In Which Our Heroine Finds Critique Partners

I think I now know what online dating feels like.

Over the past week I’ve been quite warmly welcomed into the MudPuddle and YARWA writing groups. They are an amazing group of people, seriously. If you are an aspiring author, I highly recommend a good writing group. If you write something that has a heavy level of romance and are not part of the RWA, go join. It is worth every dime you pay. Mark my words.

Finding a critique partner can feel very much like online dating. What’s your story about, this is mine. Let’s trade chapters to see if there’s interest. We’ll do a trial critique to see if we’re compatible. Running to go check your e-mail because you want to see what they thought because you want there to be interest in your story, if not, you’re doing something wrong.

It’s an interesting process but I’m really enjoying getting to trade with other writers. In the RWA, writers help each other become better writers. Better writing is more likely to lead to the golden ticket of a publication offer. I think it’s an awesome system and I wish I had found it earlier. Heck, I got the idea for Death by Dragon because of an RWA class I took. Jordan Summers, thank you for bringing it up at that writing panel at Phoenix Comic Con. It’s made a big difference.

In Which Our Heroine Makes Some Progress

A little update for all. I am getting the feel or the system that my FF&P Chapter uses for their critiques. Have not posted stuff yet, because I want to make certain things are being done right. I hope to put things up within the week.

On another note, I joined a second RWA Chapter, the YARWA (Young Adult Romance Writers of America) since I am a YA writer as well as a Romantic Fantasy one. I also signed up to take their Historical writing class later this month. On my to-do list is to send out my intro to that group as well as my request for a critique partner. Very exciting, no?

On another note, I found a really cool site called Get Ye Done. You make an account and create tasks or quests for things you need to get done. Then you get XP and levels for finishing them as an encouragement system. It’s really kind of fun.

In Which our Heroine Starts the Next Phase

I have returned from my holiday type break. In-laws have been visited, in laws have visited and my house is relatively back to its normal equilibrium. There is a small stack of read books in my office (and yet the Book Monster is still a dominating force of 80+ volumes or so), and new books have been acquired (yay new books). I am also the very proud owner of an increasing collection of awesomely geeky Funko POP Vinyl characters, a fuzzy Avengers blanket, and Agent Coulson’s Captain America Trading Card Collection. I did watch the Leverage series finale. Not only to I understand what Wil Wheaton meant about feels (ZOMG THERE WERE FEELS!), but I stand by my declaration that the episode was meant to be a series ender and should stand as such even though I will miss what for me was the Parker & Hardison & Elliot Show. On the subject of feels, Dallas comes back in just a few weeks. There will be backstabbing and feels aplenty!

So, on to the writing portion of this blog. I just sent off my e-mail to join my RWA Chapter’s Critique group for Death by Dragon and it’s a little nerve wracking. It’s a good group from what I have been told and has seen lots of first sales to publishers. It’s still unnerving to turn my baby over to a group of writers I don’t personally know, even if I should get a better story coming back. I guess I should take some confidence in the fact a lot of people in my writing classes thought I was on to something story wise but I most certainly am not entering this arena with any swagger in my step. Crossing my fingers, we shall see how this goes.

In Which Our Heroine Completes Draft 1

Woot! Woot!

I finished it! Yesterday afternoon I finished draft one at a bit over 64,200 words!

So what’s next for me?

Well, for one I need to shelve my draft for a week or two to be able to come at it with fresh eyes. This will also let me spend the holidays with all of the family we are seeing or visiting without trying to work in regular writing hours. I’m going to use my RWA resources to get some critique partners. While one might say that in theory I could do that during my break, I figure those people will be busy with holiday stuff right now and if I’m asking for critiques, I should do it when I’m available to do so in return.

I may consider outlining another project. What I do want to do with some of that time is catch up on some reading for fun. My stack includes romances of the historical persuasion, Tricked by Kevin Hearne, Cold Days by Jim Butcher, some YA books and while traveling, a bunch of novella length stuff by Kevin Hearne and Kelley Armstrong. Anyone else out there reading something cool right now? Maybe eagerly awaiting the the time for a particular book? Am I the only one with a back log of at least 80 books?

