Saturday, December 22, 2007
No, not mine. I haven't been silent for the last few months because of pregnancy, but because of the end of the semester. But I wanted to introduce everyone to my new niece, Sophia Madelyn. Isn't she cute? You've now seen as much of her as I have, as she was born yesterday afternoon while my husband and I were winging our way from New York to Santa Fe to spend Christmas with my family. We can't wait to see her when we get back home on the 26th...a late Christmas present for us!
In other "baby" news, the semester is finally over, which means it's time to return to "Oh Mistress Mine." When last I left them, Gregory and Aimee were on the verge of a rather explosive confrontation. They've been waiting months now to have this chat. Will I remember them? Will I remember how to write sentences that don't begin with "Furthermore" or "As Burney clearly demonstrates"? Stay tuned...
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
The wizarding world seems to be somewhat less forward-thinking, socially, than the more liberal countries of our world. So maybe having gay relationships is Just Not Done, andif Dumbledore wanted to retain his post at Hogwarts, he had to keep his deep, passionate love for Ron's grandfather a secret.But of course, that's not what Rowling said. She said he never got over Grindelwald, and how upset he was when his One True Love turned out to be Wizard Hitler. And since I believe in authorial intent, I have to say that I find this tendency of her characters immature.
Kate: About the first love thing: in terms of our three main characters, it makes sense for them to end up with characters we've met. The romantic readers among us craved such an ending. It would have been a total cop-out if Rowling mentioned in the epilogue that Hermione broke up with Ron and met a lovely man at Wizard Grad School. That's just lame.
And Harry's parents had to have a shared Hogwarts history in order for their son to have plenty of "dead parent moments" at school. It's easier to build a connection between Harry and his parents if they have lots of places and people in common.
Snape and Dumbledore, both transformed eternally by their first love? Doesn't surprise me. After all, by Book Seven they parallel each other in a weird way.
I guess I'm also reassured because I sense back stories for some of the characters. I totally think Sirius was a big fan of loving and leaving the ladies. I wouldn't be surprised if Lupin had a relationship in his past that he thought was scarring but eventually got over. And you just know Trelawney did some kinky hoohah in the name of divination.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Recent events in my own life (read: marriage) have had me thinking about a topic I've never considered in depth before, the importance of family in romance. Attempting to calculate what desserts I'll actually have time to make on Thanksgiving day that will hold up on the hour-long drive from my parents' in PA to my in-laws' in NJ will do that to you (because, yes, we're trying to visit both families on the same day. We'll see how it goes).
Families are so important to our real-life romances. I feel like my husband has married my whole crazy clan. Considering the fact that he's known my youngest sister (now twenty) since she was twelve, he really is a brother to her. And I wouldn't be as excited about our married life together if I didn't know that I love spending time with my husband's family and really do want them in my life for better or for worse.
But how many romances make use of this element of the marriage story? Off the top of my head and entirely unscientifically, I'd say not many. Or not enough. Think about it: the numbers of orphaned governesses out on their own (ripe for the seducin'), or lonely dukes who inherited it all after their cruel father croaked. Or wretched fathers forcing their children to marry where their hearts don't lie. Doesn't it seem that those sorts of stories outnumber the one-big-happy-family kind, at least in the historical genre? In contemporaries there may be more, but there are still rarely supportive, loving parents, even while sibling sagas threaten to take over the world.
We know that happy families can work great in romance, whatever Tolstoy had to say about them. The Bridgertons are a prime example: those books would lack so much without the B's hanging out together as a clan. In fact, the one B book I really didn't care for (Francesca's story) missed the mark for exactly that reason, too little family interaction.
But I'm guilty of not practicing what I preach. My first book: heroine, estranged from family; hero, mourning loss of brother and father (though he did have a mother, sister, and brother-in-law around to torment him). My current WIP: heroine, an orphaned only child; hero, estranged from his rather large family. If we're supposed to write what we know, I'm afraid I've broken that rule.
Is it intimidating to write about family life? Is it too close to our (my?) hearts to delve into right away. Or are the dramatic possibilities inherent in the gal/guy-on-her/his-own plots too tempting to pass up? Whatever the case, I've got to get over those qualms soon. The heroine of my next WIP is the oldest of thirteen children. And they're ALL making an appearance.
