Party Day 3: Two Can Play This Game

Thanks to my lovely readers’ input, chapter 13 is now officially complete and posted! I’ve named it “Two Can Play,” as in the saying, “two people can play this game.”

Rome begins to realize what it means for Labriella to be the party’s “special selection” showcase when Lord Alonza orders Bre to give every noble in the room a sample of what it’s like to kiss her. Just when Rome can’t take watching anymore, one of the nobles takes pity on Rome and lends him one his extra escorts. Rome has no desire to take him up on his offer. But with Alonza flaunting his control over Bre, and the lent escort’s master watching her like a hawk, more than one fate is at stake.

When Lord Alonza baits Labriella into looking up, all Bre sees is Rome’s passionate lip-lock. Is she so easily replaced? If she’s not careful, performing her Alonza-ordained duties might push the man she truly cares for away from her for good. Her only chance to win back his attention is during the talent show…and she never mastered that part of her training. Can she piece together an alluring performance without failing like a total klutz?

The next two chapters will be epic. Don’t miss them!

Plotting a Runaway

The latest lecture in my workshop has shed significant light on my plotting problems. Such problems are difficult to put words to, and until now, I have only been able to come up with the words “too slow”—as pertaining to pacing. Another writer (or two) said my first book had no plot, but the romance was the point. As a reader primarily of Fantasy novels, in which there is a hero (or background hero, or antihero) that I fall indirectly in love with, the notion of my own fantasy-set novel not having a plot was shocking.

Lately, another reader’s long-ago comment has been rolling around in my head. They said Labriella’s unsanctioned break from the temple had lost its sense of pressing danger. Sure, she was worried about being tracked down by hunting dogs, but as of yet, nothing had ever come of it. How strange for her to be looking out at the lavender-eyed noble’s dogs with nervousness, when thus far she appeared to be in the clear from everything but nobles and wolves (and maybe Rome’s less-than-charming self).

Then today, after fumbling through my online class’s jam-packed lesson, it dawned on me: That’s what is missing from volume 1. That is how to get the plot moving, rather than just having a slow-paced, anticlimactic (IMO) Romance. Labriella can’t tell the reader about Rome, get locked out of the temple, run into Rome, and lay low somewhere until Alonza comes a-calling. It’s not enough for Labriella to be chased in the first chapter. She has to be chased repeatedly, by multiple people. The temple should be actively hunting her down, right off the bat. And there’s no way Labriella wouldn’t try every day to return to the only place she could call home, unless she got notice not to.

So there you have the first part of the new Book 1, which I am of a mind to call “Runaway” (though the overuse of that title in the book market, according to a GoodReads search, looks troublesome). The first few chapters must consist of Labriella actually running away, not just hiding out. The idea must be that every time she thinks she has found a safe place to settle for the time being, somebody else finds her. That makes it plausible that the only safe place to be is potentially with Rome.

The question that then arises, is what to do with Rome’s perspective. If Labriella is running for three chapters, that’s all in her P.O.V. Is it really okay to switch to Rome’s P.O.V. in chapter 4? Maybe, if I continually mention Rome and compare others to Rome in her thoughts? That’s setting her up for quite the heartbreak when Rome debuts his beastliness to save her. If he does that, can I really play the “she doesn’t know it’s him” card, if she is expected to go with him? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean she has to know he still has affection for her…yet. That sounds like a job for a few well-placed keepsakes Bre shouldn’t be snooping around.

The other question is, how much do you (the reader) need to know off the bat? In other words, how much of Labriella’s temple life should I be showing you in the first chapter? Should I give you a one-day walk in her shoes before I shake everything up? Some people would say that means “starting too early.”

Also, because of this new running-away progression, it would probably be best to take the near-rape, Rome-saves-the-day situation out of the would-be first chapter. That’s better left for jealous romantic times.


 

In other news, I am largely done writing Day 2 of Alonza’s party. That’s always a dangerous kind of pronouncement to put in writing—especially since I’ve been lagging for 2-3 days on writing the ending, and am almost out of my groove now. It’s because I would rather be writing the next exciting scene, then following up the scene I just wrote with dialogue. Bitching and moaning, I know. Maybe that means the talking part will be super brief, so I can just get on with it. I want Day 3, damnit!

Ending dialogue: Tomorrow’s project.

