Kay: Writing to a Standstill

from Double Debt Single Woman

I have several manuscripts—all my early ones—sitting on my hard drive. Some time ago, I decided I should revise them into acceptable shape and put them out there.

Well, that’s easier said than done. The first one, which had had two heavy edits over the years, went great. It’s my first book, and in working on it again, I remembered how much fun I’d had with it all those years ago when I’d started it, how my spirits lifted every day when I sat down to it and I thought, I can do this. One light edit later, I finished it, and I’m happy with it. The cover’s done, and with luck, I’ll get it published in the next few weeks.

However, the second book is, as we say, another story altogether. When I wrote it all those years ago, my critique partner said several times that my hero wasn’t heroic enough, so I put it aside until I understood what she meant. Now I do. And I realized in shock that not only is my hero not heroic enough, he’s a jerk of the first water. How did that happen? Continue reading

Kay: Learning Experiences

I wrote here a couple weeks ago about my first three novels and how they’ve been languishing on my hard drive—and my recent efforts to finally bring them into the world. I did a few strong passes on the first one, tightened the language, sharpened the conflict (what little of it there is), and cut about twenty-five percent. Now it’s almost ready to launch.

I didn’t realize it at the time, of course, but writing these books was a learning experience. You’d think I’d get the hang of it quicker, but no. Well, you could make the argument that every book presents its own challenges, and I’d be happy to make that argument myself. But I still always feel that I should be finding my characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts a lot sooner, not to mention figure out what they like for breakfast or where they go on vacation. Continue reading

Kay: Finally Getting There!

Phoebe 2 cover smallI’ve been in a flurry of literary activity lately, finishing up my endless trilogy (the Phoebe novels) and contemplating whether my first three books can be resuscitated. (They can! Or at least, one can, for sure.) This effort then requires time spent scheduling editors, formatters, and cover designers. Sometimes I have trouble keeping it all straight—is this the book that’s going to formatting, or going to the editor? What’s due from the cover designer? But the good part is that I think that I’m finally in the home stretch for many of these projects. Not only with my newer work, but also my older work.

I’ve complained so often about the problems I’ve had with the Phoebe trilogy that you all are probably happier than I am that I’m finally finishing them up. (There are way too many links to post back to. Seriously, you don’t want to revisit any of that.) But now that I’m finally getting past my logjam with them, I thought I’d show you the new cover for Phoebe 2. What can I say? I love the cheerleaders. (Editors note: I admit I was a high school cheerleader, but I deny all insinuations that this novel is autobiographical.)

What about you? How are things going on your side?

Kay: What’s in a Name

blondePhoneThe first book I ever wrote has languished on my hard drive for years. I was woefully ignorant when I started this book, but still, it wasn’t bad. A well-known publishing company held onto it for two years, promising acceptance and revision letters as editors revolved and changed and the company reorged. Ultimately, they rejected it.

As time passed, I learned more about writing. I did a couple of strong edit passes on it, and a few months ago, needing a project, I decided to look at it again and see if I could salvage it.

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Kay: Getting a Clue

I’ve been thinking about murder mysteries as a genre lately, I think in part because the trilogy that I’ve been working on for what seems like forever is winding up. I’ve thought about these books primarily as romances, but there’s no question there’s a mystery element to them. No one dies, but villains attempt dastardly deeds and, ultimately, are thwarted by my heroes. Motivations are revealed, and justice prevails. So I think they could fall under a mystery label if “murder” wasn’t part of your requirement.

The main reason I’ve never attempted to write a full-on murder mystery, even though I enjoy reading them, is that I’m not clever enough to plot one. Every time I get to the finish of a well-written mystery, I am pleased and astonished at the outcome. I know I couldn’t do that.

And then recently I read this short article by Dana Stabenow at WritersDigest.com. Stabenow sets her mysteries in Alaska, and setting is an important element of her books. She has several long-running series; her first Kate Shugak novel won an Edgar. Her seven tips on how to write mysteries make it sound so simple! And the good thing is that most of these tips apply to any kind of writing. Continue reading

Kay: Reading Crime Fiction

My favorite literary genre is the mystery. I’m not a big fan of the “cozy”—the storylines of teacups and cats set in bookshops—but I don’t like sensationalist serial-killer stories, either. I don’t want to read loving descriptions of slow torture or the detached planning of sociopath rapists. This is not my idea of entertainment.

