Thursday, December 28, 2006

Post-Christmas Update

I hope everyone had a joyous and happy holiday! We did, though the whirlwind of festivities was a bit much for the 9-month-old. Still, I got some good books to help me out as Christmas presents (namely the Intelligent Traveller's Guide to Historic Scotland and Characters & Viewpoint) and some Christmas cash to both pay off my self-debt on the new aquarium and finance future research purchases.

And I've been home all week...not writing. *hangs head* This is actually the first day my computer has even been on. I've been playing with the baby (he's still teething, btw - at the start of December he had no teeth and now he's working on #'s 4 and 5!), doing a little bit of housework, and watching DH play his new Nintendo (yes, the Wii - my mom and I pulled off a nifty little feat snagging him one of those on the release date)

Anyway, thanks to all of you who have offered me encouragement! I do plan to start fresh with the new year. And now that I'm on the computer, I might even go work on something...though as soon as DH gets back from his grocery run, that might get tanked.

Merry Belated Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Completely Random

Ganked from the girls at SBTB:

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Viscountess Jennifer the Omnipresent of Fishkill St Wednesday
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

And I did them for Elspeth and Alec:

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Milady the Most Honourable Elspeth the Recumbent of Eschaton End
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title


My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Duke Alasdair the Omnipresent of New Scagglethorpe
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

So he's a Duke...huh. Campbell would be so jealous. (And it was hard to get a good one for Alec...they all sounded too English, and you know that wouldn't work.)

P.S. Check out my new supercool "Library Thing" display below my links!

Monday, December 18, 2006

I am a bad, bad woman...

Yeah, my bright-and-shiny goal of 50K by the end of the year...not gonna happen. I haven't written anything in a couple weeks, and I don't know why I thought the holidays would be a good time to get major wordage down. Add a sick and teething baby, major day job workload, and the setting up/cycling/stocking of the snazzy new aquarium my FIL very generously financed (partially - the rest was an advance of my Christmas bonus, monthly spending money, and other Christmas cash) to the hustle and bustle of traveling, shopping, decorating, wrapping, etc... I say again: yeah, not gonna happen.

I'm okay with it, though. I am taking all next week off, so I'll be home and (presumably) rested and (hopefully) productive. First step of my new plan is to re-work and polish all my current stuff, with an eye to deepening POV and reducing "stage directions" as we were doing on Compuserve recently. Also researching (mainly reading the Jamie bits in Voyager, and other such examples) so I can more effectively write in Alec's POV, per Jo's suggestions. If I can have everything spiffed up and improved by the end of the year, I will consider that major progress. Then that should give me some good momentum for kicking off 2007 with a writing streak. I've been working on nailing down my plot details and figuring out what happens in currently vacant parts of the story. A hoped-for Christmas gift or two should help with that by providing cultural/historical detail.

New overall goal: finish the book by the one-year mark, which is to say next summer. If I stick with 10K a month or so, that should be doable.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Crapometer

So. Miss Snark is doing another crapometer run, starting Friday. This one is for "hooks" (250 words), and she'll request "first pages" (750 words) if she likes it. I'm trying to decide if I'm going to throw my hat in.

The rough mini-synopsis on my excerpts blog is about 400 words. With a little pruning and tweaking, I might could (yeah, I'm from Kentucky) get it down to 250. And I do have 750 words of opener if--on the outside chance--she requests it.

But.

Do I really want to put the summarization of my "original idea" for a novel I'm only 1/4-1/3 of the way done writing up for all and sundry to see? (Sure, it's up on my blog, but how many people read this as opposed to Miss Snark?)

I'm a little protective of it, since I've already been accused of "borrowing from" or "copying" a certain famous author. (Not by the author herself, I should add. Someone else who is familiar with her work but not with mine.) I mean, I know what the whole story is different and unique. And hopefully those of you who read this and have read the books in question have heard enough about my story and characters to know that as well. I feel that when I'm done and my book can be read in its entirety, people will recognize the originality and not think that I just wrote a redux of Famous Author's story. (All right, it's Diana. Just because I have a character time-traveling to Scotland. Even though it's set in a different century, with different characters, different conflict, different plot, etc. And lots of other people have written time-travel romance novels, too. But I've already ranted about that.)

Anyway. I've struggled mightily to flesh out this idea, and I'm making good progress towards completing it, whereupon I can send it out into the world. But I would hate to see it posted online and someone else take it and write something like it before I can finish mine. Then the "original idea" I've struggled so hard to distinguish as being, in fact, original, won't be original anymore.

I'm sure I'm being paranoid. The odds of that happening are probably nil. But still. The accusation stung, for all that it was unfounded, and now I'm gun shy. OTOH, I'd really like to see if my idea can pique people's interest. So I dunno. Should I submit to the crapometer and cross my fingers against my story getting ganked? Should I rewrite certain key elements to keep the same premise, but protect my details? Or should I just call it a wash and hope she does another run later when I have a full MS in hand?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I'll show you mine

Mrs. Mitty suggested a "post-a-snippet" day and quite unashamedly showed us hers, so I'm returning the favor and showing mine. *g* I've posted it over on my excerpt blog.

Here's the link: Elspeth snippet

I've just finished the first revision to work out some of the "stage directions" as per the current discussion on Compuserve. It's still pretty rough, though. Jo is helping me (calling me out on it, really) get better about working dialect and idiosyncratic voice into Alec's POV. So that part especially still needs work.

Last night I didn't actually work on any scenes. But I did spend an hour and a half or so nailing down plotting points and identifying known story events with aspects of the plot structure as outlined in the Crusie/Mayer workshop I attended about a month ago. (Wow, that was a long sentence.) I got some good ideas, came up with a few more questions I need to answer, but in general feel a little more organized WRT the overall structure of the story. So I consider that great progress.

And with that, dear reader, I am going to bed. The baby is simultaneously cutting his first teeth (three at once, the doctor said) and fighting his first ear infection. Needless to say, I was up with him most of the night last night, and may be again tonight. The wonder of antibiotics, though - he should be feeling better by tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I've been tagged!

Thanks to Cindy for the taggage. (Heh, as opposed to baggage.) A-ny-way....

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Oh, hot chocolate all the way. I mean, I can drink eggnog, but I crave hot chocolate.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree? Santa wraps presents. My husband thinks it is slightly odd that we have no presents under our tree at all until the Christmas morning, but that's the way it's always been in my family. Presents to each other and presents from "Santa" get put out in the night before Christmas, and they're all wrapped. (Except the really, really big or oddly shaped ones.) Besides, 3 cats, 2 dogs, and a now-mobile baby would demolish anything put out beforehand. And it's more fun to unwrap stuff.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? Always colored lights on the tree. I prefer white lights on the house, perhaps with some color accents. Though I do appreciate "gingerbread" houses with colored lights along the rooflines. DH prefers the opposite (white tree, colored house) but he kindly abdicated and let me have my way. :-)

4. Do you hang mistletoe? We have a fake cluster (real is poisonous to pets and babies) with a bell that we hang between our living room and kitchen.

5. When do you put your decorations up? Usually the weekend after Thanksgiving. Growing up, we always had real trees, so it was more like mid-December in my family. But DH likes doing it right after Thanksgiving, and we have an artificial (pre-lit, it's great) tree, and the long weekend is very convenient. But never before Thanksgiving.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish? Grammammy's bourbon balls. It's a family recipe, handed down for about 200 years. (Modified somewhat for modern ingredients.) I just wish I got around to making them more often.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: Hmmm. I remember the year we got our stockings and stocking holders. I was maybe 7 or 8, and we were pretty poor. But my aunts and grandma went in together and "Santa" brought them to Grandma and Grandpa's house by "mistake." My stocking had an angel on it, but my favorite thing was my stocking holder - a little black and white kitten - I still have it and use it.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? Okay, I admit it - I never believed in Santa. There's not a negative reason, I just remember knowing from a very young (like 2 or 3) age that Santa wasn't real. I did lead my brothers on, though.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Every year we get new pajamas on Christmas Eve, and that's the only gift we open before Christmas morning.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? Pre-lit with colored lights, angel on top, gold bead garland, and all our family ornaments (lots of Hallmark stuff, etc.). No tinsel - animals spread it and eat it. We usually get a new ornament every year (mine are almost all cats - do you sense a theme with me?) and for special occasions (New Home, Parents-to-Be, etc.) but there's lots of room left for more. :-)

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? In my dream world, it would be in the 60-80 degree range from January 2nd to December 17th. Then on December 18th, the temperature would drop, it would snow 6-12 inches, and stay snowy until New Year's. Generally, around Christmas I like snow, especially when it is fresh and clean. After about February (or the first warm spell, whichever comes first) I'm ready for Spring. I'm a warm-weather girl.

12. Can you ice skate? I've only been once in my life, but I did okay then.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Other than my stocking holder, that's hard to say. I've gotten a lot of great gifts over the years, very thoughtful ones, and ones that I really wanted. But nothing pops out at me. Oh, wait. Love, the grey-and-white Pound Purrie (remember those?) I got when I was about 5 or 6. I still have her. She was my "reigning" top toy all through my childhood.

