I’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?
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Copyright: Hasan Shaheed 2005
We’re already more than a month into the new year, although I haven’t stopped feeling celebratory about the ending to the last one. I’ve spent my time at home, as always, chugging along on my various projects, which include revising several manuscripts that I hope to publish this year.
Revising a manuscript that I’ve left to marinate for a while always raises questions for me, some of them structural and fundamental and some more stylistic. One of the elements I most fret over is the ending, which of course I want to be happy and upbeat, but how can I best deliver that? How to avoid cliché? How to tie things up in a way that satisfies readers but leaves them wanting more?
One of my plans for the new year is to resurrect the finished manuscripts sitting on my hard drive and see if I can revise them into suitable shape for publication. The likeliest candidate for this treatment is the first manuscript I wrote. Years ago a well-known publishing company put it into a cycle of “accept with revisions/accept/on hold/accept with revisions” for two years before my editor moved on and it was finally rejected by her replacement. That’s traditional publishing for you! Today, thanks to indie publishing, I can revise it the way I want and publish it myself.
Progress. Continue reading
Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page star in “Bridgerton.” Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix
I wanted to get 2021 off to a good start, so I binge watched Bridgerton over New Year’s Eve and Day. I had been so excited to learn that Shonda Rhimes would be producing this mini-series that I subscribed to Netflix streaming several months ago just so I could see it.
[Spoilers start now] I had high hopes for this production, and in many ways I wasn’t disappointed. The costumes! The settings! The characters! Those dance sequences! When a development company hurls money at a production like this, it really pays off. The series is spectacular to look at, a visual treat of the highest order.
However, Bridgerton isn’t flawless. I was unenthusiastic about some of the things the producers added to the source material—the angsty overtone, and interpreting Anthony as a jerk, which was a huge mistake in my view. And they left out Julia Quinn’s original witty dialogue, which was a sad loss. However, overall I was thrilled that the story really was a romance—a story in which the principal plot is the courtship between Hastings and Daphne, which I thought was fizzy and delightful. And they didn’t back off from the menstrual blood. Continue reading