A Slice of Orange


Neophite Adventures by Laura Drake

May 28, 2008 by in category Archives

Inspiration has been elusive lately. I haven’t been able to come up with a label for this blog, let alone finish the chapter I’ve been chipping out of stone the past couple of weeks. For me, creativity is sparked by being outdoors, and with the Holiday weekend approaching, a road trip was in order! For Gary and I, that’s motorcycle camping somewhere I can fly fish and he can bicycle his guts out.

We had reservations at Silver Lake (in the Sierras above Mammoth) but as of Thursday morning they had two inches of snow on the ground. Brrrr. I quickly reconnoitered, and was lucky – I got reservations in Kernville (in the mountains outside Bakersfield) at our favorite campground on the Kern River.

We left Friday to sprinkles and stop ‘n go traffic through L.A., which graduated to a full-blown rainstorm at the Grapevine. Pelting rain and 42 degrees. We passed a wreck; a car had rolled, helicopter hovered, emergency vehicles flashing warnings to traffic.

Down the hill it was sunny and 72 degrees, and I looked back at the Mordor-like clouds sheeting rain – beautiful. We rode an empty two lane happily through fields of grapes, alfalfa and groves of nut trees. Odd clouds ahead though, with a tan horizon. The wind picked up as we rode into a sandstorm! Gary’s from West Texas, and has told me of them, but I never would have dreamed I’d see one in California.

Everything wet became mud, and my bright yellow motorcycle no longer was. I sit writing this in “Cheryl’s Diner” Saturday morning drinking coffee, my point to this blog obscured by tangents. Then again, maybe not.

Inspiration has returned, like the signs of spring I see all around me. Starved for it? Here’s a suggestion, go to www.smithmag.net/sixwords. They have a challenge; describe your life in 6 words or less. Sounds impossible, but once you get started, it’s like writing odd poetry. The introspection tapped me directly in to my muse, and I created of a couple while riding in the rain. The title to this blog isn’t just about writing…you’ve heard the term ‘old soul’? That’s not me. It may not be my first time, but you can still see the creases from the wrapper.

I think I can, I think…
Mistakes; life in disguise.
I learn slowly, remember long.
Hawk heart, unfortunately same size brain.
End comes, I go. Smiling.

Give it a shot – you may not need an adventure to find inspiration!

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A Fantasy Life

May 27, 2008 by in category A Fantasy Life by Janet Cornelow tagged as ,

by Janet Quinn Cornelow

Rayna was the first character in the Augeas series. She had been sitting on the front porch with Grandmother for several years before I figured out who she was and where she belonged. There are now six Augeas stories and more in the works. Unfortunately, I write faster than my artist draws so my picture collection is behind.

This month has been filled with all the publishing part of the writing process. I’ve had to do edits and a galley with more galleys coming. However, as I read the galley for the re-release of Yesteryear’s Love, I thought about the fantasy part of time travel. It isn’t as hard core fantasy because the characters just move between one time frame and another and the author has to stay true to both time frames. Of course, if the characters went forward in time, then the author would need to create a new world.

With time travel the first thing an author has to figure out is what propels the character through time. There are many options, but finding a new one is a challenge. I chose a stain glass window. I came up with all types of reasons why the stain glass window was a portal. It was charmed before it was imported to nowhere. It was over a scared spot that the Native Americans knew about. Actually, none of it matter. It moved people through time and space and how it did so was never explained nor needed.

Then, if the character returns to her own time, how much time has passed since she left. Does time move at the same rate so that if she is gone for a year, a year has passed in her time? Or, does no time pass and does she return to where she started? It can work either way or something in between.

Then, if the character is going back in time, what about bathrooms? Who wants to use a chamber pot or the outhouse. It’s amazing when flush toilets came into being and the different types of bathtubs that were around in the 1800’s. Aren’t bathtubs, hot water and toilets important? It’s bad enough to do without microwaves, cell phones and computers.

Art work by Jasmine Tanner – http://veildandy.deviantart.com

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Guest Post: What’s love got to do with it?

May 24, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as

Isabel Swift, Editor Emeritus, Harlequin

When I was an acquiring editor for series romances at Silhouette , I was always surprised at encounters with writers when they’d announce they’d sold a project I’d turned down with a tone of glee at having proved me wrong. I think I startled them by my enthusiastic congratulations!

So if an editor’s role isn’t delighting in crushing dreams and chagrin at having let a good one get away, what is it?

My goal as a series editor was to find content —stories that I believed would appeal to the audience I was acquiring for. Not what I personally liked or disliked, but work I thought would deliver a satisfying experience to the readership.

