Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Title Bout

I need a name change. The Wedding Widow was never going to cut it. Too cut and dry, not eye-catching enough. And now an inside source informs me that publishers find widows depressing. So, in my narcissistic way, I turn to you for help.

Quick summary:
Heroine is a lovely, snobby young girl who gets married to her childhood sweetheart on the first page. He's still a bit drunk from the night before and is run over by a cart and killed while exiting the church. She turns out to be pregnant. Oops. Family casts her aside, and she spends the next five years on outskirts of society, not so snobby anymore.

Hero is a younger, irresponsible son and best friend of the dead husband. He blames himself for the wedding accident (he was out drinking with the guy the night before) and runs off to join the army. Spends five years fighting in Europe, returns home when father and older brother die and he gets the title. Runs into heroine. Learns about baby/outskirts of society situation.

He feels guilty. She hates him for "killing" her husband. She meets a bunch of other widows and hangs out with them. He avoids debutantes and hangs out with army buddies. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The book's a little angsty, but not dark, dark, dark, and it has some humor. Here are the titles I've thought of:
His Best Friend's Wedding
Not Quite Married
The Bride Wore Black
After the Wedding
Dancing In the Dark
Running to Find You
The Thrill of the Chase
Waiting For You
Putting the Groom Before the Cart
The Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Wedding

Okay, those last two aren't serious.

Please comment and let me know which (if any) you like. Or suggest your own. I want to catch the attention of those agents and editors from the get-go!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Buying Books Ain't No Fun At All

Yeah, that's what I said. Not at all.

At my last job, I had access to all the mass market fiction released in any given month. Truly, all of it: YA novels, suspense, mystery and, of course, romance. And a certain amount of comtemporary literary fiction, as well. I have three packing boxes worth of novels I sent home from my office before I left that I still haven't read through, and piles of untouched books beside my bedside table. And seeing that I'm starting graduate school in English Lit in September, lack of reading material will not be a problem.

But...I just realized that the latest (and final!) Bridgerton novel came out last month. And I'm going to have to (gasp) pay money for it myself.

Should I email my old colleagues and see if loyalty counts for anything these days?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Radio Silence

I did it.

I actually signed up for a writing workshop and, yesterday, I went to my first class. It's "A Vacation From Procrastination" being offered through Richard Hugo House. For two hours, I sat in the classroom and thought, "Ha. I don't need this workshop! This is so elementary! After all, I only have two chapters left on my first draft!"

... and then I went home and avoided my writing, and it occurred to me that I've had "two chapters" left for at least three weeks now. (I know, I know: you have much to learn, young Grasshopper.)

So obviously I do need this workshop, and I'm grateful to be able to take it. For those of you who may lack free Saturdays and/or proximity to Seattle, these are the exercises that will keep me occupied until the next class:
  1. Word of the Week: CLOUD (write 500 words somehow associated with it).
  2. Get up earlier or stay up later, and see how that affects my writing.
  3. Do an interview using a childhood photo of myself as the subject.
  4. Walk around my neighborhood and write about what I observe.
  5. Eavesdrop for dialogue.
  6. Collect sounds and smells (very visceral).
  7. Before I go to bed, write a phrase or sentence on a Post-It note and put it on the coffeemaker. When I first wake up, take that phrase as a starting point and write for 15 minutes.
  8. Turn "no" into "yes"... give in to something I normally refuse and see what happens.
  9. Sit at my desk every day for at least 15 minutes, even if I don't do anything.
  10. Observe a media boycott--turn off the TV, put down the newspaper, and go without stories so I feel forced to create my own.

That last one will be the most difficult for me. With the current situation in the Middle East--not to mention midterm elections on the horizon--I can't in good conscience stop reading the news. I have, however, resolved not to watch television, read novels, or surf blogs for more than 15 minutes a day. The horror! The horror!

So if anyone wants to cheer on my efforts, feel free. And if anyone wants to join me doing these writing assignments, let the DSW know so that we can cheer you, too!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Nick Hornsby's Got Nothing On Me

I'm imminently off to Chicago for Wrigley Field-age, Art Institute-age and Drake Hotel Wedding-age, so I won't be able to write/post/read for the rest of the weekend. So in my absence, some list making:

The Top Ten Romantic Couples in Literature (According to the Flitgirl)

10. Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane -- Dorothy L. Sayers mysteries
(Placet-ne, magistra? Placet)

9. Elnora Comstock and Phillip Ammond -- A Girl of the Limberlost
The first half of the book is all about Elnora's growth to womanhood and reconciliation with her mother in swamps of the Limberlost. But once city-boy Phillip appears, Elnora truly meets her match. He's smart and devoted and honorable, she's smart and original and honorable.

8. Leda Etoile and Samuel Gerard -- The Shadow and the Star
My favorite romance, and the loveliest depiction of people finding their true match in spite of their anglings otherwise.

