Monday, December 31, 2012

Walking Through Hellfire--Why I love my heroine

Emilia Marley - Emmie

I came across this statement while reading through blogs a while ago -- If you don't love your hero/heroine, why should the reader? The comment rang true, so I decided now was time to examine why I love my characters and share my answers with you in the hopes that you will one day have the chance to love them too.

The stolen kiss late 1780s Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Let's start with my heroine- Emmie.

Emmie isn't physically strong, but she's extremely fast. She keeps her wicked sense of humor hidden beneath a serious face, and her loyal nature gives her strength and vulnerability at the same time.

Emilia was raised a chambermaid, yet she has deep courage that carries her through the most difficult moments and helps her face the toughest opponents.

Here's the first confrontation between Emilia and Luca inside the secret society where they pass messages.

Emilia: "We should not use names. The instruction is clear. I am EM, and you are LT."
"I'm almost two decades out of the nursery. I know how I want to be addressed. If you would like me to reply, address me as Lucas. Now close your mouth and moan."
The heat of anger crept up her neck, and she smiled to hide it. She would not be cowed like a child. She was not a helpless simpleton. Teeth gritted, she placed a hand upon his chest, running it up to his neck and into his hair.
She ran her nose against his throat, kissing the hard stubble. "Lucas?"
 His breathing came harder as she explored his skin.
She bit the soft spot at the base of his throat, then pressed a hand between his thighs just hard enough to show him she knew his weak spot. "If you continue to speak to me in this manner, you will not be satisfied with the conclusion to our little affair."
He inhaled sharply, but when she drew back ready for a fight, a wide grin covered his features. "If you leave your hand where it is, the end will satisfy me."
She ignored his words. "My assignment is as important as yours. My lord chose me because of my appearance, my strength, and my intelligence. Not solely because my body happens to be female."
He leaned back and looked into her eyes, then snatched her around her waist and hauled her to him, a sparkle lighting his simmering emerald eyes. "And what an exquisite body it is." His left hand brushed over her waist, drawing trails of fire along with it. "You are brave, I'll allow that much."
"Only so brave as I must be. Courageous enough to do this." She lifted the letter from her pocket. Running her hand down his chest, she pushed the folded message into the fall of his breeches.
A smirk lifted a corner of his lips. "And how far would you dare go to achieve your ends, EM?"
He grasped her free wrist with his left hand, holding her while he slipped his right up along her thigh. His hand moved quicker than she could follow, with her head spinning as it was. His palm roamed her inner thigh, dragging the rough paper along the sensitive skin.
When his hand neared where hers rested, she leaned in, trying to keep her breathing calm as she swept her palm over the growing hardness beneath his breeches. He leaned his head back, closing his eyes for an instant.
She smirked, snatching the note from his fingers. "No need to go further than I wish."
Emilia shoved the paper into her dress. She slid off him and tried to move toward the corridor, but couldn’t wrench her wrist free.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Contests -- a fun and interesting experiment


Up until this year, I'd only entered one contest, the 2011 Golden Acorn. This year I have two completed manuscripts I need to get out there. Due to a nice little bonus from my husband's work, I was able to send them off to four contests.  Well, three really, because Bump in the night is a flash fiction contest, so I sent a funny zombie short.
Now that the last of the entries has been returned to me, I thought I would evaluate my experience.

Here is how I placed, I made the finals for Heart to Heart Hot Prospect, and Bump in the Night flash fiction, and I didn't make the finals for the Emily, but I was very happy with the score. 

What I've learned- 

  • I loved, loved, loved the feedback, but judging is subjective
What one judge loves, another will suggest changing. Sometimes, however, a judge can give a wonderful suggestion. Plus, you get a level of honesty you don't always get from family and friends.

  • I shouldn't get my feathers ruffled.
Some judges may not know what you have learned from hours of research. You may get docked for things that are regularly seen in your genre, especially if you write historical romance, simply because the judge is unfamiliar. Don't let this upset you. It's not your writing they dislike, so take the good, and don't stress out too much over the bad.

  • I can see this as a great way to try out a storyline.
The unbiased feedback can help you to see how a story would be received. It's an inexpensive way to try a new genre, voice, plot, or character without committing to it fully. Most contests require anywhere from a scene to 50 pages, and some ask for a synopsis, so you can commit as much to the story as you want before sending it in. Then when you receive judges responses, you'll know if you should change things or not.
Nervous gif

Would I do it again? 
Probably. I really enjoyed the feedback, and the writing credits are great, plus I had editors and agents reading and requesting my work, which might not happen when you're floating on the slush pile.

