Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Romancing the Workshop

So on Friday I decided to buckle down and get working on the 1794 revision, instead of starting a new short. I added more showing to the first few pages where some colleagues had suggested it…and then promptly set it aside and wrote 1200 words of backstory and world-building for the shiny cyberpunky story I thought of last week. Which at least felt really good and got it out of my system somewhat.

On Saturday I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a workshop with Ann Voss Peterson on Keeping the Romance in Your Romance Novel. This was fabulously useful, and if you ever get a chance to take one of Ann's workshops I would highly recommend you do so.

One thing that was really refreshing is that Ann mentioned that she's always had an easy time with the suspense and action, but a hard time with the romance. I feel the same way, as some of you may have guessed. I tend to write romances where the romantic conflict comes from the outside, rather than conflict between the characters involved in the romance. ("When in Rome" and "Encore" being exceptions to this, which is perhaps why I think those are two of my better short stories.) I think part of this is due to the fact I have spent most of my adult life trying to avoid drama, and I've always rather viewed a lot of romantic conflict as pure drama. What I loved about Ann's workshop was that the romantic conflict she espouses comes from real believable fears and needs, not from misunderstanding or angst or the fact that people have unrealistic expectations.

1794 has suffered from a lack of romantic conflict, which I knew but wasn't quite sure how to fix. Part of that was sheer laziness on my part—I didn't want to have to make these characters hem and haw over things that I thought would logically not be that big a deal. But once I started thinking about each character's deeper emotional fears and needs, I started to see places where I could add more interpersonal conflict both romantically and plot-wise without making my characters mopey whiney curs. Hooray!

In short, it was a very well-timed workshop and I'm excited about working on the story again, rather than looking at it as a chore. Thanks Ann!

Friday, June 25, 2010

100 Words About: Progress

So out of the four things I wanted to do this week, I finished "Succor" and sent it to my writing group, which meets in two weeks, and I found the market I want to send "No Regrets" to, but it doesn't open for submissions until next week, so I haven't actually submitted it yet.

I'm hoping to do some research for Encore today, but I don't really have any plans to work on 1794 today. I'm planning on putting in some work on a new short story for an anthology that closes next month instead. I've spent half the morning plotting and planning in my head so that when I sit down to write I can just go.

I also have to walk the dog, do laundry, do dishes, buy a ham, and I should balance the checkbook. Ugh. Is that any way to spend a day off?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Happy Summer!

We're pseudo-officially halfway through the year, so I thought I'd stop and take a look back at the first six months of 2010.

So far this year I've had one short story published in an ezine (Pit Stop), two published in electronic anthologies (Set in Stone, Encore), and one in a print anthology (The Sub Fairy). Another print anthology is due out any day now (A Kiss Before Coffee). So assuming Rendezvous releases this month I'm only one story shy of the goal I set last January. Not too bad considering one of my markets dried up and may or may not be coming back.

I have six stories out on submission right now, but four are reprints and I don't know how that's going to go. I've only had three rejections, but frankly that's probably because I'm not sending enough new stuff out.

As for the second half of 2010, the only release I currently have scheduled is the print edition of Hungry For Your Love: An Anthology of Zombie Romance, which is coming from St. Martin's around Halloween.

I have not been writing as much as I should be, and I'm not entirely sure why that is. Yes, I have a day job again, but I've had a day job for eight months now. When I can settle my rear in the chair for a few hours at a time I can still be pretty productive, but getting my butt in said chair has been a bigger struggle than I expected. I still haven't started a new novel and haven't revised 1794 since the last rejection. Yes, I've written three or four short stories, and started a couple others, but I'm stalling, and I know it. The shorts have done what I needed them to do. I need to get rolling on a new long project.

Part of me would love to expand Encore, but part of me is afraid I'm not ready to write that story yet. That's a seriously relationship-heavy story, and it's going to present a whole host of challenges for me. I want to do justice to these characters and this story.

It doesn't help that I keep getting more ideas. I know, it seems like that shouldn't be something to complain about, but the problem with ideas is that the new ones are always shinier. Short stories let me play with the shiny new toys almost as soon as I think of them—with a longer WIP, I'm going to have to commit. I just this weekend thought of a new story that I really really want to get started on…but do I put off the Encore expansion for it, when Encore is the one story people have actually requested more of? And shouldn't I finish 1794 first, since it's so close to being done? Or do I (gasp!) actually try to have more than one project going at a time?

So here's my plan for this week: Finish "Succor the Child" and get it sent out to the writing group I just joined, get "No Regrets" submitted, do more research for the Encore expansion, and get started on the 1794 revision. I'll let you know how I'm doing with all that on Friday.

Friday, June 18, 2010

100 Words About: Podcasts

I've been listening to a lot of podcasts lately at work. My job allows us to listen to headphones as long as we still answer the phone when it rings. I had been listening to audiobooks and lectures from the Teaching Company, but this week it's been mostly podcasts. My current favorite is The Reading and Writing Podcast, and I'm almost through all of the old episodes. It's nothing but interviews with authors about how they got started and what their experiences have been, the tools they use, and their thoughts on publishing.

This is very nice for me, because I've had a really hard time trying to balance writing with keeping up with the publishing industry and learning more about my craft. If I have an hour to myself once I get home, I'd rather spend it writing than spend it reading blogs, which is often what happens. Gods help my writing time once I finally get on Twitter.