And no, that is not a procrastination statement.

New Chapter, New Workshops, New Member

For those of you who haven’t dropped by FictionPress in the last couple days, I have (FINALLY) posted chapter 12.

Bre_showcaseLabriella and Rome reunite in time for Lord Alonza’s party, and there is definitely still chemistry between them. But when Lord Alonza makes it clear he plans to use Labriella to provoke Rome, can Rome trust Labriella’s loyalty enough to play it cool?

Go look up “Showcase” to read about how Rome and Labriella fare on Day 1 of Lord Alonza’s party!

Just so you know, I’m thinking of all of the chapters dedicated to Alonza’s party as falling under the banner of “Showcase.” I’m just dividing them up into parts by length. I’d love to have each chapter/part be a separate day, but I think Day 2 will be a little short for that, and Day 3 might be a bit lengthy.

Thank you so much to my 12 readers who have responded to my end-of-chapter request! Your support has inspired visions of what the next few chapters need to be. I welcome any additional suggestions or constructive opinions/feelings my other readers have yet to voice. :)

◊     ◊     ◊

My workshop frenzy has slowed, but not ended.

Last month I attended a YRW (Yosemite Romance Writers) seminar presented by Margie Lawson, called “Empowering Characters’ Emotions.” I admit that, based on the title and the bullet-point description, I went into the event expecting a prolonged lecture about how important it is to communicate characters’ emotions through speech, body language, and portrayal of settings. I can honestly say that I am glad that is not what I got. Margie Lawson has created a color-coding system for self-editing your mach_highlight_EDITSnuscript. And considering she is both an editor and a psychotherapist, you can expect her home-crafted EDITS system to be analytically in-depth. If you’re on the verge of your next major revision, and you want to take your editing to the next level, I highly suggest you look into this. I won’t be ready to employ half of the techniques I’ve learned from her until I complete my next step of revisions, but that doesn’t mean I’m shelving them. This EDITS system is a MUST for self-publishing authors, and a “should have” for authors aiming for traditional publishing. I’ve read too many indie books on my Nook that could have benefited from this.

The members of the RWAOLKiller Openings” workshop by Alexa Bourne provided some extremely helpful feedback for me on which opening for the BeastKing Chronicles would be most gripping. It would seem now that which opening I start with depends upon whether my series is considered Romance with fantasy elements, or Fantasy with romantic elements. At this point, Book 1 almost solely Romance, with Book 2 leading that way as well. But I have buried the original plot. If I bring that plot back to the forefront in the next revision, as I plan to, then my instructor for this month’s workshop believes that my story will be Fantasy.

claws1This month’s online writing workshop is called “Balancing the Paranormal and the Romance,” taught on Yahoo Groups by Shannon Donnelly through FF&P (Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal Romance Writers—an offshoot of RWA). I realize my novels are High Fantasy, and “Paranormal” usually connotes Urban Fantasy. However, seeing as Rome’s beast nature is very much a paranormal anomaly within the High Fantasy world that I have created, I hope this workshop will inspire me with ways to subtly introduce, mix in, and play off of the supernatural elements in my story.

ch-network_RWATo give a little perspective to the workshops I’ve been attending (thinking they were separate entities)…RWA is a big non-profit, international organization, and each RWA offshoot is called a “chapter.” I stumbled onto this Chapters network by accident, by following an author’s blog links to a master listing of RWA workshops. You don’t have to be a member to attend the workshops, although membership does afford you discounts. You do, however, have to be a member of the larger organization in order to become a member of a Chapter.

I recently became a RWA member so I could join the Online Chapter…Or so I thought. What I didn’t realize when I signed up was that I wasn’t just paying for Chapter access, discounts, a magazine subscription, and getting my name out. There are all kinds of opportunities and programs built into a RWA membership, even for an Associate Writer (which I became)—not the least of which is a Critique Partner Matching Program. And, as an Associate member, Romance doesn’t have to be my primary genre. Perfect fit. If you don’t mind throwing down 100 bucks, plus a startup fee. I admit, that was a little painful for me. I consoled myself by realizing the price of membership is equivalent to the difference between the annual conference cost for members vs. non-members, if I attend.

Feel free to comment with any questions you may have about workshops, etc. I know what it’s like to try to navigate and figure it all out on your own. I’ll be honest if I don’t know the answer to your question, but then again, I might be able to point you in the right direction.