It is also helpful to like the work, because tapping into your emotional response can be part of your assessment tools as an editor. If you don’t personally enjoy the work, you have to rely more on the intellectual aspect of your editorial judgment.

But the elements you need to remember in your assessment are:

1. What is the story trying to achieve/deliver?
2. Does it work—and do I, as a reader, care?
3. Who is your reader?
4. Do you think this story will deliver satisfaction to them?

Not necessarily in that order. And while series is a unique and remarkable animal in the publishing menagerie, I think most of these points are relevant for editors in general.
My job meant I needed to pay attention to my readers—to hear when she said, but especially observe what she did (often two very different things). Our reader—the marketplace—is a constantly moving target. Just as most series authors started as or became readers, the same goes for editors. It’s easier if you have an understanding of trends and can respond with a gut feel. But as an editor, you have to respond with your head as well as your heart.

Some situations—a new direction or line launch, the strength and skill of an author, a marketplace or demographic trend, single titles to a varying degree—can offer more scope for experimentation. Especially in series, though elsewhere as well, a reader can be surprised, amazed, intrigued…but must not be disappointed. Not in terms of delivering on the promise—overtly made or subtly implied—in the distribution, choice of format, packaging, promotion, past experience with the author.

While series is often seen as more limited in scope than a stand-alone single title, authors have experimented with remarkable things—aliens, paranormal, magic, the list could go on—and remained commercially viable. Incorporating elements that a single title author might find hard to include without being established—and willing to risk a drop in sales if the experiment doesn’t work.

As readers, we all bring expectations to opening a book. My goal as an editor was to ensure the story I acquired would deliver on those expectations.

And just getting to that final reader means being able to clear a number of gates and gatekeepers. An acquiring editor usually needs to convince other editors of the strength of the story and have them share the positive assessment. If it’s a significant acquisition, she may need to get other departments on board—sales, marketing, art, publicity—as they will need to be committed to developing the convincing selling package and story to take the material to market. Now the book advocate team will need to collectively convince the sales force that they have the “weapons” they need to convince the booksellers and distributors in turn that they should take the title.

The editor is only the first of a long series of people that must be convinced to take a chance on the title, spending time and money and rack space to make it available to a reader.

Harlequin and Silhouette series romances are amazing because they are not sold in individually but as a series, thus allowing a remarkable opportunity for writers to find their voice—within series parameters—to experiment, to understand what is working/not working with the readership without the pressure to succeed and grow on every title that faces every stand-alone single title. Series can allow writers to perfect their craft—and one of the key and universal elements of storytelling: to create characters we care about.

And in response to that cranky turned-down-now-acquired author, sometimes an editor is wrong in her assessment. Their assumptions about an audience’s interest can be off, and the market turns out to be much broader than past experience would indicate. But also the project may just not be right for the readership that editor is acquiring for, like a strong, but mis-cast actor.

True, you can occasionally edit a square peg into a round hole. But it’s better for that peg to find a square hole. An editor’s role is juggling all this and more.

But there is always the love of storytelling that drives us—of finding a great story and working to make sure it will reach an appreciative audience. I’m delighted when a story finds the right home—with any of the many Harlequin imprints , or somewhere else.

I love when that happens!

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e-maginings: Romantic Realism

May 24, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as ,

by Linda McLaughlin

I really enjoyed listening to Bob Mayer, last month’s speaker. He had a fantastic workshop, chock full of writing tips and techniques. I appreciate the great handouts, too, since he talked faster than I can write.

One of the many things he said that struck me as interesting was that romance, barring any paranormal or suspense element, is the most realistic genre. He said it’s because romance is about real life and it has to be really well written to be believable.

Now a statement like that will have the literary types reaching for the smelling salts. Or the bottle of whiskey. Romance realistic? When 50% of marriages end in divorce? To that I’d like to point out that the other 50% of marriages are successful, at least in terms of longevity. In any human endeaver, 50-50 odds are pretty good. What are the chances of winning the lottery? According to one internet site, buying one lottery ticket means your chances of winning Mega Millions are one in 135,145,920.

What are the odds of selling a book to a major NY publishing house for a six-figure deal? I’m not sure, but they’ve got to in one in who-knows-how-many thousands territory. A lot better than winning the lottery but still not good. Compared to that, finding a compatible marriage partner seems like a slam dunk! I’ll put my money on romance any day. How about you?


