Tag Archives: Editors

The subjectivity of writing.

It never ceases to amaze me how SUBJECTIVE writing can be. Case in point: contest judging reports and scores.

I have entered my fair share of romance contests, basically because it is an easy way to get your work in front of industry people. And hey, if they like it, you may not only win, but get a call from a publisher. This is what happened to me and why my first romance novel will be coming up for sale soon. But more about that in a later blog.

Recently, I was a finalist in a major writing competition. Major. Which was thrilling enough. Now, I didn’t win, which is fine, but when I got my scores back it almost looked like two different entries were judged. One score was a solid A, the second barely a C.

Same piece of writing.

The comments on the score sheets were diametrically opposed as well, with one person telling me how they were engaged from the first paragraph, the second stating I spent too much time on backstory ( 1 Paragraph!) and my characters were wooden. Reader one told me the characters and dialogue were life-like. Reader two wrote that I needed to listen to how people spoke in real life to get a better feel for dialogue.

Crazy!

I wonder if this abject subjectivity is  one of the reasons so many novelists are self publishing these days. I’ve read some AMAZING self published books and wondered why in heck they weren’t represented by a major 5 house. I’ve also read some terrrrrrrrrible self pub’d books and known why they weren’t.

That subjectivity is mine, I realize that, but I cross genres in romance. I like to read Regency, Paranormal, Contemporary and Suspense. If the story is sound, the plot captivating and the characters relatable, it shouldn’t matter what the genre is, if the book is good.

So, back to the contest scores.

I’m done entering contests for now. I need to devote myself to the edits that are coming my way from my publisher and editor ( and don’t I love saying that!). But for all the writers who are still entering contests in the hopes of capturing a publisher’s or and editor’s eye – DON’T STOP. Even though subjectivity may abound, if the overall scores are consistent and the critiques worthwhile, this is a valuable way to get your work seen and to receive – usually – valid feedback.

I’m still wondering if my scores were mixed up. Oh well.

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I am not a slut….

I was trudging through the Internet today and reading article after article on why women love romance novels. I was trying to find a universal theme amongst the articles – all written from 2010 until the present.  Some of the pieces were titled, “ Why do contemporary women read old fashioned romance novels? “ and “Why smart women read romance novels,” and “How much do romance novels reflect women’s desires.” Spiffy, if trite and annoying titles, eh? Every article I read – and baby where there plenty – started with what I considered a derogatory opening along the lines that reading romance novels made women either : a. dumb, b. sluts, c. stupid or d. naïve.

It hasn’t been a very happy reading day in my writing loft.

I really couldn’t come up with one universal theme that would either tie the articles together along a logical line of thought, or give credence to the assertions that women who read romance are not the brightest bulbs in the box.

In other words, I felt they had no empirical data, just a lot of suppositions and theories that I didn’t agree with.

Okay. I strongly disagreed with them.

The industry of romance books does over a billion dollars a year. That’s billion with a capital B. Romance readers are loyal. They buy their favorite authors consistently, recommend books to other reads, and write reviews. When you are selling a product, what is the one thing you hope to capture with each and every sale? BUYER LOYALTY. Or in this case, READER LOYALTY. And romance readers are loyal. In spades.

If an author gives the book buying-romance reading public what it wants, they will come back time and time again for the new products (books) related to that brand ( author.)

I’ve mentioned numerous times before why I personally love reading romance novels. I simply love a good story about two people who find each other, despite what ever trials, turmoils, or disasters come their way, to find their happily ever after. Give me that book, with the characters sound and the plot believable, and you’ve got me as a reader for the length of your book-writing career.

And I’m not the only one who feels this way. Whenever a writer can actually make me believe that a fantasy can come true, I’m in. Totally and completely. And again, I’m not alone.

I am a middle aged, highly educated, wealthy and well-spoken professional woman who uses her discretionary dollars to purchase goods she not only needs, but desires as well. I love a good laugh, a mouthwatering piece of chocolate, COACH bags, and romance novels.

So, here’s the truth: I’m not dumb, stupid, naïve or a slut. And yes, I buy romance books. Lots of them.

I also write them. Lots of them.

 

 

 

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How much of YOU is in the stories you write?

I was asked this question a few days ago by a friend. I really think she was fishing to find out if I’d ever put her in a book, but that’s besides the point. The question has some validity if you go by the old rule, write what you know.

Well, who/what do you know best? Yourself, of course.

But let’s face it: I’m really boring. I do not have a fascinating life and the most exciting thing I’ve done this year was to go to the RWA conference in San Antonio.