While I'm trying to sort that out, why don't you chime in: Is romance (real and fictional) better when it includes family? Why do so many authors cut the family out of the plot? What's your favorite family in romance?
Note added: check out the review of Lisa Kleypas' Mine Till Midnight at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books here to get Sarah's take on the topic.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
This is especially interesting to me because the Izzie-George tangle is TV's latest attempt to cash in on the "friends to lovers" storyline. This happens to be one of my favorite set-ups in a novel, so it's perhaps not surprising that it's also the set-up for the romance I'm writing. As such, I'm super-sensitive to when it works, and when it doesn't.
Izzie and George don't work, for a number of reasons. First of all, there's the adultery thing. Maybe I'm a prude, but I don't like the glorification of adultery in our media. Secondly, their hook-up corresponds to an unfortunate flattening of the characters from complex and likeable to whiny and somewhat inconsistent. Third, there's the fact that we didn't see a real build-up to this relationship. There was no sexual tension. And is Izzie really over Denny? Is George really over Meredith? Finally, you just don't get the sense that these characters could ever have an HEA. What do they actually do for each other? How do they complement and complete one another? Very, very unclear.
But despite this specific romantic trainwreck, I'd like to think that the "friends to lovers" storyline is one of the most powerful around. Just think about the legendary shenanigans of Rachel and Ross. Even if the constant back-and-forth of their relationship annoyed you, you've got to admit that the initial build-up was fabulous. Think about it: he always had a thing for her, but his underlying character traits made it impossible for him to say anything. You have a little time and distance built into their backstory--both characters went on to find other loves, but at the opening of the show it's clear that Ross's feelings are back, full-strength. The strong friendship between them is one of the attraction points, but it's also one of the conflicts (maybe this is too weird, do I dare risk the friendship, etc). Friends, I feel, also did an absolutely fabulous job of involving the (nosy, delightful) secondary characters in their romance.
Of course, the grand-mommy of all friends-to-lovers relationships would have to be Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe. Who didn't love their courtship in Anne of the Island? I'd say that Anne and Gilbert were my first romance. To use a friend's phrase, Gilbert's my ur-crush. Don't be surprised if Anne and Gilbert get their own post sometime in the near future!
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Currently, for my graduate class on the 18th-century novel, I'm slogging my way through Samuel Richardson's Clarissa. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of this pithy little 1,500 page monster, a brief summary: Boy meets girl. Girl's family tries to force her to marry a gross other guy. Boy tricks girl into running away with him to escape said family. Boy rapes girl. Girl dies. Fun times.
Despite its length and verbosity, the novel's actually much more entertaining than that dismissive description would suggest. The "Boy" himself, Lovelace, in particular, is a fascinating portrait of a clever, humorous, charming man with all his wits bent toward some rather unscrupulous ends.
As I'm reading, I find myself marveling at the way Lovelace conforms quite neatly to the image of your typical romance alpha hero. Commanding, brilliant, handsome, rich, titled: how is that not exactly the description of 6/8th of the heroes in historical romance? He feels certain he knows Clarissa's true desires better that she does. He plans to help her unlock the hedonism that surely lies in her seemingly virtuous soul (rape is sort of a last resort, if you will). He vows revenge on her family for attempting to keep them apart. Even contemporary romance makes use of the "lying to her for her own good" trope.
This is not meant as yet another excoriation of the anti-feminist backwardness of romance, by any means. I like a good alpha hero! Done well, they can be sympathetic, appealing, exciting, and sexy as hell. I even like Lovelace, when he's not crowing about how much sweeter the rake's victory feels when he wins it from an unwilling woman. (In this I'm not alone, as Richardson's 18th-century readers were so taken by Lovelace that they begged for him to be reformed by the love of Clarissa, and for the book to end in marriage rather than deaths--yeah, he dies too, in a duel).
I'm just wondering where we draw the line: in the books we read and in our own fiction. What separates the villain from the hero? I think I write pretty "good guy" heroes for the most part, maybe even beta men, and I often feel obligated to make them...a little meaner. As though, if they don't occasionally insult the heroine or go off and fight someone or get drunk, they're not "real" romance heroes.