PS After the meeting, I went home and bought a copy of Agnes and the Hitman, romantic suspense by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer for my Kindle. I finished it last night and recommend it. The characters are great, the story is exciting and I laughed out loud on more than one occasion. It may not be not realistic, but it’s a great read.


Linda McLaughlin
writes historical and Regency romance for Amber Quill Press. As Lyndi Lamont she pens erotic romance for Amber Heat and Amber Allure, the erotic imprints of AQP. Her personal blog can be found at http://flightsafancy.blogspot.com/.

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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

May 22, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as , , , ,

by Shauna Roberts

Today’s Guest: Maureen Child

Maureen Child is the author of more than ninety romance novels and novellas and has been nominated for a Rita five times, including in 2008 for Christmas Cravings (Silhouette Nocturne). More Than Fiends (NAL) is a Bookseller’s Best Finalist and a National Reader’s Choice Award finalist.

Silhouette Desire recently released three books in Maureen’s “Kings of California” series about millionaire brothers: Falling for King’s Fortune (May), Marrying for King’s Millions (April), and Bargaining for King’s Baby (March).

Maureen, if you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?

When I was a newbie, I was ready, willing, and eager to hear advice. All advice. Not to say I always took that advice, but I did listen.

I remember watching the published members of OCC heading off to their PAW meeting every month and wanting to be a part of that crowd so badly I could taste it. I thought if I could just be published, everything would fall into place. Then one of our members, Rita Rainville, gave me some advice. She said, “Being published doesn’t mean your problems go away—it just means you have different problems.”

True, but even back then, I remember thinking—I’d rather have those problems, thanks!

So, if I could reach back in time to my newbie self, I’d tell me to listen up and make notes!

1. Ask questions. Don’t pretend you already know all the answers. Don’t make decisions when you don’t have all the information. Don’t assume your agent is going to make the right choice for you. Ask.

2. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Yes, you have to write to the market if you want to be published, but just because you’ve written ten Westerns doesn’t mean you can’t try a Regency or a contemporary. If your current house isn’t interested, look around. Try another publishing house. No one says you can only write for one house.

3. Know when to pack up and move on. This goes for agents as well as publishing houses. Fear is a big factor in the writing world. And we all get comfortable and sometimes stay too long at the party because the unknown is just terrifying. We’re sure that the agent or editor is going to come through for us if we just wait long enough. Sometimes they do. But sometimes, it won’t get better until you find the courage to step out of the comfort zone.

4. Be dependable. If an editor knows she can count on you to come through for her, she’s going to be more willing to work with you. Trust me on this. Editors have to deal with hundreds of people. If she’s got the choice between working with a flake who consistently lets her down while playing the diva or working with a professional writer who always makes her deadline . . . well, whom would you rather work with?

5. Find friends you can count on. When the writing world gets ugly—and believe me, it does, regularly—you’re going to need a few close friends to pull you through. Be loyal. Don’t tell tales. Celebrate their successes and let them celebrate yours. Sometimes the only thing that holds you together is the voice on the other end of the phone. Treasure your friends. You’re going to need them. Life’s too short for competition. The only writer you’re really up against is yourself.

6. Keep reading. So many times, you get sucked into your own fictional world that you forget other writers are out there, making up fabulous stories. Reading those books is what brought you to this place, remember? Don’t lose the joy of reading.

7. Don’t be afraid to say no. Looking back, there were plenty of times I zigged when I should have zagged. We all make the best decisions we can at the time, but try to slow down. To look at the offer from all sides. Make sure it’s going to be the road you want your career to take.

8. Rejection isn’t permanent. My first book, a Western historical, was rejected all over New York City for a solid year. Everyone loved it, but no one had room for it. On the second round of submissions, the first house that had rejected it before made an offer, and I hadn’t changed a thing. Different editor, different day, different outcome.

9. Get out from behind the computer! I don’t care what you do. Go to the mall, the movies, the beach, the mountains. Sit in the backyard and laugh at the neighbors. But don’t lose touch with the life you’re writing about. If you never see beyond your computer screen, your stories are soon going to sound just as flat as that screen.

10. Give every book you write everything you’ve got. I work as hard now on book number 102 as I did on book number 1. I still worry about getting it ‘right,’ whatever that is.

Trust yourself and never give up. For all the ups and downs, writing is the best job in the world, and you’re a lucky newbie to be heading down this road.


To learn more about Maureen, please visit her Website at http://www.MaureenChild.com or her blog at http://MaureenChild.blogspot.com. Her newest book, Falling for King’s Fortune, is available at all major bookstores and can be ordered online from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

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