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? I like spending time with family. I also enjoy giving gifts. The big thing, though, is comemorating Christ's birth (even though it was probably really in the spring).

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Haven't I answered this? Oh, that was dish. Okay. Well, make my "dish" honeybaked ham, and my "dessert" bourbon balls, then.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Christmas Eve we get a bunch of indulgent snacks that we normally don't have, and watch Christmas movies and hang out and open our pajamas.

17. What tops your tree? An angel figurine.

18. Which do you prefer: giving or receiving? Giving. I love to pick out "just the right" gift. Though recieving is fun, too. :-)

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? Carol of the Bells. Favorite version: Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? They're okay. Look good on trees, but our dogs eat them. I might eat one or two over the season, but I can take or leave them really.

Hmmm...I tag Jen and Shaylin.

Characters, and how we get them.

If any of you watch NCIS you're aware of the story arc that has most all of the other characters mad at McGee. If you don't, here's the deal: the other characters knew McGee was "writing" a book, but they didn't know he had gotten it published, with a fair degree of success. That fact came to light a few episodes ago, and now all of them are reading his book (a really nice hardcover, with "Book 1" and "Continuing Adventures" on the front, so apparently he got a multiple-book contract - way to go, McGee) and getting mad at him because they think the characters in his book are based - often unflatteringly - on them.

It is true that most of the people in McGee's book have names and positions very similar to his coworkers and friends (i.e. Tony = "Tommy", Jimmy Palmer = "Pimmy Jalmer", and the main character is "L.J. Tibbs" as opposed to McGee's boss, Leroy Jethro Gibbs). So I can see how most people watching the show see McGee squirm and say "They're not based on you guys!" and think to themselves Riiiiiiiight, McGee, sure they're not.

Except the writers. 'Cause I'm sympathizing with McGee. The process of aqcuiring characters, especially secondary characters, is an interesting one. My characters post that I wrote early on in this process captures a lot of it. Basically, if you know me, you might see - or think you see - yourself in my novel, but that is probably not true.

Although I do love this hilarious t-shirt and would probably wear it. Hehe.

So I can see where McGee is coming from. He used the basic setup of his workplace, changed names slightly (and I know how hard it is to name characters, so he gets some slack), maybe borrowed a few characteristics but then added in a whole bunch of other, unrelated stuff to fill out his characters and make them NOT just fictionalized versions of his coworkers.

An example from my book: Elspeth's friend from work is Andrea Duluth. She's 28, slim, and the chief dosimetrist at the cancer clinic where Elspeth works (in modern day, obviously). I happen to work with a chief dosimetrist who is 28 and slim, and a friend of mine. However, Andrea is an outgoing party girl, and my coworker is not. Andrea's long blonde hair comes from a friend of mine from high school, but I have no idea why she has green eyes. She could be considered to be named for two people - the chief dosimetrist at the University Hospital where I did my Master's program was named Andrea. But the Andrea in my book goes by Andi, which I got from DH's cousin, also named Andrea. I have no idea where I got the last name "Duluth". That just popped in.

See how convoluted this is getting? Basically, several people could concievably read my book and *think* that this character is based on them, but she's not. She's not based on anyone.

So I understand McGee's frustration, and I think most other writers watching the show do too.

Anyone out there reading this who can comment on how they build characters and/or any flack they've caught for certain ones?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bleh.

I am sick. As in, Saturday I developed a sore throat that morphed yesterday into full-body aches, chills, and general misery. My temperature got up to 103. Today is slightly better, but I still feel blah. Needless to say, I haven't been writing.

I think I'm just going to call November - "National Novel Writing Month" - a wash, which is ironic. I'm still gonna try to write later this week, but my 10K goal is shot. My end-of-year goal of 50K total still remains, however. We'll see.

Friday, November 24, 2006

She posts!

Yes, after a 10-day writing/blogging hiatus I'm back again. The end of the month is approaching and I've been slacking once more, and now I'm trying to get my rear in gear, as it were.

Well, actually, I've only kinda been slacking. We're having a big inspection-type thing at work on the 1st of December, and I've been busily finishing projects (namely the annual quality assurance on our accelerators) and organizing paperwork so that --if questioned--I can produce what they need and we can be only the second accredited cancer center in the state. That means long hours, and I just don't have writing energy after a 12-hour workday. But then the regular days I've used as an excuse to rest from my long days, and still haven't written.

I have, however, been doing some historical research. If that counts for anything.

Very short day at work tomorrow, then Christmas decorations to put up (first time we'll attempt lights on this roof--should be interesting) and then I can spend the rest of the weekend writing. I sense another personal mini-marathon for next week to try to approach my end-of-month goal of 35K. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Marathon - Day 3

Only 700 words tonight. But I stopped myself early so I could go to bed and get up in the morning for the Crusie-Mayer workshop I'm attending. The program looks awesome; a great overview of novel-writing, and addressing some specific topics I want to better myself at.

I have this really great program (thanks Dad!) called Microsoft OneNote that records lectures while you type notes, and syncs the recording up with the typed words. So I can go to any point in my notes and click to hear the actual discussion at that point. I've not used it before (DH has), but I have great plans for tomorrow. I'll take a pen and paper, just in case, though. *g*

Now, to bed!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Marathon - Day 2

Well, again not as productive as I'd hoped. I did come in right at another 1000 new words, which I guess is not bad, but I'd been hoping for 1500-2000. DH, darn him, got 1500 last night and 1800 tonight. But I'm way ahead of him in total wordage, so I guess it's okay. *g*

In my defense, I did spend a good portion of writing time revising previously written material. So that's a little tighter, has some nice new elements, and ties in with the new stuff I've been working on.

All in all, I guess I'm satisfied.

And on the first day...

...of the writing marathon, I managed decently. About 1000 new words. DH beat me - he got over 1500 - but he was already 500 into his scene when I finally started writing. I got a late start because it took an hour and a half of sitting at my computer after the baby went to bed for the Diet Sunkist to kick in and my exhaustion-induced mental block to lift. I added a decent chunk to an exsisting scene stub, and started a new one that came to me. I'd like to get 4-5K by the end of the marathon, I think. If I'm gonna break 50K by New Year's, I need to be cracking.

And now, since my day job requires me to be able to focus on lots and lots of numbers to ensure patients get the right amount of radiation, I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Writing Marathon!

Yah, I know...I've been pretty sparse with the posts lately. I'd like to say that's because I've been writing, but...not so much. My month's-end marathon last week left me burnt out for a few days, and then outside stuff picked up. Mondays and Tuesdays are TV nights with DH (though tonight's election coverage may mess with our shows). My best writing times are Wednesday-Saturday nights after the baby goes to sleep.

So, in a fun coincidence, we're having a writing marathon on Compuserve running Wednesday-Friday of this week. I'd just started to feel guilty for not having written anything lately, and resolved to pick back up on Wednesday. Good deal. Not gonna set a specific goal, but I am stocking up on Diet Sunkist. *g*

In other (slightly related) news, DH finally understands where I'm coming from WRT writing. He's just started work on a story that's been floating around in his head for a few years. Last week he got over 4K in ONE DAY. Now he and I can talk about when characters do unexpected things, or how to deal with the urge to write when you're really busy/tired/distracted, etc. I think I'll ask him to join in the marathon.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

And now for something completely different...


A little background: I work at a cancer treatment center, and every year on Halloween we, the employees, dress up. I had no idea what I wanted to be until late Monday afternoon, and after a mad dash out to find a cat mask (yes, there are whiskers on it, if you look closely) and a cape at the last minute, here is the result. I give you:

Puss in Boots

The sword is a replica of the sword from the movie "Mask of Zorro" that DH had. The shirt and gloves are DH's; the pants and boots are mine. Not bad for thrown-together-the-night-before.

Elspeth's desire to learn to fight with a sword just kicked up a notch.

Down to the wire.

Well, I made it. Technically I went past my midnight deadline, but I won't tell if you don't.

Last night I didn't write at all. It was a very long and frustrating day at work, after only 3.5 hours sleep due to my writing marathon the night before. Tonight was Halloween on top of TV night with DH. So I didn't get started until 10:30. I got the first pages of two new scenes, to come in just over my 25K goal.

I'm going to continue to work on these and a few other scenes that I've started but not filled out, but it is coming time for me to do more research and make more decisions. That may take a good chunk of November.

But now, to bed.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ssssssssmmmmmokin'!

Diet Sunkist is back in the house! I actually had more of it than usual; we had dinner with some friends from church and I drank a glass there, and then I had another can of it when I sat down to write here at home. Does it make a difference? You be the judge.

Just to remind you, yesterday I had no Diet Sunkist and struggled to get about 800 words. Tonight:

I added another 1000 words to one of the scenes I started yesterday, and it's now complete. That was relatively early, and I would have stopped there. I started to, but then another scene that I had a rough idea for started to congeal in my mind. I need wordage, I thought, and I'll either have to get it tonight or tomorrow or Tuesday. If I get it tonight, I can get to sleep earlier on one or both of those days. So I decided to go ahead and work on it. Two hours and 1350 (!) words later, it's complete.