Workshop Help: Information vs. Perspective

I recently realized I hadn’t updated my Volume 1 info page. Whoops. Fixed that.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been dragging my heels in my writing a bit because I signed up for some online writing workshops.

“Do those really help?”

Yes and no. There’s always the stuff you already know from experience, the stuff you’ve already researched, and the stuff you can’t figure out how to assimilate. The farther along you are in your writing, the more narrowed your focus. For instance, I now know that I am writing an antihero (as opposed to a Prince Charming or an epic hero), and my Fantasy story’s plot decided it wants to be a Romance. So every time I read advice about what a hero should and shouldn’t have, and what they should and shouldn’t do, I’m seeing it through a Romance/Antihero lens. I take some things, and I toss the rest. What to take vs. what to toss is the pivotal question. My male counterpart is an Antihero, he’s discreetly muscled and slimly built, and I loathe irrelevant book covers, so I automatically dismiss the idea of having a book cover image depicting a headless muscly chest, and I’m going to ignore any advice on how to make him extra-fluffy lovable. On the other hand, he’s damaged with a past, I want readers to be sympathetic, and I’ve got to get my heroine (and my readers) to fall for him. So I’m more than happy to take advice about how to write in his sexy quirks every couple lines, and build questions and intrigue through his actions and reactions.

Information is what is helpful in these workshops. It’s authors handing you tools. It’s social connections. And it’s awareness of your contemporaries and the current book market.

Perspective is a totally different issue. The best perspective help I’ve had volunteered actually comes from readers in the genre, down to the subgenre and the sub-subgenre. There’s no substitute for it. Readers intrinsically know what they’re looking for in a subgenre—or rather, they can tell whether what they’re looking for is or isn’t present. Some readers will just drift away if they feel your story is lacking. But other readers will leave a line or two—or even a few paragraphs—if they know you’re interested in what they have to say.

So I’d like to say “thank you” to those readers who reviewed my most recent chapter, and those who have reviewed my story in the past. Also, a special “thank you” to those readers who reviewed multiple versions of my story. It is your comments I keep in mind when I revise, and when I try to figure out where to write to next. It is your comments that I use to write myself out of corners. And your comments have helped make me a better writer. Don’t think that your one little nay-saying comment is not heard inside a bunch of yay’s, or vice versa. I know I have cut scenes some of you liked, but don’t think I’ve deleted them. They’re still here, waiting to be added back in.

That being said, I am slowly realizing that all of my focus on the “right” ways to do things in order to get published has both helped and stunted my writing. I’ve been outlining and re-outlining, trying to figure out where to go next. That’s necessary, at certain stages. But I’m looking at two more events before the end of the second book, and realizing my writing went so much faster when I just free-wrote. Sure, I wrote myself into a bunch of corners. Sure, I had a bunch of adverbs and repetitive sentence structures. But I also chalked scenes full of emotion and used them as catalysts for unexpected plot turns…and I did it without hardly thinking about it. I just followed my pen. The next revision I have in mind for my manuscript is actually way closer to my original plot ideas, because my story has taken on a life of its own and thus far I have opted to blindly follow it, into whatever unexpected turmoil my pen may lead. I’m not sure which is better to publish: the original plot, or the raw, character-charged emotional turns of events. But with the end of the second book finally taking shape, I think I might just throw myself into it. After all, that’s where all the limes are going to hit the fan.

The second event at the end of this book, I was actually considering moving to the end of the first book. But now I’m not so sure. I guess I’ll figure it out after it’s written. After all, no matter which order events fall in for these two books, events in the next portion of the story should progress the same.

I don’t know if I will go right into writing and posting the next book after I finish Book 2. I might, if I have momentum. But it seems like a great breaking point for revisions.

Anyway, I’m finishing up a Male P.O.V. workshop by Sascha Illyvich (previously entitled “Inside the Male Mind”). I’m starting in on a Romance Writers of America workshop called “Killer Openings” by Alexa Bourne, which should help with the revisions I’ve been toying with for the beginning of my series. I’m also attending a one-night class on publishing and a seminar about characters this month. After those, my two-month workshop madness will be complete. It’s quite the marathon, and it can be difficult to switch back and forth between question mode, social mode, revision mode, and writing mode. Who knew authors had to be such multi-taskers? But after that, it should slow down…and my writing should pick back up. Theoretically.