What podcasts do you listen to?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Happily Ever After

Most of my erotica markets are in romance, so romance is what I write, although some of my stories are more erotic than romantic, and some are the other way around. For me, the difference between romantic erotica and erotic romance is defined by where the emphasis lies. In erotica, the emphasis is on the sensuality and the sex; in romance, the relationship is the important part.

But the one thing every romance publisher wants is a happy ending.

There are two types of happy endings, according to the industry: Happily Ever After (abbreviated HEA) and Happily For Now (HFN).

I don't believe in Happily Ever After.

I'm sure I must have at one point. I loved Disney and fairy tales as much as the next girl, tomboy or no. But looking back, unless the narrative summarized the rest of the characters' lives together, I've always had the sense that the hero and heroine go on to have lives—and lives contain both happiness and sadness.

I discovered the phrase "call no man olbios who is not dead" while listening to a Teaching Company lecture on Herodotus (who attributes it to Solon), and it perfectly solidified everything I've always felt about "endings." I'd first heard the usual English translation "call no man happy who is not dead" as a child, watching the movie Clash of the Titans. In the movie, Ammon seems to imply that those who are going around saying "call no man happy who is not dead" mean that the only happy people are dead people, and all living people are miserable. But what the phrase originally meant was that you couldn't judge how olbios someone was, couldn't judge how happy or fortunate his life had been, until that life was over. Only when we are dead can the full shape of our lives be seen.

Since most stories stop with the end of the plot arc, and usually do not include a brief summary of the rest of their lives, I've never been able to assume the HEA. I find HFN endings to be much more realistic.

Interestingly, Clash of the Titans has a HEA—Zeus basically commands that Perseus and Andromeda be rewarded with happiness and prosperity. My favorite book, The Blue Sword, also has a HEA, at least in my opinion; the characters' future lives are touched upon, and you are left with the sense that all will be well. I don't object to that at all; in fact, I find it uplifting and satisfying, when it's done right.

The problem is that most modern romance doesn't do that bit of sum-up, but still wants to call itself HEA. I don't buy it. Show me that they stayed together happily for the rest of their days. Otherwise, I'm going to assume that they have to put up with the same tragedy and heartache that the rest of us do. I'm going to assume that they'll have to work to keep their relationship healthy, because that's how it is in real life, thank you.

It's one of the reasons I love the musical Into the Woods. If you're a total romance nut, you should still go see the show—just leave at intermission because the second half is all about what happens after Act One's HEA. Turns out it wasn't an HEA at all, and the stories are much more touching and poignant because of it.

Friday, June 11, 2010

100 Words About: Interns

It's day three of intern training. One I trained from the start, the other was trained on his first day by my coworker. It'll be interesting to see how they shape up.

This is the first job where I've had interns around, and it's definitely interesting. The usefulness of having mooks to order around is offset by the fact that they usually just aren't as good or as thorough as regular employees. (This, of course, varies from intern to intern.)

One problem is getting them to check things off. I have little hope of getting my coworkers to adopt a checklist, but I'm hoping to instill it in the interns from the beginning, since habits are hard to break once set. Checking things off on the form as you go means you're less likely to forget a step or lose your place when
(not if) you're interrupted.

(Yes, I loved The Checklist Manifesto.)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

But, I Finally Had a Use for That!

I'm running out of ideas for Tuesday Tips. Not that there aren't things I could talk about, but honestly most of them are talked about elsewhere much better and with more authority, so as I encounter interesting things in my publishing adventures I will continue to Tip them, but I won't stretch your patience by summarizing Strunk and White, for example. (You writerly type have read The Elements of Style, right? Right?)

Of course, if you have a question or a subject you'd like me to blog about, leave a comment or drop me a line at mercy.loomis@gmail.com.

So right now I'm currently driving myself insane trying to find this belt. It's originally from the 80's--I know, because I bought one then, although not this exact one. The one I got in the 80's I turned into a Middle Eastern Dance coin belt, but then I found another one for cheap. I picked it up expecting it to follow the same fate as the first, but then never bothered. As I am a pack rat, I keep everything.

Ten plus years later I have a use for this belt. I want to turn it into a man's heavy neck chain for a costume. Only now I can't find the belt. It's not with my coin belts, it's not with my coin-jewelry supplies, it's not with my other jewelry, it's not in the box of miscellaneous costume bits. It's not in my I'll-stash-it-here-for-now drawer. I'm starting to think I might (gasp!) have dropped it off at St. Vinnie's during one of my rare decluttering binges.

Dammit. I had a use for that! (Which, as any pack rat or person who has lived with a pack rat knows, is the exact reasoning which results in pack-rattedness in the first place.)

Of course, I'll probably find the belt next week--after I no longer need it.

Friday, June 4, 2010

100 Words About: Reading

Too many books, not enough time. I have two stacks three feet high of books to read, and I keep picking up more. I'm seriously considering an Audible membership so I can listen to books on the way to work. (They take forever to become available at the library.) I'm already trying to find more time so I can go to the gym and write every day—where will I fit in my reading? How do you balance it all, dear readers? Leave a comment and let me know!

Image: Felixco, Inc. / FreeDigitalPhotos.net