In Which Our Heroine Gives an Update

I hate being ill, but my sinus infection hit the fever point last night. November and December are horrible illness months for me. Just horrible. However, I get a 2 week break starting next Friday. I look forward to this.

I’m working on the last two chapters of my draft. In the meantime, I’m posting what my query letter for my current manuscript will look like. Not only does it give a summary of my project but I hope that in giving it a page of it’s own, it can be a way to show potential agents and editors what projects I am offering for consideration.

So, here it goes: The Case Involving the Death by Dragon

In Which Our Heroine Discusses Her Current Work in Progress

If I get the 4,000 words between today and tomorrow that I want then I will not only hit the 60,000 mark but that will leave me with about 10,000 words left until my goal. I’m really excited about this, and I’m especially excited about the prospect of pulling my RWA resources and getting into a critique group. I need to take a hiatus from Death by Dragon for a bit to come at it with a clear mind. I have a couple of other thoughts on how to spend that time.

One, my first Work in Progress for the year, a YA Romantic Urban Fantasy, The Blackstone Heir could use some looking at. I really want to have more than one project going because I feel like the more things you put out there, the more likely someone is to bite. Then if you do get a publisher to bite, when you finish writing your first series it’s easy to say, by the way, I have this other thing that’s already written, are you interested?

Two, my brain keeps batting around an idea that’s superhero based. I’m not sure if I should go back to work one or start outlining this one. Decisions, decisions…

In the meantime, as I finish up on my first draft. I’m considering posting up my “Back Cover Blurb” for Death by Dragon up on the site.

In Which Our Heroine Discusses YA Couples

I got some great responses when I decided to write about love triangles in Y fiction and my thoughts on them. Conversations were started which I found to be a lot of fun, so I’d like to throw another related topic out there.

The YA couple. Since I write YA, that’s what I’m going to stick with for purposes of this post. Any story that hits romance as a genre needs to have its own power couple. Some writers like the Destined One, others like the Love Triangle, others like the Not-Destiny-But-Obvious-Couple.

No matter which type is chosen, the next big question can be how physical is such a relationship going to get in a YA novel. It’s a big question that can often decide if libraries and schools will take your books, if organizations want it banned and for some teens, whether or not a book is “too sexy” for them. You will find books that go from very clean, to books that deal with teen sexuality a lot more. The bottom line I think that writers need to remember is that they send a message on their pick, no matter what that message is. I’m a cleaner read author but I know of other writers that hit varying degrees of clean or racier. I don’t think the other writers are wrong for writing what they do. Some of them explore issues of sexuality that are important to teens and it is important for them to write a story that does that.

For me, a person who works with teens, I see too many girls get hung up on the wrong person because they have convinced themselves that this person is the One. They get caught up with wanting this person to be the One so badly that they don’t see why that can’t happen and it creates a vicious cycle of drama that impacts everything. I’m big of the idea of a partnership in my stories, of a couple complimenting each other and bringing out the best in each other. I think those are important qualities in a relationship and I want teen girls to have that example. When they say they want a guy like my romantic hero, I want it to be because he has qualities that should be reasonable to expect in a partner, I want my heroes to raise the standard girls have for boyfriends.

In Which Our Heroine Discusses Love Triangles

I ended up leaving a comment a few weeks ago on another writer’s blog regarding her thought on love triangles and how much they seem to be used. She wasn’t such a big fan of the practice, but I had some thoughts I wanted to throw in and I did. It lead to a nice little comment back and the conversation lingered in my mind.

The bottom line is, love triangles are stressful for more than just the protagonist having to make the choice about who they want to end up with. I maintain that do a true love triangle justice you have to establish both potential partners as being the one as well as having some sort of flaw that makes them not the one. If you pull this off well, your readers will align themselves into separate camps, and affix some title beginning with “Team” upon their relationship or “ship” of choice. The separate teams will play as nicely together as the Capulets and the Montagues and  half of them will feel disappointed and betrayed when their choice doesn’t win.

See also my experience as a Apollo/Starbuck shipper on the most recent Battlestar Galactica for an example. They will still qualify as one of my favorite OTPs for the record.

This shipping business can get very complicated and sometimes take the author by surprise. I recall reading that the author of a certain popular set of vampire stories didn’t expect her werewolf character to gain a following of his own. But they clearly exist and are very enthusiastic to prove this anytime Taylor Lautner has to remove his shirt during one of those movies.

