the Magic Kingdom instead, I was all for it. (And no, I did not get the khaki pants memo – but at least I’m not in the picture.) We had a great time wandering around, being kids and not industry professionals.
And Space Mountain was just as fabulous a ride as I remembered.