Now I really must go to bed, but it seems pretty certain that--barring any bizarre and unforeseen circumstances that prevent me from writing for the next 2 days--I will meet my October goal, after all. Woo.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A bit of progress...

Didn't make as much progress tonight as I have the past two evenings. I blame the lack of Diet Sunkist (or, as I now call it, "writing juice"); I had the last one yesterday. Tonight I had to substitute Diet Pepsi, and it just didn't have the same effect. Of course, there were other things going on--my brother is staying at our house tonight, I slept in this morning which tends, ironically, to make me sleepier, and I got sidetracked by research for the scene I started out to write.

In the end, I managed exactly 800 words (don't ask me how) total between two different, but chronologically simultaneous, scenes. Those are still in process, so I can pick them up tomorrow when I'm fresher and hopefully finish both with a decent word count.


I have at least broken 22K, so I'm still within reach of my monthly goal.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

And the hits just keep on comin'!

Went out to eat with DH and the baby tonight. By the time we got home and the baby was asleep, it was almost 9 o'clock and I was very tired. But, I have a goal. So I sat and drank my Diet Sunkist while DH played his videogame-du-jour (Fable, on the Xbox--pretty cool). I wasted an hour or so piddling around on previously written stuff. Well, I guess "wasted" is too negative a word. I did some minor revisions and got back into the story, but I'm going for word count here, so nothing much useful in that respect. At 10:30 I was ready to call it quits, but I really wanted at least some new wordage. So I sat down to jot a bit of another scene that's been bumping around in my head for some time but never made it to paper.

And the magic happened again. That "bit of scene" turned into almost three single-spaced pages. I'm not counting on this every night until the book is done, but hey--I'll take it whenever it happens!

3800 words to go. I have 4 more nights. Still doable!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Now we're cookin'...

Despite less than 4 hours' sleep last night--after staying up late to write and then being awoken every 2 hours by a fussy (possibly teething) baby--I managed to keep myself on track this evening. By dinner time I was ready to keel over from exhaustion and fall asleep on the couch, but I resorted to my new secret weapon: Diet Sunkist.

Even that minimal amount of caffeine is enough to perk me up, since I've pretty much stopped consuming it in any form since I got pregnant. My tolerance is waaay low now, and so only one can was enough to have me alert and coherent again by the time I'd gotten the baby to sleep. At quarter after 8 I sat down to work on a scene I've had roughed out in my head for some time now but never worked on. I wrote straight through, and final word count: almost 1700. Sweet.

The total now stands at very nearly 20K. If I can average 1100 words a night through Tuesday, I just might pull this off. Woo.

She blogs!

That's right, folks, I'm back. After various bouts of funk, overwork (day job), undersleep, family time or compensation for lack thereof, household chores, and social obligations, I am finally settling down to start seriously writing again. My goal of 25K (total word count) by next Tuesday still stands.

As of today I had 6 days to write about 8,000 words. Tonight I got 800. Not bad, really, since I spent half my allotted writing time choreographing with my DH and brother (both black belts; I only almost got to brown) the 3-on-1 fight scene that I then wrote. Hooray for the caffeine in Sunkist.

I know a few people who will be doing NaNoWriMo starting next week, and if they can get 50K in a month, I think I can get 8K in 6 days, and possibly at least 25K next month. I have to break out of my mindset of perfecting the first draft, and just get Words On Paper. I can revise and refine once I have the bones of the story down. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Wow, I've been a slacker.

Work craziness, home craziness, extreme fatigue, and the whole last-minute-Surrey-cancellation have conspired to make me a slacker writer (and critiquer - I'll get caught up tonight, I promise!).

So I thought I'd post to let you know I'm still alive *grin* and so are Elspeth and Alec. I finally made a spreadsheet to help me keep track of stuff, and I updated my meter with the true current word count. October goal is 25K by the end of the month, so that leaves me about 2 weeks to write a little over 8,000 words. Doable if I get my butt in gear.

Oh, and my day job is cracking down on internet use (I shouldn't even be posting this now) so if any of you have wondered at my dwindled presence on the blog or over at the Forum, that's why.

Anyway, today is even busier than most, so back to the day job.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

It is done.

The decision is final. I've cancelled my conference registration and airline tickets. Maybe next year.

Maybe not, after all.

I may not be going to Surrey, after all. It 's not about the "fan fiction" debacle; finances are the culprit this time.

When I made the decision to go, I thought we had the money. We had some saved and I looked at it as an investment towards finishing and selling my book. But now a new financial obligation has popped up, and to go to Surrey would just put us further behind. We've been working so hard to dig out of the debt we got into when we were just married, still in college, and poor.

I could still go. We'd pay it off eventually. But I just hate to do that and know we're edging back towards carrying balances on our credit cards and not saving for the future. It doesn't seem responsible.

And to be perfectly honest, I'm nowhere near as ready to be away from the baby as I thought I would be by this point. Maybe it's been my long hours and late nights for the day job resulting in barely seeing him before bed several times a week lately. Maybe it's because I'm still nursing him. Maybe it's the way he's so clingy with me when I am around. Maybe it's because he's almost crawling and I'd hate to miss it.

Of course, the little brouhaha over my ill-fated chapbook entry did take away some of my enthusiasm for going. But as I've said before, the majority of the people I was looking forward to seeing there had nothing to do with it, and I would still have lots of fun and learn a lot.

Just everything combined has been weighing on my mind for the past few weeks, and I'm not nearly as psyched about it as I was. I don't want to go and then feel guilty the whole time about not being with the baby and how much it's costing.

If I back out at this point, we're still out money. The plane tickets and 30% of the registration fee are nonrefundable. However, I'd still be saving twice that amount in hotel costs, the other 70% of registration, and other food/transportation/souvenir expenses.

OTOH, I'll also be letting down the person I'd arranged to room with, and the volunteer coordinator who just sent out the finalized schedules. I'm not signed up for a lot of duties, but still she was counting on me being there.

So I don't know. There's another writing workshop, hosted by the OVRWA on November 11th. It's closer to home and a whole heck of a lot cheaper.

I have to make my decision by tomorrow, or none of my registration is refundable and then it becomes a moot point.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Less-than-productive weekend

Well, I had another mini-crash on Friday (fell asleep at 8:30 on the couch; that's early even for me). Saturday and Sunday were devoted to yard work, since this may be my last chance to get anything done while the weather's still nice. Tonight we're going to an Aerosmith concert with a very dear friend and will likely be back late. So that leaves me only about a week to get 10,000 new words before Surrey starting tomorrow. Heh, we'll see.

I did make some progress. I rewrote a new scene (Elspeth and Alec's first encounter) for the October POV-switching exercise, and got some good reactions and feedback. I had originally been all in Elspeth's POV, but the switch to Alec's (though I'll use whitespace instead of the "baton") seems to work for most people, so I'll probably keep it and follow him on for a while, then snap back to her.

Anyway, gotta leave the day job early today, so I'd better get caught up with that.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Feeling productive

For the first time in weeks, I feel like I've had a productive day. I didn't write a single new word, but it was productive nonetheless.

The pace at my day job was relatively less breakneck than it has been, and I was able to stay on top of my "plans to check" pile and manage to get a few other things done in the interim - like critting several first chapters on the Forum (not that mine's done and/or ready to post yet), catching up on my blog reading, and actually eating lunch. I then (gasp!) left before 5 and got home before 5:30, which meant I got to see my son for more than a few minutes before putting him to sleep at 8.

Then I finally got back to my promised Narc crits and got 4 whole chapters done. Now it's midnight and I need to go to bed, but at least I don't have to feel guilty about being way behind anymore.

In other news, I am very glad that Undiscovered Scotland - a really great travel/info site - is back up. It's been down all weekend and I was starting to get worried.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Moving on, again.

I hate for negative posts to stay at the top, so I'm writing this to bump it down. I have not cancelled my Surrey tickets. I might be slightly less enthused about going than I was before, but at this point (and DH's insistence) I'm still going. The person with whom I was having a difference of opinion and I have reached some form of understanding. The majority of people I'll be seeing at Surrey have no idea what was said and no problem with my story. They are the ones I'm looking forward to hanging out with.

I'm serious about writing this book. It's been a (nearly) lifelong dream and Surrey can only help me accomplish it. When I am old, at least I won't have to say I wish I'd gotten around to trying to write a book.

So, onward and upward.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Rethinking my decision

In just over two weeks, I'm going to be dropping more than $1500 to fly across the continent and leave my infant son for 5 days. I'll have to make provisions for the fact that I'm still breastfeeding, and use 3 days of my precious PTO to take off work. It's a lot of expense and trouble, but I decided it was worth it. I've always wanted to write a book, and I thought getting good advice early in the process could only help. And the other big draw is that I feel kind of isolated in life sometimes, and here was my chance to go and meet these people that I've been forming friendships with online, have a good time, and share a common bond.