What would I suggest looking for in a contest?

Lowest score dropped, or at least a contingency judge for divergent scores. -- Since judging is subjective, this will help if you get a judge who doesn't get your voice.
Editors and agents you want to see your work. -- If you final, you want to have someone you respect reading your work.
Where they advertise winners -- another great way to get editor. agent attention is to look for contests that take out RT/RWR ads to post winners. Posting on websites/social media/blogs is also helpful. The more your name is out there, the better.

 Reasons I to try it.

  1. You are pretty confident in your work and want editors and agents to see it
  2. You aren't sure of a story and want unbiased opinions
  3. You are ready to submit to editors and agents but are afraid "My mommy loves it" will be your only credential.

Reasons not to try it.

  1. You are particularly sensitive to critiques.
  2. You haven't shown your work to a soul.


Feel free to share what you love/hate about contests, or just share a contest with great perks. I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Weekly Quotes Wednesday - Maya Angelou and Tessa Dare

Writing quote

 “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
― Maya Angelou

Historical romance quote

“He kissed her. Without warning, without permission. Without even deciding to do it, but simply because he couldn't have done anything else. He needed that breath she was holding. It belonged to him, and he wanted it back.”
― Tessa Dare, One Dance with a Duke

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Change in the Blurbs - Walking Through Hellfire

I'm revising this blurb as I write this, so I hope you, and agents, like the new query for Walking Through Hellfire - (possibly renaming this Seduced in Hellfire, what do you think?)

Here's the original blurb, written while the book was still being written.

Walking Through Hellfire, a 90,000 word historical romance set in England, 1795.
The Lords of Mann, a secret society filled with decadence and intrigue, is no place for an ordinary chambermaid.

After her mother's indecent past, Emilia is terrified of being wicked. When the insidious lord who runs the society forces Emilia to take the guise of a loose woman to pass messages within the club, she is desperate to safeguard her heart. She promises herself she will secure the delicate flesh within a cage, but her first partner, the frustrating and invigorating Luke, might just break the lock.

 Espionage and power fire Luke's blood, but they can never make up for what he lost when his loving father died, and his brother disowned him. His uncle's will has the ability to change everything. Just a few more months and he will have the money he needs to restore his respect without losing his soul along the way. His newest associate, Emilia, brings beauty and innocence into a place that has forgotten it, but she's also a threat to all that he has been working for. He desperately battles the changes she brings to his world, but he soon realizes he's fighting against the very thing that gives him life, his heart.

Now I will begin to revise.

Here is the guide I posted, which I will use to begin my blurb alterations. I'm leaving out several side plots which, though important to the characters, are not as important to the overall love story. It try to concentrate on the romance when I polish my blurbs.

1-2 sentences about the hero. Include Goals/Motivation/Conflict.

Lucas Shaw, a messenger in the Lords of Mann, needs funds. Without his uncle's inheritance, he won't be able to regain his place within the society that has abandoned him.

1-2 sentences about the heroine. Include GMC

Emilia Marley is being forced to work as a messenger—in the guise of a harlot. She is desperate to protect her heart from the shame and excitement of the dangerous position, and to free herself from the unwanted position.

1-2 sentences about what makes the story unique and what is the conflict in the story.
Things go wrong inside the society. The ordinary maid and the disowned second son take on some of the most influential lords in society, but the battle might destroy everything they hold dear.

Now I'm going to combine the two and add some more of my voice in the hopes of making the blurb the best it can be.

Walking Through Hellfire is a 90,000 word historical romance set in 1795 England, a decadent time when secret societies like the Illuminati, the Ancient Order of Foresters, and the Lords of Mann were formed.
An ordinary maid
An insidious lord forces Emilia Marley to pass messages under the guise of a harlot. Desperate to free herself from the shame and unwanted excitement of the dangerous position, she attempts to hide her heart away in a cage. In spite of everything, her first partner, the frustrating and invigorating Luke, might well break the lock. 
A disowned second son
Respect and power fire Lucas Shaw's blood, but no amount of power or respect could compensate for the loss of a loving father and a place in society. His uncle's inheritance will help Luke regain some of what he has lost, provided he can avoid distractions and use his position as a messenger within the Lords of Mann to earn the funds required to inherit. 
A love worth fighting for
After a dreadful mistake, they must battle some of the society's most influential lords, but if they cannot embrace the changes to their hearts, this war might destroy everything they hold dear.