7. Natasha and Andrei -- War and Peace
They don't end up together, but while they are, they are simply electric to read about. Andrei's death scene is one of the most moving pieces of literature I've ever read: aesthetically, spiritually and romantically. And while Andrei's death is supposed to mature Natasha, I liked her better when they were together.

6. Emma Woodhouse and Mr. (Edmund?) Knightly -- Emma
Austen knew how to write all kinds of love relationships, and this is one of her best. He starts out paternalistic, she starts out pert and full-of-herself. By the end, they've each realized how much they have yet to learn about the other.

5. Beatrice and Benedick -- Much Ado About Nothing
It's been 500 years and still no one's matched Shakespeare's depiction of love-to-hate-you-lovers. The passion in their wicked insults is so barely disguised, it's cathartic when they finally admit the love they felt all along.

4. Jane Eyre and Mr. (Edward) Rochester -- Jane Eyre
The book that launched a thousand Gothic novels is of course so much more than that. At the heart is Jane's personal/spiritual development, but the evolution of Jane and Rochester from unequals in love to true partners is thrilling no matter how many times you read it.

3. Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe -- the Anne series
How often does one get to explore a romance from beginning ("Carrots!") to, if not end, then comfortable late middle-age? Gilbert was my dream boyfriend when I was young: kind, funny, friendly, but deeply, passionately, wonderfully in love.

2. Lizzie Bennett and Mr. Darcy -- Pride and Prejudice
The prototypical "He hates me, no he loooooves me" story and still the best done. Don't we all wish we were one-third as witty while flirting?

1. Anne Elliot and Fredrick Wentworth -- Persuasion
My favorite book, my favorite characters. I'm a sucker for (re)declarations of love via letter. But was there ever a more perfectly matched pairing of personalities in print with a more beautifully executed love story?

Those are my top 10 today. Ask me next week and I may give you a different answer. If you haven't read any of these books, please do. And tell the DSW, who are your favorite couples?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Bring on the Mad-Libs

He pumped his piglet when he saw her thrust her clavicle.
Now, can he lick her stunted mint? Find out in…
Love’s Sticky Campfire.

Oh, sweet Lord. The Smart Bitches have a Mad Lib posting on their website. Have you done it yet? If not, you really should. Scan what everyone else came up with, too. Personally I'm a big fan of Love's Awkward Fisherman and Love's Tight Fur Coat... and I may just have to change Revising Mr. Right to Love's Sticky Campfire!

You should also share with the DSW your title and tagline. Please, please! I want to laugh until I snort chocolate milk out my nose.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Late, As Usual

I'm coming late to the recent no-hold-barred discussion about snark and reviews that waged across the romance blogosphere (no surprise for anyone with first hand knowledge of my time-keeping skills). Kate D. did an admirable job of keeping all damned scribblers up to date on the dispute and adding her own judicious opinion to the mess.

Recently, though, I've been thinking of that debate in context of the reviews on this site. I love reading snark. I visit Television Without Pity regularly. I've long been a fan of Mrs. Giggles and the Smart Bitches. They're funny! They write well. They can be mean, no question, but they make me laugh.

And they get a lot of web traffic. Far more than humble little Damned Scribbling Women. I can see why. Romance reviews--and specifically, funny, biting reviews--will appeal to far more people than the assortment of writing updates, reviews, links and rants we feature. But I don't write that way, and it's not because I'm incapable of the art of the humorous put down or because I like everything I read or because I'm just so sweet and sugary all the time and think the world is made of candy and rainbows.

For the most part, I only write reviews of books I liked. I read a lot of other books, some quite stinky, some merely mediocre, but I don't review them. It's partly because I don't enjoy revisiting a subpar book if I don't have to. But it's also, on a more cynical level, because my goal in this industry is not to be a reviewer or run a great website. It's to be a writer.

We've all heard the horror stories about ill-conceived emails that cost people jobs or dates or friends. About blogs and websites that came to the notice of employers. I hope to become a peer to the women whose books I review, and I know this website will live on in some fashion long after Kate and I accomplish our goals. So I try to review as though I am already their peer, a fellow author.

Fortunately, the web is big enough for everyone and for all kinds of reviews and voices. We can each find her particular poison, whether it's smart reviews of "trashy" books or recommendations from published authors or a sanctuary for readers or the sporadic musings of two unpublished wannabes.

Kate's philosophy may be a little different than mine (and I hope she'll elaborate in the comments), but this is what guides my reviewing. Other bloggers, what guides yours?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Kate D's Auntie Update

Remember when I announced that my brother and his wife are having babies? Yes, triplets to be exact. Well, yesterday they found out the sex for their little bundles of joy... and I discovered that I'm going to have three nephews.

My poor sister-in-law. She's going to be surrounded by testosterone! And if they're anything like we were growing up... well, they'll be raising a house full of spirited little monsters. (My brother, by the way, is so excited. The first thing he said to me was, "This is great! I'm not gonna have to buy a shotgun before prom!")