Well, now I'm rethinking my decision. After the originality of my work being questioned (this after the hours and hours of research and self-deliberation that long term blog readers know I went through, and am still going through) and excluded from the chapbook on that basis, I wonder if I go to Surrey will I feel like the kid that tries to be involved but everyone really looks down on and talks about behind their back? I don't want to be the width of a continent away from my husband and son only to feel isolated for 5 days. Sure, I'm an introvert and can handle being alone. But if one of the main reasons I'm going was to have the opposite kind of experience, is all the good writing advice still worth it?

If I cancel now, I'll be out about $500 in plane tickets and registration fees. But that still saves me the hotel costs, the refundable part of the registration, travel to and from the airport, and meal expenses not covered by the conference, etc.

It's something to consider.

Moving on...

Surrey countdown: T minus 17 days.

Well, after a welcome reassurance from a fellow Scottish time-travel writer, I feel better about my book and the fact that it is not just "fan fiction." I rewrote the "intro" paragraph for the chapbook so as to highlight unique details, and it is up to the coordinator to include it or not. Here is what I sent along with the excerpt (blog readers have seen most of this before):

ELSPETH (working title) by Rebecca Gabriel

Elizabeth "Elspeth" Clarke is an American physicist seeking to forget the heartache of her fiance's betrayal by a (solitary) summer trip to Scotland. While exploring the ruins of historic Kilchurn castle, she discovers a wormhole connecting two points in space-time...by falling through it. Now she is in 17th century Scotland and being pursued by the politically avaricious "Grey" John Campbell, Earl of Breadalbane and Holland and owner of Kilchurn. Campbell has found the historical notes Elspeth carried back with her, and intends to exploit her apparent "Sight" for his own gain. But she has found temporary refuge with the MacGregors of Glen Strae, an outlawed clan with their own reasons to hate the Campbells. Alasdair "Alec" MacGregor, named for the grandfather the Campbells executed years ago, has become her friend and confidant.


In other fun Surrey news, I got my volunteer assignments. Thursday they have me "monitoring" (keeping time and making sure there aren't any disruptions/interruptions) two of the Master Classes that I wasn't going to be able to afford. So even though I'm not participating, I'll be able to sit in on them and learn for free. Woo for that!

I got very little writing done last night; the stubborn first chapter is at a temporary standstill. Tonight is TV night with DH, so I don't know if I'll get much done tonight, either. There are a few short bits knocking around in my head, mostly later scenes. But I'll probably try to get some of them down, at least. As Diana says, words on the page are always a Good Thing.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Am I deluding myself?

Okay, I'm 15,000+ words (need to update my meter) into my novel, with a stated goal of reaching 25,000 by October 19th. I'm currently reworking the initial chapter, with good reaction so far. I've posted one section on the critique workshop with, again, good reaction and useful comments. I have a very well-developed sense of my MC Elspeth, and a pretty good one of the other MC Alec. I know time, place, and historical setting. I'm using historical characters and events, and researching them thoroughly. I know the main plot, a few twists, and a few other potential story arcs. I was a little disheartened last week, but after taking a break I feel fresh and ready to dive in again.

Yes, I'm writing a Scottish time-travel romance. There are quite a few of us on the forum doing so, and I think that Diana's presence there is a draw. But I don't think we're all there just writing these stories because we wish we'd written Outlander. There are a lot of Scottish time-travel books. I've been seeking them out. I read the whole 5-book series by Janet Chapman (eh, they were okay I guess), I'm reading J. Ardian Lee's Son of the Sword series (pretty good, if heavy on the history lessons), I just got Sandy Blair's A Man in a Kilt, I've read a couple of Tess Mallory's books (Highland Dream and Highland Fling) , I read a quite good new book called Return of the Highlander by Sarah MacKenzie, I have Karen Marie Moning's first book of her extensive (7 books? more?) series at home in my TBR pile, etc. And those are just the tip of the iceberg.

So, yes, I am writing in a sub-genre niche, but lots of others have done so before me. And most of the authors listed above have found success in said niche. There are readers out there who enjoy these kinds of books. I was/am one of them. If I'm gonna buy a romance novel, it's most likely to be a Scottish historical (time-travel is a bonus), or a Regency. These were my preferences before even having heard of Outlander. Diana's books just happen to be the best in this niche, so of course they became my favorites.

I said all that to get to this point. This morning I was told that the section I posted on the critique forum to be vetted before submitting it for the Surrey chapbook read "uncomfortably like fan fiction."

Now I am confused, and concerned. Am I deluding myself into thinking I'm writing the novel I always dreamed of writing, when in actuality I'm just writing an extended version of Outlander fan fiction? Even though the setting is 50 years earlier and I'm including non-Outlander-related historical characters/events and when I was first trying to come up with the book idea I deliberately tried to avoid anything that would make it seem like Outlander Redux? And I'm not saying that in sarcasm. I'm really worried about this. I was worried enough last week (while I was still in the slump) about writing in the niche that I e-mailed Kristin Nelson about it, but her reply to me assured me and I resolved to just make my writing good enough to sell.

Here's the excerpt in question: "Takedowns"

Seriously, is anyone who reads my book just going to think "fan fiction"? Do the people on the forum think that but they are too nice and supportive to tell me so? I was cautioned about it early on when I was still describing my plot in kinda vague terms, but when I elaborated and added in all the specific details (see this previous post) I was told that sounded okay and possibly interesting, if done well.

Am I deluding myself?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Not quite what I expected...

Bleh. 92nd out of 299 entries. And to think I was hoping for the top 25...

'Course, I did struggle with the "promo" part, which is how you get people to read it. And I got some really low rankings with no explanation that I didn't think were warranted (I should have gotten 2's and 3's on the strength of my writing alone, and that's just being objective). Also, the entry I thought would win it all was only ranked 69th.

OTOH, the winning entry is really good. Not much of a bombshell at the end, but the chapter itself is great. I may or may not try for round 3, depending on the prompt they post this afternoon. After a week-long hiatus, my inspiration for Elspeth is picking back up again. That's my primary focus now. But I'll have a weekend of leisure, so hopefully I can get quite a bit of writing in.

In other news, I heard back (personally!) from Kristin Nelson today. I had e-mailed her a question to her blog address. Basically, since time-travel romances to Scotland seem to be thought kind of cliche in a lot of circles anymore, I asked if agents/editors would even look at another one, or if I would be seen as "just another one of those." Her answer was quick:

If the writing is good enough, anything can sell. It's really that
simple. Good luck to you on this project.

So, woo for that. I'll keep plugging away, then, and just try to make my writing good enough to sell (which was the goal all along). I would have e-mailed her back to thank her, but if there's one thing I've learned from reading agents' blogs, it's that they get a crap ton of e-mail. I don't want to bog her down, since she's probably got a million other e-mails to get through today. My first message included the fact that I read her blog regularly and I thanked her for all her good advice. So that should suffice, right? Or would a quick "Thanks for the reply!" not go amiss?

Anyway, day job is jerking my chain today. I'll be lucky to get home by dinner time. Ugh. So back to that.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I hope she's happy now

There, I've written the first new words on my current WIP in over a week. Elspeth was getting a little antsy for attention, so I decided to give her some before round 3 for Avon starts up tomorrow.

I spent the first bit further refining the "takedowns" scene that I'm going to submit for the Surrey chapbook. Then I hopped way forward and started writing the scene where Alec finds her just after she's fought off three drunk Campbells who followed her from the tavern and attacked her. I got about 500 words of that; not much, but at least it's progress.

Will I reach my end-of-September goal of 20,000 words? At this point, not likely. That'd mean getting about 2,000 words a night for the next 3 nights. Even if you count the 3,000-4,500 I've written for Avon I wouldn't make it. Well, then I might be getting close. But really the goal was for 20K on this WIP, so I guess not. *sigh* My new goal is at least 25,000 before Surrey.

Now it's very nearly midnight, and as I'm already pretty brain dead (loooong week) I'm going to stop now and go to bed.

Better luck next time...

As I suspected, I did not end up as one of the 10 finalists for this round. I write as well as they do, but I need to work on squeezing more plot into fewer words. On to Round 3! The prompt will be posted tomorrow, and I'll have the weekend to work on it.

Oh, there's still a chance I'm in the top 25. I'll find out tomorrow, I guess.

Now I think Elspeth is demanding some attention...

Cramping my Style

With 3 hours left to go in the prelim voting for Avon FanLit round 2, I doubt that I'll make it to the finals. I seem to be getting average ratings around the 2-3 range, which is pretty good. (And many thanks to those who have gone and voted for me!) But there are several entries out there getting 3's and 4's and they deserve it. So I'm already setting my sights on round 3 (of 6).

I know what my problem is. It's not my writing, per se. I read a lot of Regencies, and even if I'm working on a Scottish historical at the moment (or not working on - this week has been crazy), I didn't find it hard to slip back into the Regency style. This comment left on my entry pretty much sums it up:


Your Regency voice is excellent, and your dialogue charming -- but this didn't move the plot forward a great deal. It feels like you were just hitting your stride and needed more space.

