Saturday, August 29, 2009

Blurb

I'm at this point--which I come to once in a while--of getting ahead of myself. By that, I mean that I have 4 million story ideas in my head and yet, let's remember that I haven't finished this one yet, officially. So I'm trying that whole writing down and doing some light research thing, just to get the ideas down and let them ferment for a while. I was thinking in my insomnia last night that I should blog about where the ideas come from, but truthfully, I don't know. I don't think the story ideas are anything particularly original; story ideas can be similar, but it's execution that counts and there are parts of this story that I can't judge the execution of yet. Still too close to parts of it. A writing teacher I had at Columbia's summer program told me, "Ideas are wonderful, but they don't get published." Heh.

But in the meantime, I'm writing a synopsis. I've discovered that I dislike them. I've already deleted one and begun another and hopefully, it will go better. Contests require a synopsis--your entire storyline, written out in about 5-10 pages, with some key scenes described, characters, major plots points, etc. No mystery allowed. Yes, the ending must be there. Subplots can be omitted. But the writing can't be dry because a synopsis is given to contest judges and also to agents and editors. So, pretty important. A lot of the query letters an author sends to agents are culled from the synopsis, too. So we'll see if that marketing minor came in handy at all. Here's a good link on what a synopsis is

On the other hand, I wrote the "blurb"--my try at back cover copy, which is a building block to a full synopsis (hopefully!). Here it is:

When Madeline Keegan arrives in her home country of England at age five, she feels like a stranger. Born to a prosperous merchant and a free black woman in the Caribbean, Madeline and her sister don’t fit in. As the years pass, the sisters grow into their roles as young gentry women. But in 1814, after their father dies, the girls find that their finances are not as they should be and their stepsister disappears on the same day. These challenges put Madeline in the path of Henry Cartland, a spy fresh home from the Continent and war—and determined to take down one last foe in Bristol, his hometown, with a connection to the Keegan family.
Half-Indian Henry is determined to build a new, stable life and leave the risky and soul-searing spying behind him. But as he attempts to bring a French spy to justice, Henry falls deeper into the Keegan family's concerns and finds himself falling in love with Madeline, though he knows he will never be good enough for her.
Together, they must overcome prejudice, social expectations, national and business interests and a terrifying ocean voyage to gain the courage to face fears and doubt--and fall in love.

Monday, August 24, 2009

My Five

I was doing one of those "Pick Your Five Favorite" lists on Facebook a few days ago. So I thought I'd give it a try. Plus, in case you are reading (in which case many thanks and you'll get your present roundabout holiday season), but are going "I don't know if it's actually good or not" because you're not a historical romance junkie,there are short excerpts included. They're mostly first chapters, alas and alack, but since most book contests want a partial manuscript (basically the first three chapters or so), that opening is pretty crucial.
My top five romance novels (with linked excerpts):

1. Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas (2009, Bantam). Setting: Northwest Frontier of India (now Pakistan), 1897.
Short excerpts

2. Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase (1995) Setting: Paris & England, 1828. 384 pages. Google Books Excerpt

3. To Rescue a Rogue by Jo Beverley (2006). Setting: London, 1817. Excerpt

4. Shattered Rainbows by Mary Jo Putney (1996, reissued 2000). Setting: Waterloo, 1815. England, 1816. I like the first half better than the second. Chapter One

5. A Lady's Secret by Jo Beverley (2007) Setting: northern France & England, 1764. 416 pages. Excerpt

Honorable mentions: the entire Malloren series by Jo Beverley for a great family series. Thunder and Roses by Mary Jo Putney for a half-Gypsy earl hero and a Welsh schoolteacher as the heroine. There's a difference in culture, religion and social class that underlies the whole thing. I also really enjoyed Sherry Thomas' first novel, Private Arrangements, because of the 1890s setting (which I haven't read much of). The Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn was awesome, because it's not too bogged down with drama and the writing is light-hearted.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Titles

I am shit at coming up with titles. Always have been, always will be. It's hard to come with that one essential slogan that encompasses your entire story and it was even harder when I didn't have an entire book to name.

I was calling the book The Barbadian Bride for a minute because Madeline, the heroine, is from Barbados and a lot of her inner conflict stems from her childhood there (more free, but also with her mother dying and plantations full of slaves) and her life since living in England. And, at the end, she becomes a bride. It's a play on Mary Jo Putney's The Bartered Bride.

But I'm not sure that it really fits the story as it is now.

I could call it something generic like Smashing the Rules (Mady is, as you will note, very into social rules), but is that particularly romantic? Or Love in a Spy's Arms. The Tide of Love. The Keegan Inheritance might work, since that's where a great chunk of conflict comes form. Plus, if I ever do get around to writing Alex and Laura's stories, I could have a theme.