So, if I wrote what I knew, all my books would be about psychiatric, ophthalmic nurses. Cute and interesting once or twice, but nothing to build a writing career on.

But back to the question: How much of me is in my stories?

I can truthfully say, not a lot. Sometimes I’ll write a line of dialogue or use a phrase that I know gets a response because I’ve used it in real life. Or in my Cook Book series I refer to some of the recipes that are tried and true in my life.

As far as my female characters, none of them is like me at all. I purposefully make sure of that when I create them. They don’t resemble me in any visceral way and most of them are way, way smarter than me. Their internal beliefs and struggles are not mine, either.

If they do bare any resemblance it is in the fact they are all fighters like I am.

My world views, my politics and even my religion are not factors in what I write. I try to balance the character with the setting and the plot. I’ve never written about a chubby, curly haired, not-too-attractive catholic-raised girl who was abandoned by her father and left with a none-too-stable mother and an evil grandmother. If I tried to write that story it might just be the end of me!

I know conventional writing wisdom dictates that every story has a little of the author in it.

I can truly say the only thing of me in my stories is my name in the credits.

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A Visit from Writer Lisa Olech

Today I am so pleased to have  talented writer Lisa Olech as my guest blogger. I met Lisa last year at my first NHRWA meeting, just as her first book PICTURE ME NAKED was being launched. She is a funny, sassy, quick witted gal and writer and it has been my pleasure to get to know her and the characters in her books. Her second novel ROCK SOLID, debuts this month and you can read an excerpt from it at the end of her blog here, along with the links where you can purchase it – and I encourage you to!

Here’s a little about Lisa first.

Lisa A. Olech is an artist/writer living in her dream house nestled among the lakes in New England. She loves getting lost in a steamy book, finding the perfect pair of sexy shoes, and hearing the laughter of her men. Being an estrogen island in a sea of testosterone makes her queen. She believes in ghosts, silver linings, the power of a man in a tuxedo, and happy endings.
          You can find her at: www.lisaolech.com, Facebook: www.facebook.com/Lisa.A.Olech.Writer, Twitter: www.twitter.com/LisaOlech

Author photo (1)

WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

By Lisa A. Olech

Does standing looking over a scenic vista fill you with a deep desire to pick up a paintbrush or a camera? Does the beauty of your lover’s eyes make you long for a pen to capture your feelings in a poem? What inspires you to create?

As an artist as well as an author, I’ve been inspired by a host of things over the years. I’ve created pieces of artwork from a song lyric, a feeling I wish to convey, a lovely face. Sometimes I get an idea for one of my glass projects from just a few words. I’m a very visual person, and images will flash in my mind and take hold until I sketch them or make them a reality.

It is no different with my writing. I get story ideas from everywhere. At times I’ll see a scene in my head, or hear a line of dialogue that sticks with me. I’ve dreamt story lines. Characters speak to me. Yes, there are people in my head all the time! If I’m not insane…then I must be a writer! It’s what moves me to start my stories, to take that small seed of an idea and nurture it until it blooms.

The Stoddard Art School Series began with a smell of all things! I believe I’ve told the story of how we were taking my youngest to visit art colleges and I was brought back to my days of art classes and realized that all art schools have a uniquely distinctive smell. It’s a heady combination of oil paints, wet clay and…inspiration!

I’ve just released the second book in the Stoddard Art School Series. It’s entitled ROCK SOLID. This book was inspired by a name I came across many years ago. An amazing name…MAXIMO VEGA. With a name like that, you need your own story!

MAXIMO VEGA is a “rock” star! The media proclaimed him ‘The Sculptor for the New Generation,’ but he’s a reclusive artist ensnared by fame. Driven and intense, his isolation only adds to his mystique. Couple that with his smoldering good looks and rich Italian accent… Fans sigh his name.

EMILY BASKINS is a gifted graduate student at the Stoddard School of Art. To land an internship at the Vega Studio is her golden ticket. All she has to do is follow the rules. And stay out of trouble. Two things Emily has never been able to do.

As Max becomes trapped in the glare of the limelight, he discovers his greatest muse. He teaches Emily to breathe passion into clay and give marble a soul. But is their fiery relationship as rock solid as they believe? Or will a lie shatter the illusion?

EXCERPT FROM ROCK SOLID

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Maximo Vega gathered his composure. He wore a black T-shirt, gray across the shoulders with dust, worn jeans, and heavy boots under a thick leather apron that reached to his knees. Hanging his head and bracing his hands on his hips, he was a study in frustration. The sleeves of his shirt hugged defined muscles of steely arms. And his hands…they were artist’s hands. Sculptor’s hands. Beaten by stone and scarred by tools. They spoke of years of rugged, blistering work.