It goes to prove what I already know about myself: I'm a novel writer. Sticking to the novella word limits is really cramping my style. Even DH told me that my entry read more like a scene from a novel than a chapter from a novella. Which I kind of knew as I submitted it. And it does advance the plot, if you look closely. It indicates their interest in each other and willingness to move forward in the relationship, but it doesn't have the trite "Oh, wow, I'm suddenly in love with you despite our history" moment that some (too many, and it annoys me) romance novels have. And it opens the way for a fast-paced chapter to follow in dealing with the woman in the foyer, etc. But yeah - it really belongs in a novel, not a novella.

So, lesson learned: for this contest, I need to pare down my scenes and include a lot more plot progression. Most of the entries that I've seen that look like they could be finalists have plots I can work with. I'll wait for the next chapter prompt on Friday and make a point of including more in my next entry. And if this entry even makes it into the Top 25, I'll be more than pleased.

My guess for Round 2 winner: The Contrary Countess.

Stay tuned...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Round Two...ding!

Wow, I've been behind in my blogging. Much is going on! Not the least of which is my entry for the second round of the Avon FanLit contest. The prompt for Chapter 2 seemed workable, so this time I made sure to get my entry in in plenty of time.

I had hoped to link to my entry and ask readers of this blog to rate it, but the most I can do is send e-mail invites. Any URLs to the submission are specific to the invitee, and there's no way to browse directly to my chapter.

So, if you want to help me out, drop me a line (e-mail or comments) with your e-mail address and I'll send you an invitation. Be honest, but if you want to give it 5 stars, I won't complain. *grin*

Avon FanLit Romance Event



The other route is to go to the contest website (linked above) and register to vote. Browse through the entries until you get to mine - I haven't the foggiest idea where it is; my IP address is logged so the website won't show it to me - and vote that way. That may actually count for more, but it's not guaranteed.

How will you know it's mine? Here's my "promo":

Title: What’s in a Name? (many thanks to DH)

Headline: A meeting in the park ends with suspense.

Summary: Damien can’t get Penelope out of his head. Patience. Whatever her name, he needs answers to his many questions. And so he finds himself on Rotten Row during the “fashionable” hour—will his wayward wife provide the answers?

Excerpt:

“Then tell me this: you wish to resume your place in Society, for whatever reasons you have. I can help you do that. But are you willing to endure all that entails? Will you become my wife in truth? Use my name, share my home…my bed?”

She looked back at him, blue eyes wide. “I-” she began.

A disturbance in the crowd caused Damien to look up. Horses, carriages, and pedestrians parted like the Red Sea to reveal one of his grooms, riding hell-bent for leather directly at them…



(And yes, it's true that I've written over 3,000 words in the past week that are not for my WIP, but I'm stuck on that at the moment. I'll get back to it this week. I promise.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Evolution

The longer I work at this novel, the farther the MC and the situations in it move from being based on me and my life. And I think that's a Good Thing.

Primary example: the opening. As mentioned before, I'm dropping the 3K or so I have written of a first chapter and picking up in a new spot entirely. That cuts out a good portion of the stuff that was loosely based on my own experiences. But I'm not mourning the loss. I think skipping this part makes the story tighter and more readable. Also, in writing that scene, I learned some stuff (history, family details) about the MC. It just sort of flowed out while I was writing and I probably wouldn't have come up with it on my own. So even if I don't use those words in the book, it deepens my understanding of the character and gives me some backstory that I could use later on, if necessary.

It's funny, 'cause one of the things that held me back at first was me wondering how would I come up with all this stuff? And so I based some of it on me and my life, 'cause I could write that. But the more I go on, the more stuff just crops up, and more stuff from real life gets cropped out.

I still have a problem with secondary characters, tho. J's theory is that's because we're so introverted and don't have many minor characters in our own lives. Oh, well. I trust I'll get better with that as I grow as a writer as well.

Miss Snark posted a great link on her blog today. Read the story. It really encouraged me, as I can see some of the steps I've gone/am going through in there. And hooray for cats. Dearest, that's why I let Smokie sleep on top of the desk while I'm writing, as long as he's not knocking stuff off). *g*

This week is a slight hiatus for me, since I'm trying to get all my crits done and back to people waiting for them. (And catch up on sleep, but so far that's been a bust.) I'm also letting the book percolate and waiting for some fresh ideas to come to me. I'll make another strong push at the end of the month and hopefully still manage to hit 20K by DH's birthday.

Oh, I did post my first chunk for critique on the ForumsAmerica workshop, if anyone is interested. That will be the first intro to my characters--and my writing--with any great length that anyone has seen. I'm a little nervous, and a little excited. I still enjoyed re-reading the scene before I posted it last night, though, so hopefully that's a good sign.

Four weeks from tomorrow, I'll be leaving for Surrey. Wow. Heretofore unspoken goal: 25-30K by then, so I can tell the editors and agents I meet that I'm about 1/3 of the way done. Better get on it.

But for now, back to my day job.
(Posting at work, so no Gaidhlig Word for today.)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Disappointment

So, my day was completely wasted.

On my lunch break, I was cruising the blogs and came across this entry on Miss Snark's blog. I read the linked article, and in the article mention was made of a fan fiction writing contest sponsored by Avon. Hmmm... So I googled it and found the official website. (It's here, if anyone is interested.)

I'm not normally the fanfic type. (Though in middle and early high school I did dream of writing a Star Trek novel. Original series. No kidding.) But this contest was more than just fanfic, and it could get you pub credits or even editorial attention. And, the premise was a Regency setting. Now, Scottish historicals are my hands-down favorite, but when I'm not reading them I'm reading Regencies. So I dragged up all my mental references to the haute ton and Almack's and waltzing and Napoleon. And then I checked the submission deadline: today at 4 pm EST.

That left me 3 hours to write a coherent chapter (1500 words; 8500 characters) based on their setup and submit it. I was caught up on work at the moment and thought 'what the heck?' At 3:55 I was finishing my final word/character count and ready to submit. My chapter was uploaded at 3:57 pm. Then I hit the snag - they wanted you to do a little "profile" for your chapter so people who were voting could skim through and read the ones that looked interesting. They wanted a chapter title, headline, 250-character summary, and 500-character excerpt. I rushed through, and went to hit the final submit at 3:59 pm. It cleared my fields. So in a mad rush I typed/pasted it all again, hit submit and...it was 4:01 pm.

One. Freaking. Minute. Late.

So I did not get to enter the writing contest, I was now behind on my day job duties, I will get home late from work, and I am even further behind on getting promised critiques back to people. All in all, a wonderful day.

Oh, well. Pick myself back up and go on. Just another late night doing crits. And the contest is ongoing. I'll see how I feel about it when it's time to work on the next chapter. At least then I'll have enough time.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Beginning at the beginning...again.

Ugh.

The past few days have not been great to me WRT writing. (Heh, "WRT" looks like "write".) I was steaming along, almost sure to hit my midmonth goal (5K new words, for a total of 15K). Then Thursday night I was just sooo brain fried. I took Friday off work to spend the whole day writing--though with DH and DS here I was distracted several times--and only got 900 words. Which isn't bad, but I've been known to do 1-3K in about 3 hours on a good night, so it's not my best, either.

At first glance, it might seem like I actually got close to my goal. Well. Here's the rub: after some discussion on the Forum, I've pretty much decided that my original opening scene is too far ahead of the actual "story" to open the book with. So, that means 3K down the tubes (though I will be saving it, just in case). Parts of the scene will be reworked and recycled into other scenes, and the rest will be mentioned as backstory. I'm keeping my current word count, though, because I have written that many words. And some very wise people on the Forum have counseled me that sometimes you don't know where the story begins until you're done with the whole thing.

Ooh, new opening line (or part of it): Today was supposed to have been my wedding day...

I think that gives the reader a sense of backstory and engenders sympathy for the character while encouraging them to read on. She was supposed to be married? Today? What happened?

My current plan is to pick up on the day she travels back, which is Midsummer's day and, yes, the date she had planned to marry. (Except the wedding got called off 3 months ago when her fiance decided to start dating her best friend.) Still waiting for my muse to appear with a good, tension-filled, interesting way for her to meet Theresa (that's for you, Jon and Shaylin) and get the stone before she goes to the castle. Hmmm.

Well, I didn't get any writing done today. I decided to take the weekend off and "reboot" so I can start refreshed on Monday. Unless my muse--who usually decides to pop in when I have decided to not write (there's your split negated infinitive, S&J)--shows up with a good idea. I also need to get some Narc crits done, because I promised. For tonight, though, to bed with me.

Gaidhlig Word of the Day: sgìths, claoidh. "Weariness."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

I have a lot more respect for editors and agents now, especially editors. NOT that I didn't have any before, oh no. I really did. I just have more now. *g*

Last night I spent about 3 hours line-editing and critiquing the first chapter of a friend's MS. I'm glad to do it (though I don't know how she feels about all my comments!) but it took so much time. 'Course, part of that was switching colors and such in Word so my comments could be seen. I think I'm just gonna have to do the rest of it by hand and mail her the copies, honestly. I'd work much faster that way. Now I see what Kristin Nelson was talking about when she was raving about tablet PCs.