Readers, please weigh on on where you stand. When does a hero become a villain? When can a villain become a hero? Where's your invisible line between redeemable and wretched?
Friday, September 21, 2007
I'm including some pictures of the "almost rans" in my post. If you want to see the real deal, leave me a comment and I'll email it to you.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Of course I posted. In a world that gave us Gerard Butler and Salma Hayek, how could I not? And yet... to be perfectly frank, I don't often lust after movie stars. There was, of course, the Summer of Crowe. But that's another story and definitely needs its own post.
Just consider Spike, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Every time he tilted his head and gave one of his trademark smirks, I felt myself getting a little melty. Then he'd cause mayhem, with leather coat billowing, and I'd think, "Hot. Goth." He was complicated and powerful, capable of both great evil and great loyalty. The best part? He was also insanely witty.
Frankly, he'd be a great romance novel hero.
So. I had a thing for Spike. I didn't quite want to have his evil, soulless babies... but I thought he'd make an absolutely fabulous mistake.
And this is what I'm wondering now: does anyone else in Blogland possess this little quirk? And if so, who is/was your character crush? (As always, feel free to link back to this post.)
Sunday, September 09, 2007
I just learned today that one of the most beloved authors of my childhood, Madeleine L'Engle, passed away this week. I vividly remember reading A Wrinkle In Time for the first time at age eight. The book was a revelation, in the same way that Anne of Green Gables would be a year later or that The Secret Garden had been the year before. I was seduced by the story and the sheer process of story-telling, and I decided that year, I remember, that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.
I also found myself captivated by Meg and Calvin, wondering what would happen between the two of them. See, even then I was a budding romantic! And I loved following their family through the rest of the books in the series. My pleasure on learning that they'd married when I read A Swiftly Tilting Planet was way beyond the interest any nine-year-old should have taken in the subject.
So pick up a L'Engle book in her honor, check out her obit in the NY Times, and let us know in the comments: What is your favorite Madeleine L'Engle novel, or your best-remembered early reading experience?
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
So, to begin, a word about the shiny new names you see to the left of this post under "Meet the Scribbling Women." Kate D. is now the dazzling Kate Diamond, while theflitgirl has unveiled herself as Anneliese Kelly. We're tying the blog to our individual writing projects, so blogging under our writing names is a natural fit.
Yes, I said "writing names", not "names." Kate and I have followed in the footsteps of luminaries like Lemony Snicket, George Eliot, and all three of the Bronte sisters (Acton, Ellis and Currer Bell) in adopting pseudonyms, rather than publishing under our everyday names.
The decision to use a pseudonym of course brings up a host of conflicts and questions. It's fairly common in the romance industry, although increasingly less so. Writing under a name like Lulubelle von Flurryfeathers does feed into the stereotypes about this genre: frivolous, ridiculous, outdated, over-feminine. It also smacks of "hiding" behind a false name out of shame or embarrassment.
So why have two modern, unabashed women like us decided to go this route. For starters, both Kate and I are involved in education and literary studies. While we feel that writing romance only adds to our credentials as proud feminists, not all our current and potential bosses/teachers and coworkers/fellow students will agree. Additionally, the parents of the little darlings we instruct may not want to associate Junior's English teacher with lusty Regency dukes or shag sessions in lakeside cabins.
For me, however, there's another factor: my life-long love of names. Since I was a child I've poured over baby name books and as an adult must confess to an addiction to baby name messageboards. When else will I have the opportunity to name myself? My new name comes from my family history (my mother's maiden name) and from several of my favorite, most life-changing novels. Plus, it's pretty!
We'd love to hear from other readers and writers. What do you think about noms de plume? Would you/ Do you use one? Why are they more common in romance than any other genre, even mystery fiction?
Finally...what do you think of ours??
Friday, August 10, 2007
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Option A: "In the midst of her boyfriend’s achingly appropriate birthday party, Jessica Jo Carter began to think seriously about leaving him."
Option B: "If it hadn’t been for the Gouda cheese, Jessica Carter’s whole life would have been entirely different."
I modeled that second sentence off of my favorite opening line of all time. Bonus points for anyone who can identify the original! (And if you are one of my friends that regularly visits this website but doesn't leave comments... please make an exception just this once!)