He was tall. His shadowed jaw, rigid with anger, cut sharply against the tanned column of his neck. Maximo slapped the chisel on his leathered thigh. “I pay you. You find me good hands! Not idiota!”

“I’m sorry, Maximo. He’s gone. You’ll never have to work with him again.”

“Good.”

The great artist’s gaze slid over Emily. His eyes stopped at the white-knuckled hold she had on the large black portfolio.

He waved a hand toward her. “What are you?”

Emily’s throat slammed shut.

“A new intern possibly,” offered Dante. “She’s here from the Stoddard School of Art.”

Deep brown eyes the color of rich coffee, no cream, speared her beneath frowning brows. He flipped his hand toward the portfolio. “Come. Show me.”

Emily shot a look to Dante. He gave her a tiny nudge, like a parent pushing a frightened child toward Santa’s lap.

“Come, come, come.” He snatched the portfolio from her numb fingers, unzipped it and laid it open across a crowded worktable. He used the rag in his hand to wipe the sweat from his lip as he flipped through photos and sketches of her latest works.

“Nice. Hmm. No.” A nod for this one. A shake of the head for another. “Yes. This one is good. Good.”

He looked away from her sketches and gave her a hard stare before looking down the full length of her and back again in a slow appraisal. Emily released the breath she was holding.

“Let me see your hands.”

She held them out and he grasped her wrists and examined first her palms before turning them over. “Cold,” he said just loud enough for her to hear.

The smell of the heat of his body and the spice of soap drifted past her.

“Nervous.”

He lifted a quick eyebrow. “Good.”

**********

http://www.amazon.com/Rock-Solid-Stoddard-Art-School-ebook/dp/B00NQMUYI2/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1411556802&sr=1-2&keywords=Rock+Solid

 

http://www.wildrosepublishing.com/maincatalog_v151/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=195&products_id=5839

http://www.wildrosepublishing.com/maincatalog_v151/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=191&products_id=5891

 

 

 

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Reading is fundamental and…everything else!

When my daughter was doing the college search several years ago, she was required to write short essays on topics of her choosing, many related to her current lifestyle and family life. My husband and I let her have freedom on this, knowing she was an excellent writer and had a stockpile of stories she could tell. We figured that one or two of them might mention us – after all, we were funding the school she’d eventually get into – and we were prepared to be slightly embarrassed or roll our eyes at how we were depicted from her 17 year old perspective.

To say we were floored when we read the first essay is a totally inadequate statement. We were blow away.

And in the best sense of the word.

The gist of the piece was on reading. She stated that she could never remember a time in her life where she wasn’t (a) surrounded by books, (b) reading books or being read to, and (c) when her parents didn’t have a book in their hands or handy. She wrote the first memories she could conjure were when I would read to her before bed, during the day, anytime she asked, really. She stated unequivocally that her love of reading, writing, the spoken and the written word fell directly from the exposure we afforded her. Since she was planning to major in English in college, this made cosmic sense to me.

From the moment I knew I was pregnant, I read aloud to my daughter. I’m sure people thought I was strange when they would see me, sitting on a park bench, or in a waiting room reading aloud to seemingly no one. But the truth is, she was neonatally conditioned to be a lover of books.

It’s easy to explain where I got my love of reading. I was a latch-key kid from the time I was in second grade. My mother worked full time and she couldn’t afford an after school baby sitter. The safest place for me to go right from school was the local library. And I did. Everyday from second grade until middle school, I spent, on average, 2-3 hours, five days a week for over 7 years. In middle school, when I didn’t really need watching over anymore but could stay home alone after school by myself, I still went to the library most days. I finished every book in the kid’s section and then preceded onto the teen section was I was only 8. Nancy Drew, Trixie Beldon, Jane Austin, and a slew of other characters and authors were my friends, companions, family. I learned most of what I know about social skills and social norms from reading books like “I’m Okay, You’re Okay,” and the like.

Books were everything to me.

And as I got older, their friendship and love grew, as I did, maturing, into new authors, new genres, new escapes.

When I first got married, my husband was not a reader-for-pleasure. He could usually be found, sitting in his chair, devouring a medical journal. I fixed that pretty quickly. I found a book that actually appealed to the both of us and every night, when we got into bed, one of us would read a chapter aloud to the other until the book was completed. I can’t for the life of me tell you what that book was about now – it was a very loooooong time ago – but I do remember the feeling I got every time we started a new chapter.

And hubby felt the same way.