The end result was me zoned out and mentally drained at midnight with not a single new word written on my WIP (still in search of a working title, if anyone has any ideas). Again, I'm happy and excited to do it, but wow - is it hard. And that's just the first chapter. About 11 single-spaced pages. There are 21 more chapters to go. And if I were an editor and had to do this all day every day, I'd pull my hair out. And if I were an agent I would totally understand why other agents rejected good books that needed revision first, because they don't have the time.

And when I finish my WIP, and have beta readers that do this for me, I will shower them with love and affection. *g*

Monday, September 11, 2006

The progress continues

I just finished adding about 950 words to a previously written scene. This is the part in the middle of the book where I started writing, and have since added to the beginning and end. I'm kind of a chunk-linear hybrid, really. I write chunks as they come to me, and then I go back and reread those chunks and proceed linearly from there until I hit a stopping point. Then I either write another chunk, or work linearly from another one previously written. Today I was doing the latter.

Anyway, I probably could have kept going with the scene, but I'm suddenly feeling very tired. It will be midnight before I get in bed. Again. But this writing is a dream I've had for a long time, and I have to sacrifice to do it. So be it. Years from now, I'll be able to say "I wrote a book." I doubt that I'd be saying "I wish I'd gotten a few hours more sleep" otherwise.

In other news, I finished reading Jen's MS "Narc" this afternoon at work. Good story, if not my usual genre. It needs some clarification and polish, but as a first draft it's as good or better than a lot of published books I've read. Being a beta reader is fun. Tomorrow I'll try to get some crits back to her.

For now, to bed. Oidhche mhath.

Gaidhlig Phrase of the Day:
Dè tha doi? "What's doing?"

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Slowly but surely

I didn't really get much done this weekend. Saturday was a complete waste, but everyone needs a day of rest now and again. Today I felt much better, and I had every intention of writing a great deal. Alas, DH was watching the last 2 episodes of "Rome" (HBO) and I got sucked in. At least we've seen them all now, so he'll go back to reading at night and I can get more writing done. *g*

There's a great deal of discussion of first lines in the "Openings Workshop" on the Forum. I posted mine: "Elspeth, I'm sorry." I've gotten quite a bit of feedback, and all of it has been helpful. My intention had been to hook the reader by making them want to know who was sorry, and for what. Several people did in fact have this reaction, so that's gratifying. It also reflected the fact that I had no freaking clue how to write the first half of that fateful conversation. Others pointed out the problems with beginning with dialogue (and unattributed dialogue, at that). Of course, All Would Have Become Clear over the following lines, but since I had heard from several places that I should write the whole conversation, I took a deep breath and plunged in.

I roughed it out in a notebook at work on Friday, and got it "on paper" (read: "in word processor") tonight. I also minorly revised the rest of the chapter, and wrapped it up with a quick paragraph. Hopefully, it will get picked apart on the forum and in the "Novels Workshop." I need to make this chapter as strong as possible, so I'm more than willing to write and rewrite.

It will be harder for me with some of my "baby" chapters that I've worked hard on and really like. But anything that makes this book publishable is good. Or so I will keep reminding myself. *g*

Anyway, I thought I hadn't made much progress over the past week, but I added up all the word counts from my various current "chunks" and I'm up to almost 12,000. I made an ambitious goal of 10,000 new words for the month, so to hit my mid-month goal I need to make it to 15,000 by the 15th. That's 3,366 in 5 days. I love a challenge.

Gaidhlig Phrase of the Day: tha mi ‘n dòchas. "I hope."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

*Dances for Joy*

Check out this entry on Agent Kristin Nelson's blog.

Woo!

I am SO querying her when I finish this thing.

Let me tell you about Elspeth:

-She's a physicist, and intelligent. But want to know why I can make that work when other authors write "brilliant phyicist" heroines that just have me rolling my eyes? Check the subtitle of my blog, or the "About Me" section. I'm not saying I'm smarter than anyone else, but at least I have the background to make my character believable. When she time-travels, she's coming up with theories based on real physics ideas.

-She's a black belt. I've written three scenes to date where she fights for herself. One is against 3 ruffians who accost her shortly after her arrival. One is where she proves to Alec that she can take him down. And one is where she takes on Campbell's guys, but her skirts get in the way (I'm a realist). Okay, so I'm not a black belt myself, but I am a green belt in Kiyojute Ryu kempo, and DH is a black belt in Shaolin Do. But she's not so tough that Alec seems superfluous. Being outnumbered, or outweighed, or not dressed well, or snuck up on (all of which happen at some points) will make it hard for even a black belt to win. And some things just can't be dealt with by physical force, and there are larger things at stake that she needs Alec to help with.

-She does stuff. As opposed to hanging out and waiting for Alec to get back so they can "get it on." (Actually, if you must know, at the moment there is only one *ahem* scene between them, and that is on the night before he is to be killed. They'll probably do it again when he finds her and they get to stay together for good, but that's twice in a 90,000+ word book.) What does she do when she finds herself thrown back 300 years? Makes a place for herself. She learns to be productive. Weaving. Making pottery. Learning Gaidhlig. (FYI, most Highlanders in the 1600's didn't speak English, so if she's gonna get along, she's gotta learn their language.)

-But she's also normal and lovable, too. She has her own relationship problems that people can identify with. (Who doesn't feel sorry when someone's fiance leaves them for their best friend?) She's a good person. She tries to prevent a terrible thing from happening, and when that results in another terrible thing (Alec's capture and condemnation) she offers herself to save his life.

And there's more where that came from.

Surrey, here I come!

After a much-protracted discussion between DH and myself, mulling the pros and cons of me flying across the continent by myself for 5 days, spending quite a bit of money, and doing all of this for a book which I may not finish (though I intend to) and may not sell (though I hope it does), we have agreed:

I am going to Surrey!

I've wanted to write for a long time, and now that I'm actually doing it I'm really enjoying myself. Going to the conference will drastically improve my writing, enable me to meet my Forum friends (and some of my favorite authors) in person, and also improve my chances of finishing and selling the book. It will be a learning experience that happens to be a lot of fun. *g*

So, I spent literally all morning making my reservations, and now everything is locked in. Woohoo.

The only question remaining is whether or not I will volunteer while I'm there. From the volunteer info, it seems like it's mostly for locals. Although there is some implication that I could attend workshops without registering for the conference...but I've already signed up, so that's a moot point. It'd be nice to help out and maybe rub shoulders with some big names. But I'm also going so that I can accomplish something with my writing, and I'm worried that doing too much will distract me from learning. I'll think about it; we have until September 20th to make our decisions and let the volunteer coordinator know.

(No Gaidhlig word today; I don't have my dictionary with me.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Slogging through it.

I've been at my desk, working on the first chapter, for over 2 hours now, and I don't have much to show for it. I read over the first 5 pages (previously written) and felt good about them. Then I set about trying to finish out the chapter and practically hit a wall.

The book opens with Elspeth recieving a phone call from her fiance, telling her that he is calling off the wedding because he and her best friend have discovered they have feelings for each other. This is a big moment of transition in Elspeth's life, and it will set in motion a chain of events that leads to her eventually going to Scotland, traveling through time, and meeting Alec. I feel good with where I'm picking up the story, and I got good feedback to that effect from EE's minions when I submitted the (original) opening to his blog.

I follow her through the first evening (she drinks a bottle of wine and drifts around her apartment, starting things but not finishing them) and night (she wakes up from a foreshadowing dream and finally breaks down with the reality of her situation). The problem is the remainder of the weekend. I want to have her come to grips with the situation, if not accept it, and try to move forward with her life (school, especially) while still struggling with her dream being torn away from her.

Right now, it just feels like I'm "telling not showing" and boringly reciting a list of things she does over the course of a day or two. I'd love to jump to the beginning of the week and show her interacting with people at school. But I had hoped for that to be the next chapter, and currently Chapter One is only 6 pages (about 3,000 words) long. Is that long enough? 'Cause I could wrap it up with something like "...she really wasn't looking forward to facing everyone [on Monday/in the morning]." And then pick up Chapter Two on Monday morning.

Hmm...an old thread on the Forum discussed this. I'd hoped for word counts, but the general consensus (which I already knew) was that it's a natural thing. Diana even said she's had chapters as short as 5 pages. I'm just wondering if that's a problem with the first chapter. Oh, well. I guess I'd better not force it. Prolly tomorrow I'll go take out the boring stuff and just wrap up with a quick summary of the weekend. We'll see how it goes.

Gaidhlig Word of the Day: sgriobhadair. "Writer."

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bleh.

After my mad word rush of last week, I really looked forward to the three-day weekend. Here was my chance to get housework done during the day, and keep pressing forward with the book in the evenings.

Alas, not so.

As I sit here on Sunday night, I've maybe written 50 words or so. The past few nights I've been positively brain-dead by the time I sit down at the computer. Usually, if I just read over some previous work, or cruise the other writing blogs or the Compuserve forum for a bit, I'm refreshed and manage to make some progress, but last night and this, that didn't happen.