My favorites are those books that straddle a middle ground. I like the puzzle a mystery offers. I like a flawed detective. I enjoy good writing, unusual settings, and any time period. If there’s a secondary romance plot, so much the better.

After a year of not really enjoying anything I read, I just polished off in one week the first three books and four novellas in the Lady Julia Grey series by Deanna Raybourn. I’d been thinking about why this series, set in Victorian times, caught my fancy when so many other things did not in the past year. Lady Julia has a great deal of agency, Brisbane takes her seriously, and her large family—eccentrics all—is fun to read about. Also, the dialogue is good and the romance is slow-burning. So that’s all catnip for me.

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Kay: Quiz for Y’All—Romantic Conflict

image via sleepcity.com

I’ve been working through the revision suggestions a development editor gave me for the third book of My Eternal Trilogy, and I’m stumped on one point. She says that there’s no conflict between my two main characters, and I have to write it in there.

She’s right about the first part. My characters have no interpersonal conflict. Trouble, yes. Conflict, no.

I don’t disagree about the importance of conflict, but I’m not convinced that the enormous amount of work I’d need to do to create a conflict between my hero and heroine and then resolve it is necessary or even desirable. Here’s my thinking.

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Kay: Today is International Women’s Day

German poster for International Women’s Day, March 8, 1914. This poster was banned in the German Empire.

How could I (almost) have missed it? Today is International Women’s Day, a global holiday celebrated on March 8 to commemorate the cultural, political, and socioeconomic achievements of women and, as they say, fight like hell for the future.

Since I’m short on time, I’m cribbing most of this post from Wikipedia, so feel free to go there (and elsewhere around the web) and read more. Here’s the gist: International Women’s Day originated from labor movements in North America and Europe during the early 20th century and was officially sanctioned by (mostly) communist and socialist movements and governments until it was popularized by feminists in the 1960s, when it became celebrated as a day of activism for equal pay, equal economic opportunity, equal legal rights, reproductive rights, subsidized child care, and the prevention of violence against women.

International Women’s Day has been criticized recently as diluted and commercialized, particularly in the West, where corporations use it to promote vague notions of equality, rather than social reforms. But it still has the power to pack a punch: in Tehran in 2007, police beat hundreds of men and women who were planning a rally to commemorate the day. Police arrested dozens of women, who were released only after weeks of solitary confinement, interrogation, and 15 days of hunger strikes.

Which demonstrates, I think, among other things, how much men in government fear the power of women.

Kay: What’s Up, Doc?

2004 postage stamp featuring Dr. Seuss and some of his iconic characters

Tuesday, March 2, was Read Across America Day, a promotional gambit dreamed up by the National Education Association to promote literacy. March 2 is also the birthday of Theodor Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss, the children’s book author. In past years, these two events were conflated in a partnership agreement between the NEA and Dr. Seuss Enterprises, publisher of the late author’s estate. 

No more. This year on March 2, Dr. Seuss Enterprises said it would stop printing six of Dr. Seuss’s books because of racist and insensitive imagery, and in celebrations for Read Across America Day, the NEA has left out Dr. Seuss’s name to promote books of diversity.

This analysis of Dr. Seuss’s work was first articulated that I know of a few years ago, and at the time, it floored me. As a kid, I loved Dr. Seuss’s work. I reread my favorites many, many times, and I can probably recite a lot of Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat by heart. I had no memory of any racist language or images.

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Kay: Learning Curve(ball)

I’m closing in on finishing a trilogy I’ve been working on for some time. Book 1 is out; this is the cover. Book 2 is at the copy editor, due back at the end of April. I’m still revising Book 3 before it goes to copy edit.

My goal is to make these books as light-hearted as possible. I want them to be the literary equivalent of meringue—a whisper of sweetness on the tongue. I want them to be funny. I want every single person and animal—even the villains—to have a happy ending. I want these books to make readers feel better even if they read them on their worst days.

Book 1 went fine, but Book 2 was a killer. I had difficult personal issues going on at the time I wrote it, and when I went back to it for revisions, it did not read like meringue. It read like day-old oatmeal—heavy, dry, and lumpy. Totally unappetizing. I complained about it on this forum, but I will save you a dreary whine by not posting the link. Continue reading