When the book was done, my husband was hooked on pleasure reading. That started his reading journey and now he is never without a book when we travel, at home, or even on long car rides. We now go to local book sales and library fundraisers, searching for new authors and genres. The medical journals still occupy some of his reading time, but not to the extent they did in the beginning of our marriage.

We both passed this love onto our daughter. She is never without something to read, and she is a purist: she likes the actual book, not the Kindle version. She will read on an e-reader, but she, like my hubby, prefers the paper and page.

I am an equal opportunity reader: any form, and time, any day.

It’s no wonder I love to write, since I love to read. Creating my own characters, settings, plots and situations, falls seamlessly from this love of books.

The next time you have to give a child – or even an adult – a birthday gift, thank you gift, or even just a little something to tell them you were thinking of them, consider a book as the present. You’ll never know how just the simple gift of words/plot/characters can change that person’s life forever.

Reading: it’s a good thing.

*** horrible self plug: if you’ve got a few moments, check out Harlequin’s SOYOUTHINKYOUCANWRITE 2014 contest. Here’s the link to my entry. Drop by and give me some love. Thanks. http://www.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com/manuscripts-sytycw-2014/cooking-with-kandy/

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Edits here. Get ‘ya edits…

You know that feeling when you get your first professional edits back from your publisher and they’re not nearly as bad as you thought they were going to be?

Yeah! That’s me. Last night I finally received my first round of edits back from my publisher and, with a shaking hand and a quivering stomach,  I opened the file and prepared myself for an onslaught of changes.

PSYCHE! There were pages and pages with no corrections or changes at all. The pages that had suggestions and corrections were all valid and easily done.

I am so stoked!!!

Off to edit land today. Oh joy, oh bliss! No, really. I AM joyous and I AM blissful about this.

 

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Two Masters, One Passion

My chapter of the Romance Writers Of America group is having a week long challenge on what I call “get the butts in the seats and write.” Every day we are encouraged to record our writing time in minutes and then submit them at the end of the day for a chapter and individual total. Published writer and NHRWA member Lisa Olech,  author of Picture Me Naked  is our motivator and head minute counter. This is the second summer I’ve participated in this challenge and I love it. It really inspires me to find time every day to write – anything and everything.

My actual challenge with this particular writing prompt  is in the finding of spare time on the days I must go to my paying job. I’ve blogged about this time management issue for me before, but I can give actual numbers to the situation with this challenge.

This week, on  three consecutive days, these were my totals : 150 minutes, 675 minutes, 180 minutes. Can you tell which day I didn’t work at my paying job?

This inconsistency has limited me in the amount of pages I can produce on a consistent basis and it can be frustrating. But I think I’ve found a very small light at the end of my tunnel. Because I can’t write the volume I want to write on a predictable time table, what I do write must  be almost perfect the first time around. This time constraint forces me to write tight, write short, and write concise, three things every Editor wants their writers to do on a routine basis. This means that every word must count toward something valid in the scene I’m writing.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve spent this summer re-reading some of the manuals I feel have helped me be a better writer. One of those books is  How to Write Short by Roy Peter Clark. His thoughts and ideas on how to take paragraphs that are filled with superfluous words  and shorten them down to the bare bones of sentences that convey the entire thought wanted, are priceless jewels for writers and is well worth the read.

I’ve used these writing short principles in my daily life as well as my writing life. I teach for a living – no, I’m not standing up in front of a classroom inspiring young minds. As part of my nursing/contact lens job I teach patients daily how to keep their eyes healthy and I instruct them in  the proper care, wear, and cleaning of their ocular devices. I only get so much time per patient, so my instructional style has to be short, concise, and totally explanatory without needing to repeat, reiterate or revise what I’ve said in order for the patient to comprehend it without any confusion. For someone who likes to Tawk as much as I do, this has proven difficult in the past. Not any longer, thanks to Mr. Clark’s instructions.

Today I am not at my paying job but at home, typing away on the laptop. Today I will be able to devote many hours to my  writing passion. The writing loft door is closed, the cellphone is on silent and I’ve disabled all my other social media for a while. It’s my time to write.

Today I hope to set a personal writing record for the challenge. We’ll see….

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The 10 character challenge

A few days  ago I posted a challenge, asking you for the 10 books that changed, or impacted your lives. It’s the character’s time.

List 10 – I don’t care about the male/female split – of your most memorable characters from fiction. They can be villians,  heroes, heroines, secondary characters. I don’t care. Which ones made an impact on you and, briefly, why.

Here are mine in no order.

1. Rhett Bulter.   Gone with the Wind. The original fictional alpha male . When he carries Scarlett up that staircase, oh, Mama!