Saturday, April 21, 2007
I just got the scores from RWA for my Golden Heart submission. I was bummed when I didn't get "the call" announcing my status as a finalist (which, somehow, I'd convinced myself would happen). I'm even more bummed at receiving these scores.
First of all, my overall score places me in the bottom half of entries. Not too far down into the bottom half, but still there. That sucks. I've seen some of the crap that actually get published by the industry and had flattered myself that my book was better than a lot of it. To find out I'm not even in the top 50% of hopeful authors really stinks.
Second, the scores are kind of all over the place. Three of the five judges rank me pretty consistently in the mid level (5, 5.5, and--my new sworn enemy-- 4.2). Then two other judges rate it pretty highly, a 7 and a 9, the highest score possible.
I get that opinion's subjective, but how in an at least somewhat merit- rather than personal opinion-based competition can one judge rate my book a 4.2 (a D) and another a 9 (A+)? Of course, the Golden Heart gives no editorial feedback, so I have no idea what was so appalling to Judge 5 and delightful to Judge 2.
At least I didn't get any 1s. I guess I should take from this that I'm not a terrible writer, my book appealed to someone, and that I've got a long way left to go. A few more weeks left of the semester and then I'll throw myself into shopping Then Comes Marriage and writing Secrets and Spies.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
So, here they are, hanging out in the onesies I got them over at Retro Baby. Am I a cool aunt, or what?
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Last week I received in the (e-)mail box my long awaited response to my first agent query (an exclusive, which is why I hadn't sent any others out). Then Comes Marriage was denied. Shot down. Turned away. And all those other we-don't-like-you-soundy phrases.
However, let us not despair. After about 20 minutes in which I surprised myself by wanting to cry, I pretty much got over it. Wannabe writers get rejected. That's part of the process. And at least I'm now a wannabe writer, not a wannabe wannabe writer.
The email was also a "good" rejection, and I feel rather fortunate to have received one of those famed breed on my first try. The typo in the first sentence leads me to believe it's not a form rejection (if it is, then this agency's a bit more slipshod than I thought and I made a lucky escape). With addresses and proper names omitted, it follows:
"Thank you for submitting to ------ Agency.
"We greatly appreciate your submission, and though Then Comes Marriage is not a good fit for us. The story line and love scenes were strong; however, it felt too familiar to be able to distinguish it in the market. Still, your writing shows promise and we would be interested to consider any future projects.We wish you the best of luck in your writing career.
"Again, thank you for thinking of ----- Agency."
Now I understand why they advise having a stockpile of ready manuscripts under your bed. If Secrets and Spies were ready to go, I'd shoot it off to the agency with a personal "Hey, you asked for this!" note faster than I could get to the post office. Sadly, it's only about 1/5 written, and I likely won't even have a first draft until the summer.
Still, I'm cautiously optimistic.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
First up, the new BBC/PBS Jane Eyre. I caught most of this when it was on Masterpiece Theatre a few weeks ago, but missed about an hour--naturally, the hour in which Jane and Rochester declare their love and have the aborted wedding. So of course I had to order the DVD. It arrived yesterday and I watched all 4 hours in one sitting. One of the best Jane adaptations I've ever seen. Rochester is sexy and brooding, but also smiley and neither too movie-star handsome, nor too weird-looking and frightening. Jane is self-assured, not a quivering little nervous flower. Some liberties taken (as expected) but over all, strongly recommended.
Second, I caught Casanova on tv today. Not the Donald Sutherland /Fellini version (which is incredibly stylized and oddly compelling), but the 2005 version starring Heath Ledger and Sienna Miller. Heath Ledger makes a fabulous Casanova, witty, clever and charming. For once I don't hate Sienna Miller in a movie. Maybe it's her brunette 'do (and lack of leggings). It's a witty, frothy script and entirely fun. Plus, it's filmed on location in Venice, set in the 18th century and full of incredible Baroque music by Albioni, Vivaldi, Teleman and Handel.
Okay, off to use my last remaining strength of the day to pick up some sick reading from Barnes and Noble: Jenny Crusie, Celeste Bradley, Madeline Hunter and Susan Elizabeth Phillips.