Those of you who were waiting to make yarn purchases can stock up on blue. As for the rest of you... they're currently at a loss for one more male name and think they may want something that starts with a "C." Any suggestions?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Chick Power

I was delighted to see Libba Bray's web link devoted to the songs she listened to while writing A Great and Terrible Beauty. Because I, too, love a good playlist I will soon be posting an entry on songs that inspired Revising Mr. Right.

In the mean time, however, I submit to you the Dixie Chicks.

Let it first be mentioned that I love a good female bluegrass band. Let it also be said that, as a Civics teacher, I am a firm believer in free speech. And finally, as a feminist I think it's worth noting that the Chicks are the first female group in American music chart history to have three albums debut at #1.

They are also, however, one of the most controversial acts to ever play the Grand Old Opry. This Wikipedia entry summarizes their intriguing free speech brouhaha, but of course I can't resist giving you my own version! Basically, traditional country music fans' adoration of the Chicks turned to loathing when they criticized George W. Bush during a 2003 London concert. This faux pas engendered boycotts on most country radio stations, caused former listeners to toss their CDs under bulldozers and, of course, inspired the ever popular avalanche of death threats.

The protesters explained their disgust with the Chicks' actions as follows: "entertainers don't have a right to talk about their personal beliefs in music." Yet if that is the case, why do these same people love Toby Keith's song Red, White, and Blue? Why do they cheer at concerts when he shows doctored photos of Chicks singer Natalie Maines cuddled up to Saddam Hussein?

Back in 2003, even Diane Sawyer jumped on their cases and told them that people aren't allowed to criticize the president's choices unless they offer a planned out political alternative. (Um... what?)
Maines responded to Sawyer with a Theodore Roosevelt quote: "To announce that there must be no criticism of the president or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong is not only unpatriotic and servile but is morally treasonable to the American public."

Speak softly and carry a big stick, indeed.

Readers, I have no notion of what you may believe politically. Whatever your views are, I respect your right to have them. That's my brand of patriotism. But I also agree with Times author Josh Tyrangiel that, "however you vote, it's tough to deny that by gambling their careers, [these] three Texas women have the biggest balls in American music."

Because of their courage, and because I enjoy their musical talent, I frequently listen to their albums. Home and Fly have lately dominated my CD player, and I've added tracks from Taking the Long Way to my Revising Mr. Right playlist. At some point, I'll be posting that playlist in full. But in the mean time, I encourage our readers to celebrate the basic human right to free speech... and by standing up for your own beliefs, as well.

And to all my fellow American scribbling women out there: Happy Independence Day.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Moment to Boast

The Wedding Widow has had its first review...sort of. I just heard from one of the authors I sent it to. She said she's read through chapter four and thinks it's WONDERFUL so far. That's how she wrote it! All caps. She thinks my characters are vivid, my writing's great and she's hooked and surprised by how much she likes it!

Sorry for the braggadocio, but I need to store away every good moment as fuel for when the inevitable rejections come.

I have to say, I'm feeling pretty good right now.

Kate's June Reading: Lightning Log

Though I didn't title it as such, I did a lightning log back in March. Since then, I've confined myself to long-form reviews. But then I made my monthly pilgrimage over to Tara Marie's book list, and it occurred to me that some readers might appreciate a basic review list with no frills... a TBR index, if you will.

So. My rating scale is in the sidebar, if you need a refresher. If I did a longer review of the title in question, there's a link to it. I arranged the books by rating. Unless you loathe the author or genre, you should check out the "superb" titles. I think the "very good" books are definitely worth a glance, too. If you like an author or genre, you should exercise your discretion over the "good" ones. As always, this list represents my own personal opinion... but I flatter myself it will be useful for the rest of you!

A Great and Terrible Beauty – Gothic Young Adult (Libba Bray) – Superb

The Runaway Heiress – Historical: Western (Stef Ann Holm) – Superb

A Hunger Like No Other – Paranormal (Kresley Cole) – Superb

Ex and the Single Girl – Chick Lit (Lani Diane Rich) – Suberb

To Wed a Scandalous Spy – Regency, 1st in series (Celeste Bradley) – Superb

One Night With a Spy – Regency, 3rd in series (Celeste Bradley) – Superb

Surrender to a Wicked Spy – Regency, 2nd in series (Celeste Bradley) – Very Good

Three Little Secrets – Angsty Regency, 3rd in trilogy (Liz Carlyle) – Very Good

Time off for Good Behavior – Chick Lit (Lani Diane Rich) – Very Good

She Woke Up Married – Contemporary (Suzanne MacPherson) – Very Good

Undressed – Contemporary (Stef Ann Holm) – Very Good

His Every Kiss – Regency, 2nd in trilogy (Laura Lee Guhrke) – Very Good