I understand a group of fans was particularly upset when J. K. Rowling stated that Ron and Hermione were her couple of choice and that Harry and Hermione were never going to happen.

I have also witnessed cases of fans latching onto pairings that the writers never intended or saw, but the fans most certainly did.

I can’t write like that, while I don’t mind another character trying to cause some sort of upset to my couple, I have blatant favoritism for my romantic hero. It’s just the way I am, however I must hand it to those writers who can create two romantic rivals knowing that they will most likely have to crush one of them horribly.

The Next Big Thing

I was very kindly nominated by for The Next Big Thing Blog Hop by Dreampunk Geek. Thanks for the shout out!

What is the working title of your book?

The Case Involving the Death by Dragon

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America and I was searching through the upcoming class listings when I ran across a class being offered in Western Steampunk by Beth Daniels. By the time I finished reading the class description, the voices inside my head that become characters had already gone off plotting antics and shenanigans. I signed up for the class and quickly decided this work in progress was stronger than my previous.

What genre does your book fall under?

YA Romantic Western Steampunk

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

High society witch Viviene Kingston seeks to discover the truth behind her brother’s suspicious death with the help of the handsome Matt Sawyer whose mysterious past stands to jeopardize the investigation.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Ooo, that is a tricky one. Given the ages of the characters involved, I suspect I would be most likely forced to use the CW line-up to begin my casting search. I do have a personal rule that if you’re closer to thirty than twenty, you should not be playing a teenager though.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m a firm believer that if you want your book to end up in a bookstore, you should go the traditional route even though it’s quite time consuming.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I reached the halfway point yesterday. The first draft will have been about 2-3 months total.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Part of what attracted me to Western Steampunk is it hasn’t been done so much in YA. In my current writing class, the instructor looked at the outline and called it Wild, Wild west meets Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel. I haven’t actually read Cassandra Clare’s Steampunk series so I can’t tesify to that.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It has fisticuffs, magic, snogging and pretty bustle skirts. Also at least one character with some background as an outlaw. Really, you can’t go wrong with that. Literary boys of questionable and mysterious backgrounds for the win.

For the Next Big Thing Blog Hop, I nominate:

Kirsty Stanley and Melananie D Sokol

In Which Our Heroine Discusses More Victorian Things…

An engagement ring, circa 1880s.

I get to look up really fun things when I write historical fiction.

I’m writing Western Steampunk so I get to do research into the American Victorian era and the Wild West. For anyone out there who might be interested in such things, I highly recommend these books for everyday life information (food, clothing, hobbies, slang, furnishings, courtship, mourning, etc): Everyday Life in the Wild West and Everyday Life in the 1800s. They are out of print but you can still find used copies through the Amazon Marketplace or Half.com.

Sometimes, I end up poking around the internet for things the book can’t cover. I was curious as to what engagement rings of the period looked like as my recollection of the whole “Diamonds Are Forever” marketing campaign being later. For the records, diamonds were used but not as the default gem like today. I found a gorgeous ring poking around for 1880s engagement rings and thought it was rather pretty. I also found references to engagement rings coming in silver boxes upon purchases which I thought was a neat detail. Apparently some people collect those boxes.

Tabor Grand Opera House was first opened in 1881 in Denver.

I also had cause to look up opera houses of the time. I was lucky that the time period I had picked including the building of a lot of things I can fit into my story. While Steampunk lets me make the setting a little alternate, I do like to drop in those real historical tidbits for flavor. It does help make the world building easier when I can play with what already existed.

The interior of the Tabor Grand Opera House. So pretty!

The opera house that matched my time period is the Tabor Grand Opera House, which was funded by a very prominent member of the city. The Tabor Grand Opera House no longer exists (it was taken down for good in the 1960s), but the surviving pictures show that it was a stunning building and I think it’s a shame it’s no longer standing. The interiors were just gorgeous and no expense was spared when it was created.  Thank heavens the Denver Public Library has an online photo archive for historical purposes. Makes my research easier. Note to writers, sometimes it’s really nice when your period of choice includes photograph as painting are not as greatly available and could be manipulated a bit more.