I have a few scenes that I could be working on...Elspeth gets captured by Campbell's guys after showing Alec her mad martial arts skillz (they sneak up behind her and conk her on the head, so there's no discontinuity)...Alec explains the history of the MacGregors and their beef with the Campbells (especially Glenorchy/Breadalbane)...Elspeth goes with the clanfolk up to the summer shielings shortly after her arrival...Doug comes to Elspeth after her return and wants to get back together; she says no and reveals she's pregnant...Elspeth and Alec keep narrowly missing each other when he comes to find her in the present day...finish writing the first chapter...finish writing the "Wedding Night" chapter...

So you see, it's not lack of ideas that have me stagnating, it's lack of mental reserves. Oh, well. Bed early tonight and hope to get back on the horse tomorrow.

An upside to the weekend, though. A book I ordered used from Amazon for $1.20 (plus shipping) has turned out to be one of my best historical sources yet. TONS of great historical and cultural info for my setting. Excellent.

Gaidhlig Phrase of the Day: uisge beatha. "whisky" (lit. "water of life")

Thursday, August 31, 2006

So what's this book gonna be about, anyway?

With wonderful help from Beth on the Compuserve Forum (who basically conked me over the head with the fact that my "query summary"- as written - was generic and likely to get looked over) I have rewritten the mini-synopsis of the book:

"Ye canna change the past. Ye can only do what ye have already done."

So speaks an old woman to physicist Elspeth Clarke as she boards the ferry to visit historic Kilchurn Castle. Elspeth is in Scotland for a summer trip, seeking to forget her troubles after a betrayal by her fiancé and best friend just weeks before her wedding. While exploring the picturesque ruins, she makes an incredible discovery: Kilchurn Castle was built around a wrinkle in the fabric of space-time. Unfortunately, the discovery is made by Elspeth's accidental journey through the wormhole, and she comes to disoriented, sick...and 300 years in the past. She immediately tries to return to her own time, but she is hampered by "Grey" John Campbell, Earl of Breadalbane and Holland and owner of Kilchurn. The politically avaricious Earl has found Elspeth's historical notes and intends to exploit her knowledge of the future for his own gain. Elspeth flees the castle and soon finds herself under the protection of handsome Alasdair MacAlpin. As she learns new skills and struggles to fit in with "Alec's" people, Elspeth realizes she is falling for the gallant Scot. Alec, however, cannot return her feelings—at least openly—because he must make a marriage that brings alliance or wealth to his beleaguered clan.


By now it is the winter of 1691-92, and Elspeth recalls with horror the slaughter of the Glencoe MacDonalds that will take place at the hands of the Campbells. She and Alec journey north in an attempt to prevent it, but they arrive in the midst of the massacre and are separated. Alec's true clan—the outlawed MacGregors—is revealed during the struggle, and he is taken captive back to Kilchurn, where he is sentenced to death. Bribing her way into the castle on the eve of his execution, Elspeth spends one night with Alec and leaves him with a promise to forget him and flee. Instead she goes to the Earl and secretly bargains for his release with the only thing she has—her life—gambling that she will find a way to return to her own time. When Alec returns from captivity and hears that Elspeth has been killed at Kilchurn, but no body was buried, he risks everything by seeking to travel to her time and search her out, not knowing if she is truly alive, but not willing to admit that the woman he loves is dead.


In other news, I have broken 8,000 words. Woohoo! My current goal is to be at 24,000-25,000 by Surrey (late October).

Gaidhlig Phrase of the Day: mo bhean. "My wife."

Edited to update: I added another 2,000 words tonight. I am now 1/10th of the way done. Woohoo! It's funny, thinking of what I have as 1/10th makes it seem like quite a bit and like it shouldn't take too much to get the rest of the way done. But then I think about how much of the story I have down, and it doesn't seem like that much. I have so much more stuff to put in there; I hope I don't have a problem keeping my word count down...

Monday, August 28, 2006

GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL!!!!!!!

Gaidhlig Phrase of the Day: Tapadh leat/Tapadh leibh. "Thank you." (singular, informal/plural or singular, formal)

Forgive the subject line, I was channeling the soccer announcers you hear on matches televised in Mexico...

Anyway, yeah, I reached my goal! So woo for that. I am now, the observant among you will note, at 7,300 words. I had hoped to reach an even 7,000 by the end of August, but I got on a roll today and now I think I'll try to stick another grand on there for a total of 8,000 by Thursday. In my current mood, it seems doable.

Why all the sudden progress? Well, aside from being very busy at the day job and at home, the past few weeks have really been spent in research and contemplation. All the necessary stuff before a story can really take off. I'm finally to a point where I can start writing and just go again, because I know the general direction I want to actually go.

The first couple of weeks after I decided to write this book, I kind of sat around and played with ideas, waiting for inspiration. Then inspiration struck! and I had the basis for my storyline. I wrote a few scenes, got a feel for the characters and got an idea of what I needed to know before I went on.

At that point, a few weeks ago, I started researching in earnest. I narrowed down a time frame, found a historical location and bad guy, got a feel for the cultural and historical setting, and refined my story idea. There were some things I couldn't go forward without knowing, and I had to figure those out.

Then last week I sat down to write an outline. I started off this project as a "chunker," and I have a feeling I will write large parts of it in that fashion. But at heart I am a listmaker, and I love to have things laid out and organized. So once I thought I knew what my plot was going to be, I decided to jot it down for future reference and revision. That quickly turned into 3 hand-written notebook pages, front and back, that mapped out most of the story and actually led to some more brainstorming and ideas for plot elements (such as the time travel mechanism).

I didn't get much time over the weekend, but today was a fresh start and I did have a goal to meet. I went in to tweak/update the scenes I wrote originally in light of what I had decided through the research, and while I was updating my opening scene, the words just kept coming.

So I've made quite a bit of progess, and for the moment I'm writing linearly. Other scenes are percolating in my head, though, and when they decide to pop up I'll get them "on paper" (which is funny, 'cause this is all on the computer - there is no paper yet).

One frustrating thing is that I can't log into the Compuserve forum from home, because the login is wonky. But I can't access the ForumsAmerica workshop at work, because the Powers That Be in IT have blocked the domain. So my ability to interact with my writing friends is hampered no matter where I go. I think I'm going to have to do all my crits for the workshop over weekends, and save the weeknights for writing.

Another dilemma - now that I have a decent chunk of the first chapter, and a query letter draft (see yesterday's post) I'm trying to decide whether to submit for Miss Snark's crapometer. She said she doesn't usually do romance, but she'll accept submissions for such in the crapometer contest. I guess I'm a glutton for punishment, since I submitted my (original) opening to Evil Editor. We'll see. Even if I do submit, it might not get chosen. Again, with only 7,300 words, I'm really putting the cart before the horse here, but I think that constructive criticism this early on is helpful so I don't get too set in erroneous ways. *grin*

Anyway, it grows late and if I'm going to keep up my creativity, I do need to sleep every now and then.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Cart before the horse

Gaidhlig Phrase of the Day: Tha gu dearbh. "Yes indeed." (lit. "Indeed it is.")

[I actually have several subjects to address, not the least of which is still names and naming. But I thought that subject line sounded witty, and it does get to the heart of my current situation.]

In the process of transferring and updating all my currently-written bits to a flash drive, I came across (and subsequently transferred and updated) a draft for a query letter that I had written after reading some discussions of query letters and how to write them for maximal effect. If I may say so, it's pretty darn good. In fact, I feel pretty confident that--were I to be now beginning the query process--I would be able to generate agent interest and probably find representation. Queries, resumes, cover letters...give me some guidelines and I have usually been able to write pretty effective stuff. Now if I only had a book to sell, I could get rolling. I need to just tear myself away from that aspect of writing and concentrate on the actual manuscript. Plenty of time for researching how to sell when I have something to sell. On the other hand, the query did get me to write a very concise premise summary that helped me clarify the overall direction of the book.

What's in a Name? Part Deux...

So, after having posted it and thought about it for a few days, I've decided that I like the male lead's name and am sticking with it. I'm starting to think of him in terms of that name, which is always (in my mind) a Good Sign. Alec MacGregor it is. So now I'm going through and editing all existing story bits and putting his name in, along with the Bad Guy's name (John Campbell...I know, there were tons of them back then, but this one happens to be the first Earl of Breadalbane and Holland).

Funny story: the clinic I work for just hired a new doctor. I worked with him on Friday. His name? Andrew MacGregor. He's not Scottish, but his name sure is. I know I decided on Alasdair/Alec over Andrew for my male MC, but it's still funny 'cause that was almost his name.

But now I'm starting to rethink my poor heroine's name. "Elspeth Clarke" had always been my planned pen name, but the character laid claim to "Elspeth" pretty quickly and so I let her have it. I've been going along with Clarke as well, but now I'm starting to think that maybe I should give her a different last name, just in case my future publisher wants to use that last name or some close variant for me. I've been thinking "Rebecca Clarke" would work, although "Rebecca Timothy" and "Rebecca Gabriel" have also been suggested and aren't half bad. (Rebecca, incidentally, is my middle name.) I really liked "Rebecca Campbell" (Campbell actually being a family name on my dad's side) but that's already taken...an artist or singer, I think, is what popped up when I Googled it. Or perhaps "Jennifer Somethingorother." We shall see. But it wouldn't do to have an MC with the same last name as the author, so in case we do use Clark/Clarke for me I should go ahead and think of something else for her.