There are things I like about each one, and things I think need improving in each as well. What do you think of the blurbs? Do you like the original or the new one?Are there any tricks you use when you write a blurb?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Querying agents

I'm in the process of revamping my blurb and writing an official query letter for Walking Through Hellfire, so today I thought I'd share my thoughts on querying, as well as some handy checklists and example links below.

  • Do not submit randomly.
You waste your own time as well as the agents when you send off to every agent you can find on the internet. Some don't represent your genre, some don't like your style, and some aren't accepting queries. A little research can easily answer these questions. You don't want to send your dark and sensual historical romance to an agent who loves light and sweet historical romance--or worse, non-fiction only. 
I would suggest researching agents and editors until you have a nice size list of at least 25-30, but hopefully more like 50.
  •  Submit randomly
 Just checking to see if you were paying attention, but in a way, it's true. Once you have your list, you want to query in small random groups of agents at a time. If you send out to all your dream agents first, and discover a problem with your query, or first pages, you can't fix it. You've effectively lost your chance with them all. If you take a random group with dream agent, then you still have others to send to if you discover some flaw or want to try a new pitch approach.
I'd suggest 5-10 agents at a time, and when you receive a rejection, immediately send out a new query so you always have 5-10 alive.

  • Writing the query

Submit according to agent guidelines. Give the most important parts of your books and your own experience in a straightforward way. Be sure your voice is there, but be concise. Include your personal information at the bottom.
Some argue you should start with the book description, and others say start with the genre, word count, and what the agent can expect (ie passion, humor, etc...). Which you put first seems largely up to you.
I'd suggest including an alternate email and phone number. That way they have another email to reply to if your original is down. Don't give them any chance to pass you up.
  • A word from the pros
In a great interview, a wonderful agent, Barbara Poelle says of queries: [Keep] it simple, clean and professional. I always say, get in and get out. Your query needs to tell me the hook, the book, and the cook. The hook: one line with genre and word count. The book: five lines of plot summary. The cook: you! And I don’t care if this is your debut just let me know why this book, why you, and why now.
Another fabulous agent, Laura Bradford tells us what kills a submission: Addressing the query letter to the dreaded “Sir/Ms.”, instead of the agent by name. Not checking the agent’s submission policies before sending your material in. Nothing annoys an agent more than getting submissions outside the genres they are selecting for. Many queries Ms. Bradford receives are thrown out because they are for the wrong genre, the word count is wrong, etc. She can’t sell a novel that’s only 20,000 words long.
The awesome Deidre Knight says this of Googling prospective agents & authors: First off, anyone who submits to me should know that I automatically Google them. And I’m not embarrassed to admit that because I think that everyone who queries me should have already typed my name into some sort of search engine. Researching who you want to work with is important for both the aspiring author and agent.

  • The making of the blurb (center portion where it discusses the book) 
I will be going into this in my Monday post, so I will share two things. First is some advice on queries by another great agent Kristen Nelson, who says, don't try to put the whole book into your blurb. Just use the inciting incident. The thing that sets off the action and makes things happen. Usually this is located within the first 30 pages. The second thing I wanted to share was this wonderful guide I found once, but I can't seem to find the link.

1-2 sentences about the hero. Include Goals/Motivation/Conflict.
1-2 sentences about the heroine. Include GMC
1-2 sentences about what makes the story unique and what is the conflict of the story.  
My extremely simplified example.

Jane wants x because of y, but she doesn't want love. John needs x more than Jane because of z. Funny things happen, and love finds them, even while x might just keep them apart forever. 
  • So your example query should look something like this. (I'm doing this generic so you can see every part of the query letter.)

moi mème
Dear Jane Doe,

Title, my 90,000 word romantic comedy is a sweet and humorous book about a small town in Alaska.

Jane wants x because of y, but she doesn't want love. John needs x more than Jane because of z. Funny things happen, and love finds them, even while x might just keep them apart forever.

My name is Author O'Book, and I am a finalist in the 2012 Contest, and last year Small E-Publisher published Novella, which has sold # copies in # months since its release.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Author O'Book
Phone #
Alt Email

  •  Example Links 

  • Lists

On her blog, fabulous agent extraordinaire Janet Reid has this checklist for query letters-


Please feel free to share some of your own tips and tricks for querying, or if you have a great link, I'd love to see it.