Maybe something like The Silver Thread? An Unlikely Love? Improbable Love? Caught in a Cargo Hold? Is it even legal to call it One True Thing, after the song I kept listening to in relation to this story?

Or...I could just use this romance novel title generator I found:Hilarious Title Generator.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

What's the sound of one hand clapping?

Not to get all Zen Buddhist on y'all, but...um...*taps blog*...I finished it. Yeah, that's right. 5:06 am on August 16, 2009--the first romance has officially been tracked changed, which basically makes it a second draft.

254 pages at 1.5 spacing. 90,214 words (minus all the Chapter titles, dates, and occasional city identifiers)....meaning that the actual story itself is 90,214 words.

Good. Lord. I didn't I was so stinkin' verbose.

So, my pretties, I'm uploading to MegaUpload the book itself. It's all tracked changed in red for your delight, just waiting to be read and ripped apart. I have it set to by author, so apparently, if you are so inclined, you, too, can crayon-via-Microsoft Word all over it and it'll show up in a different color up to eight people.

However, it is 254 pages long.

I'm also uploading my revision letter to myself on Google Docs. Try not to laugh, because it's so fiction class 101. What can I say? I learn at my own pace. This revision letter might be a more effective way of commenting on certain aspects--I have specific questions in there that require answers. Plus, I have notes in there and I want to see if this makes sense to anyone not named Annrei--and if I achieved anything I noted down in those notes.

Thank you very much! I know you're all busy, busy people, so don't feel obligated to read. There are chapters. You can do it one chap at a time...and you have the entire work there, so no worries that I will suddenly lose the thread and stop writing.

It's too late for that, baby.

But if you want Christmas presents this year...then I suggest you read at some point. and remark. I'll even take a "that was good."

The book: Mady's Story *this is a pretty big file, so if there are any problems, let me know and I'll see about splitting it up.
*Edited to add: I split them up into two docs. Here are the URLs: Prologue-14 & 15-Epilogue

The revision notes: Revision Notes

Monday, August 3, 2009

Regency/Romancelandia Glossary

Largely from Candice Hern's website here, just a list of a few terms I used in my story.

Almack's : Assembly rooms in London, where balls were held every Wednesday during the Season. Patronesses of Almack's determined who could come in and who could not. Anyone in trade, even aristocrats associated with trade, were not admitted.

Bath: A city in the southwest of England, located 13 miles southeast of Bristol, Bath is known for its natural hot springs. Very fashionable in the Regency era (Jane Austen lived there for a time).

bluestocking: A woman with unfashionably intellectual and literary tastes.

Bow Street Runner: Established in the 18th century, the Runners worked under the magistrate of Bow Street in London and were the first London police force. The Runners were detectives who pursued felons and cases across the country.

Bristol: A city in the Southwest of England, built on the Avon River, Bristol was one of the country's largest ports. In the 18th century, Bristol's prosperity was built on slave ships and Thomas Clarkson, an abolitionist, went to Bristol to collect information on the slave trade to bring back to Parliament as evidence. In the 19th century, Bristol's status as the largest port in England was slowly being overtaken by Liverpool.

Courtesy Titles: If a duke, marquess or earl has a son, the son can use one of their father's lesser titles as their own until they inherit their father's title. The title isn't official and it doesn't give them a seat in the Lords, so it's called a courtesy title because the heir is a commoner until they inherit the big title. Only the younger sons of dukes and marquesses use "Lord" with their first names, no one else does. So the Duke of Jamaica isn't also Lord John, he's Lord Jamaica. But his younger son can be known as Lord Tom LastName. All daughters of dukes, marquesses and earls use Lady with their first names. The younger sons of earls and all children of viscounts and barons use "The Honorable" before their first name as a courtesy title. Confusing? Yeah. Don't worry. I only went up as far as viscounts.

Debrett's Peerage:An encyclopedia of the aristocracy, listing titles, estates, family histories. Still exists.

Duke of Slut: Popular in Regency-set romance, the Duke of Slut is a manwhore who has reputedly slept with every woman in the ton, yet miraculously does not have an STD. For some reason, there are hundreds of Dukes running around in the Regency, when in reality, there are usually less than 40 alive at any one time in Britain. The Sunflower solemnly swears not to use dukes at all in her stories, as she's rather tired of everyone being a duke.

Floating Harbor:Bristol Harbor, on the Avon, which was a major tidal river, meaning that the tides were crazy in difference, making it difficult for ships to get in and out of the city and putting wear and tear on ships. In 1804-09, lock gates were installed in the harbor, giving the section of harbor a constant water level and diverting the river into a cut beside it.

Gretna Green: The first village over the Scottish border, where marriage laws were much looser than in England. Minors could marry in Scotland without permission, so Gretna is the Vegas of its day with quickie weddings.

Hackney: Regency era taxi.