2. Roarke. the JD Robb In Death Series. Owns the galaxy. Loves Eve Dallas. Survived Every bad thing that ever happened to him. Plus, he’s Irish.

3. Eve Dallas.  the JD Robb In Death Series. The most kick-ass heroine with a tender heart you will ever meet.

4. Laura Ingalls before she was Wilder. The Little House On the Prairie Series. I always wanted to live on the prairie.

5  Elizabeth Bennet. Pride and Prejudice.  It’s so tough being the second, not so attractive sister, but Lizzy did well for herself.

6. Atticus Finch. To Kill a Mockingbird. When I was little, he was the embodiment  of what I  wanted in a father.

7.Madeline. The Madeline books by Ludwig Bemelman because really, she lived in Paris! In a convent! And had such cool adventures.

8. Nancy Drew.  The Nancy Drew Mystery Books. She drove a Corvair. Enough said.

9. Jake Brigance. A Time To Kill. Second best lawyer portrayal after Atticus Finch. Plus, he’s hunky, a southern boy, and loves his wife and dog.

10. Elinor Dashwood. Sense and Sensibility. The oldest, not as beautiful daughter with a heart of gold, a steel core and a hopeless romantic.

Those are my 10.  If you don’t recognize a name, click on it and it will take you to a link, describing the character.

Now, what are your 10 most influential fictional characters??

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Summer update

At the beginning of the summer I set myself a goal to re-read some of my writing textbooks in order to help me rehash some basic writing tools. Kind of a refresher course for creating. Where to put dialogue tags, common punctuation concerns, even plotting points for setting and theme. The summer is almost gone – bummer! – and so is, I realized today, my time for doing this. I got so involved and wrapped up in preparing for the RWA conference, editing my WIP, and starting a new book,  not to mention my normal non-writing life, that the time I had set aside to devote to studying has gone the way of the dinosaur. Next weekend it will be Labor day. LABOR DAY! Where, oh where, did the summer go?

When I was a kid I remember vividly that summers were way too short. It seemed school just let out and already I was being hauled to the nearest department store to shop for supplies for the new semester. Back then I had no responsibilities other than relaxing and reading my required summer list for the next grade’s teacher. Days would meld into days. And before I knew it, the Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon rolled around and school started the day after.

Now that I am older and have a lot of responsibilities to tear me away from doing the extra things I want to do, the summer just seems to have flown in front of me, flapping it’s wings and mocking me for my unattained goals as it passes by. I have read only half of one book of the four I chose as my refresher. That is, to put it bluntly, pathetic. If I was an actual student and needed to finish those books as required course work reading, I would be failing out of school right now.

I’m trying not to beat myself up too much about this. After all, I am a grownup,  school let out a  loooooooong time ago for me, and I really don’t have to answer to anyone but myself when it comes to being reprimanded for not doing a task.

But still…

What’s the next holiday after Labor Day? Veteran’s Day?  Halloween? Thanksgiving? I think I need a new goal time line.

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Exercise your writing muscles…

At the recent RWA 2014 conference, Nora Roberts made a statement that resonated with me as writer who currently has a different, full time,  paying job. When asked if she ever took a vacation or time off from writing, her response was, “Writing, to me, is like exercising your body. If you go a few days without doing it, your muscles start to get weak and break down and then you need to start building up again to where they were when you left off.”

Wow.

Read that statement again. It’s such a simple declaration, but it makes so much sense.

Because I can’t write all day everyday due to my work obligations, there are sometimes days that go by where I won’t write anything more than a few emails. On the days I can devote to my writing, I find I need to reread and edit what I’ve done before I can go forward. This is because I’ve gotten out of the habit of writing the story. Life intervened, work took over, and my time was not my own to devote to what I love.

Several years ago I broke my ankle and wasn’t able to go to the gym for 8 weeks. When I finally did get back there, all the progress I had made in my arm and stomach muscles before the accident, went the way of the dinosaur and I was a hot flabby mess again. I needed six weeks to get back to the point I was at before my ankle sidelined me.

Not being able to write in a timely fashion does the exact same thing. I loose the progress I’ve made and need to refresh my writing muscles – and my brain and creativity – in order to move forward.

I always knew Nora Roberts was my writing mentor – even though she doesn’t know it – and this point drove home just why she is such a special woman. Not to mention an AMAZEBALLS writer!

My goal for the next month is to write something everyday in my WIP no matter how much time I can devote to it. 30 minutes or 8 hours. Anything is better than letting my writing muscles go slack.

If this resonates with you, drop me a line and let me know. Visit my new page on Facebook : Peggy Jaeger, Author too.

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