I want a Scottish surname, but not Mac-somethingorother because that's a bit too much. A nice, relatively short and nondistinctive name. Preferably from a clan or sept the MacGregors get along with, so help ease her way in that time. I've been looking into the Cameron and MacDonald septs, 'cause they're on pretty good terms with the Griogairach. I also kinda like Murray...need to look into that.

The joys of research.

I actually still haven't written much over the past week, but that tide's about to turn. I've been absorbed in research a great deal of the time, and I'm finally starting to get a feel for the time/place enough to allow me to start back into the story pretty strongly. The pile of books on my kitchen table was becoming overwhelming, so I finally managed to clear off an entire shelf of valuable bookshelf space in the office and put them all there. Most of them are library books, but I can renew online and if one of them ends up having to go back, I'm keeping a bibliography so I can request it again if I need it.

Another funny story: the majority of the books I'm using for research are, as I said, library books. I get online to the Lexington Public Library and request books from their online catalog and use their ILL service. The branch I have them sent to for pickup is a tiny little branch in a shopping center on my way home from work that caters mostly to the schoolkids who live in the area. So over the past few weeks, I've stopped in several times to pick up varying numbers of Scotland-related books. This past time, I couldn't find any of my requested books on the "hold request" shelf, despite having recieved e-mail notification of their arrival for pickup. Then I noticed a shelf on the back of the cart that was about 2/3 full and checked it.

I had my own shelf on the hold request cart. How cool is that? The staff there get a kick out of me. I think part of that has to do with my scooter, though...

Speaking of research, I've been conducting two forms. One (the majority) is historical research, plain and simple. The other I like to call "market research." Basically, I'm reading all the time-travel historical romances and the like set in Scotland I can get my hands on. And besides the Outlander stuff--which is thoroughly researched--it's really starting to get on my nerves.

Reason the first: the blatant historical inaccuracies get in my way of enjoying the story. Now, I know that you "can't let reality get in the way of a good story." But could we at least use historically appropriate names? I can pretty much guarantee that neither "Greylen" nor "Griffin" were used as names for Scottish men back in the day. And another huge pet peeve - even the slightest amount of reading up on clan tartans reveals that they weren't really "clan" tartans until the early 19th century or so. And even the "Great Kilt" was something seen after the 1500's. So don't have guys from the 12th century wearing a kilt in a clan tartan. Please.

Reason the second: I have now come across two books in this particular subgenre that have "brilliant physicists" as female MC's. I understand the reasoning--impress the reader with the intelligence and prestige of the character's profession. No problem. But if you are going to have characters that are physicists, please at least do a little research before you start having them expound on scientific ideas. Otherwise, real physicists/scientists (like myself) are going to groan and get annoyed when you use some phrase that probably sounds good on the page but is actually blatantly wrong or nonsensical. You lose your credibility that way.

I don't mean to sound snobbish. And I'm not saying don't write characters that don't share your own personal profession. I'm just saying that both of my reasons for getting annoyed with these books could be cleared up with a little research on the author's part. If you're going to write historicals, etc. that should be a given. Actually, the market would be a little easier to break into if that were a requiremnt. *sigh* It's why I respect Diana soooo much. If she has Claire do something medical or use an herb to treat something, she's looked it up. Descriptions of social customs, historical events, weapons...all accurate. It makes the book that much richer and draws you in to the story that much more.

So, yeah. This is a really long post. I'm gonna sign off her and go tweak book stuff for a bit, then retire. I'm working on an outline for the book, but that's a subject for another post. Starting tomorrow I'm going to begin writing again in earnest. I have 1300 words to come up with by Thursday, and I want to have 20,000 or so total by Surrey (still deciding about going).

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What's in a name?

Gaidhlig Word of the Day: piseag. "kitten" (Male MC ends up calling Elspeth this sometimes, as a pet name - no pun intended.)

Probably the biggest thing holding me back at this point is finding a name for the male lead. I need to settle on a clan for him, and it needs to be one of the clans near Loch Awe in the late 1600's. And I need a given name for him. Knowing who he is will really help me get far with regards to advancing the story. I mean, I have a lot of ideas of his personality and character, but now I need a social position.

I had originally thought the name Andrew would be nice. St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, after all. But you never hear of men in Scotland named Andrew. Odd.

The thing is, there were a really small handful of names that everyone used. And every time I hear one, I think of another character in another book. It's worse than trying to pick out a name for a baby!

Ooh, great site I found that helped with this: www.whatsinaname.net
They specialize in Scottish names and the Gaidhlig variants.

Ok, fine. Names tended to be re-used in families. I believe the historical figure I'm going to call great-grandfather for my male MC was Alasdair. That's the Gaidhlig form of Alexander. Dim. form is Ailig or Alec/Alex. I can handle that. Hmmm...Colin? I just like it. Makes a good middle name.

So, at this point it's looking like my male lead will be (fanfare, please):

Alasdair (Alexander) Colin MacGregor, aka MacAlpin, aka Fletcher, aka Coleman, aka ...

Yeah, MacGregor. Not like Rob Roy. Distant cousins, maybe, but Rob Roy was from the Glengyle branch, and my guy's from Glenstrae. This is, however, during the time of the proscription. Which gets my guy into Very Big Trouble later in the book when he's overheard claiming the MacGregor name. (cue ominous music) I may throw Malcolm in there somewhere (another very common MacGregor name) and/or whatever I decide is his mother's family name.

Wow, I was gonna post more but it's getting late. I didn't get any more written today, but I did get some good research done (on clothing, especially) and [I think] a name pinned down. We'll see how I like it over the next few days. I had meant to jot down a quick outline of the plot I have in mind thus far, but I didn't get to it. I'm a "chunk" writer, but now that I have a basic plotline it can't hurt to write it down. If any random chunks that aren't on the outline show up, I'll just modify and fit them in. *g*

My evening "book time" seems to be taken over by research every night. I actually write better in my office at work (go figure). So I might start using evenings for research primarily (and writing if a really good scene comes to me) and just take my lunch hour at work to write. We'll see how it goes.

Oh, and one last thing. I got DH's approval for Surrey. I booked a room. I've not finalized my decision to go yet, but better safe than sorry. I've already spent a lot of money this year, and I'm somewhat ashamed of our lack of savings at the moment. And the trip would not come cheap. But I really, really want to go, and it will be very good for me this early in my writing. To be determined...

Monday, August 21, 2006

Back in the saddle

Gaidhlig Phrase of the Day: Tha i breagha an-diugh. "It's a lovely day today."

Okay, you caught me. I haven't posted since last Thursday, and I haven't worked on the book much since then, either.

I had my reasons, but it's a fresh week and I still have another 1,000 words to go to meet my August goal, so I'd better get back to work. I'd really like to finish the month with at least an even 7,000 words. September's goal will be bigger - I'm thinking 2,000 words a week. That's a lot, but if I'd get my butt in gear I don't think it's impossible.

The biggest thing holding me back at this point is the holes in my setting. I'm narrowing down info all the time (I have a year, a bad guy--and his son(s), one of the main locations, etc.). But a large part won't fall into place until I know the clan and name of my male MC. He's eluding me at the moment, but I need to nail him down before I can do much else, since he's in a large part of the book. Narrowing down a clan will let me figure out who exactly he is (I'm thinking younger brother to the chief, but laird of his own estate?) and other fun personal details. Having a first name will help me write a lot of scenes. I want something authentically Scottish, but not stereotypically so (Fergus, Angus, etc. are out).

The other big decision I'm trying to make is whether or not to go to Surrey. The SiWC is a Big Hairy Deal - one of the most prestigous and talked-about writers' conferences. Several of my favorite authors, including Diana, are going to be there giving seminars. I'm sure I'd learn a lot that would help me early in the writing process. I could meet some of my friends from the forum. Most importantly: it would look great on a query, since I don't have any writing credentials.

The only problmem? It's in Canada. British Columbia. On the other side of the continent. We can technically afford for me to go, but even if I wanted to fly across 3 time zones with an almost-8-month-old (as he will be at the time; it's at the end of October) the extra cost for him and DH would inch towards prohibitive. So, it'd mean 4-5 days without my husband and son. And close to $1000 all told, for registration, travel, and lodging. But it'd be awesome. It would look great on my query. And it would guilt me into finishing and selling this book, to recoup the cost. I guess part depends on how serious I am about this writing thing. The other part depends on what DH thinks.

Anyway, I've far exceded my 1-hour-per-night (minimum) book commitment and I need to go to bed. I didn't get any more wordage, but I did organize all the scene snippets that I've been working on and saved them to a flash drive so I can transport them to and from my day job. So far my muse seems to appear whenever I have better things to do at work. I'll see if I can talk her into showing up in the evenings during "book time."

Oidhche mhath. (Good night.)