Post chaise: Regency era bus

The Season: Refers to the London social season, lasting from early spring until late June, while Parliament was in session. This is when the rich converged on London to attend balls, lectures, opera, ballet, the theatre and when young ladies made their social debuts.

Titles: The British aristocracy goes like this: Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, Baron. They are all accorded seats in the House of Lords in Parliament. Baronets and knights are titled, but not considered peers (the aristocracy was collectively known as the peerage) and do not have seats in the Lords. Dukes are addressed as "Your Grace;" the others are "my lord" or "your lordship." See courtesy titles for what the heirs to various peers were called before they inherited.

TSTL:"Too stupid to live." As in, a heroine who is "feisty" or "unconventional," but does incredibly dumb things in the course of the story, to be unbelievable entirely.

ton: From French, bon ton, meaning the fashion or good manners. The upper classes were referred to as "the ton."

In the midst of revising

I was in the middle of Chapter Four late last night. I think I got up to the first time that Mady sees Henry before my eyes started drooping. But I finished reading Bury the Chains today, which will help me immensely.

Bury the Chains is about the British abolition movement in the late eighteenth to the early-to-mid nineteenth century, the only widespread abolition movement of its kind in Europe. I tagged it with Post-It strips while I read, green for general information (like about Quakers, who were early abolitionists or the effects of the French Revolution on Britain or how France banned slavery and then Napoleon reinstated it, the idiot) and orange for bits that I know I can use--like how slaves were treated on the island of Barbados, any ambience about Bristol, and how abolition societies sprung up or how black people lived in England at the time.



Which is all information I need. I had Mady join a ladies' abolition committee in the story, only to read that a) the international slave trade was abolished in Britain in 1807, made a felony in 1811, though the Caribbean territories still had slaves. With the worsening Napoleonic wars, the slave trade kind of took a backseat. So she wouldn't have been working towards abolition because it already happened in England, at least. Mady would be working towards emancipation. There were ladies' emancipation societies in the 1820s, before the slaves were freed for good in the British Empire. So I'm moving one up about ten years' time. It's a small one, anyway. I don't think anyone will notice.

I realized toward the end of Draft One that Mady is conventional in many ways--she likes to follow the weird societal rules because she's kind of prissy, but also because by following the rules, society cannot condemn her for anything she's done. They can only be prejudiced and that's their problem, not hers. She knows she's different in England and always will be, but instead of embracing it fully, Mady has learned and aped manners, rules, fashions and accents. When she was a very small child, after losing her mother and being sailed across the ocean to England, Mady saw shackled slaves being unloaded off a ship in Bristol, which was unlikely but still possible in 1800, and it's affected her ever since. It's Mady's biggest fear.

...Which means I have to use it, don't I? And I did. But in realizing the how and why of Mady, I've had to change things. I know there's an instance coming up later on where Mady mentions something about women having the vote. She would never say that--she probably wouldn't even think it--considering that at the time, very few men could even vote.

As I was writing Henry, he went from being your standard-Romancelandia-spy hero to being a half-Indian, half-English spy hero trying to leave the spying world. It gives him angst, as he's finishing his last mission and as he's trying to become acclimated to Britain again and it gives him something in common with Mady, since they're both a little out of the norm.

I planned Mady to have her background and Alex, originally, to be half-Chinese because, I will readily admit, of my own Japanese-Irishness and because of my dear friend Shawnese's story about how we were separated at birth by an evil scientist who made us look different so we could never find each other. And matters of race interest me rather than repel me, which is what I keep hearing is the normal state of things in America, that people don't want to talk about race.

But being the foreign cousin on at least one side of the family (seriously, pictures of me and my three younger, paler, blue-eyed, brown-and-blond-haired Irish cousins=hilarity) I think I know and am curious about related people looking and being different from each other.

Plus, as much as I adore reading romance novels that take place in Europe in the 19th century, most of the heroines are...well, white. And the TSTL ones (too stupid to live) are what I call "silly TV white girls." I think exactly one person reading this might understand that.

I read The China Bride by Mary Jo Putney, which had a half-Chinese heroine who knew feng shui, wing chun, calligraphy in almost expert detail. I mean, seriously! It was a bit much but at least she wrote a half Asian heroine at all.

Alex, at the moment, is being referred to as "exotic" and of "undetermined race." I changed her or rather, she changed herself because it seemed too far-fetched to have two daughters be close in age and have those ethnicities. And, you know, China's damn far from almost anything back in those sailing days and logistics were driving me nuts. I personally think Alex's unknown mother is Native American.

Wow! I didn't mean for this to be a novel unto itself. Sorry about the rambling. Million words, right?

I'm going to add in a glossary, probably linked to the side under Madeline's Story, of terms both historical and hysterical (TSTL being an example) so that when the time comes, y'all will have something to look at for definitions.

Peace & Love,
Rei