Chapter 12 is underway; don’t think I’ve forgotten about it just ’cause I’m in a workshop frenzy. I’ve spent a lot of time mulling it over, attempting outlines, and brainstorming specific prospective scenes. I’m being careful, because recent discussions about bondage and alphas has helped me see how important it is that I handle the details of Lord Alonza’s party the right way. Rome may be dominant, but it is very important that you (my dear readers) see that his brand of dominance distinguishes itself that of the corrupt nobility—that they’re about a lot of things that he’s not. I believe the best way to do that is to stick Rome in a noble-dominant situation, and contrast his desires (and how he handles them) within the same situation.

I should warn you, though: Some bad crap is going to happen to Labriella. And, Sheryl, you’re right; Labriella has been growing more timid. But, if I play my cards right, the aftermath of said “bad crap” is going to change that. ;)

So stay tuned!

Frostbite: Graduating High School with a Frosty Touch

Frostbite (Touch of Frost, #1)Frostbite by Lynn Rush (Touch of Frost #1)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My Summary:
Amanda’s mother had super-strength, and the ability to create and manipulate ice, snow, and sleet—abilities she passed on to her daughter, but not her son. The organization that experimented on Amanda’s mom, and eventually murdered her, is out to capture and study Amanda too…or possibly kill her if she won’t comply. Every time the scientists’ henchmen find Amanda and her brother Scott, the siblings flee and have to start over again in a new town. Except this time, Amanda has a best friend and a potential boyfriend, and her brother has a girlfriend, so neither one wants to leave. They resolve to stay as long as they can, and fight for their new small-town life. But some of the people around them aren’t who they pretend to be, and Amanda’s hard-to-control emotion-driven powers are escalating with her raging hormones and stress level. If Amanda and Scott choose to stay and fight for their newfound happiness, can they really win?

My Thoughts:
There is death-by-freezing in this novel, and Amanda’s parents did die a brutal death, but the teenage voice of the story keeps it from reading like angst or tragedy. However, that same teenage tone gave me the feeling of all relationships (other than sibling) being transitory—like they were important and desired, but were just as easily ditched as adopted. That annoyed me. But maybe that’s just a personality preference. Or maybe that’s what you’re supposed to feel, because that’s how Amanda’s would-be boyfriend feels.

The premise of this story sets up the reader to be suspicious of all characters, so I felt just as unsure who to root for as the characters are uncertain who to trust. I kept waiting for everyone to not be who they said they were. It’s beautifully written suspense, but it made it very difficult for me to buy into the sweetness of Amanda’s budding romance, and the “coincidence” of that romance beginning just as everything began to hit the fan.

The powers were very well orchestrated, with emphasis on the emotions that trigger the powers, and what the powers actually feel like. As the reader, you discover the extent of those powers along with the characters, and can almost imagine the ice growing along your own arm. Impressive.

A surprising theme in this story is love between siblings. Most of the book consists of siblings banding together and taking care of one another. It’s endearing, but it can get irritating when you keep waiting for the romance to go somewhere and you end up with “I can’t”s and sibling care instead.

I wasn’t really reading this story for the sci-fi part, but it does lend credibility to the existence of freezing powers, and adds a sense of urgency to all the happenings in the story. Information about the powers and the organization at large is gradually revealed throughout, but it’s not until the big blowout at the end that the sciencey stuff was presented in a way that really mattered to me. The rest of the time were just teases based on flashbacks and fear.

Consensus:
The story is an interesting read, and the powers are well-handled. It’s a nice, comfortable story with a fluffy romance. But if you’re looking for a high-speed sci-fi chase with a kickass boyfriend, this isn’t it.

I personally needed to feel more depth and permanency. And I needed reassurance that Zack wasn’t a plant, and Jasmine wasn’t a conniving bitch. But my tastes in reading are a bit darker, and I don’t really buy into WAFF that doesn’t have internal relational problems built in. More lighthearted readers will probably buy in, and love this story. To them, I say, “More power to ya!” ;)

View all my reviews

New Chapter: Training for Trouble!

I just typed up the 11th chapter of volume 2 today! That’s right folks: “Training for Trouble” is now posted on FictionPress!

Don’t be confused by which chapter is new; I changed the title of chapter 10 from “I See You” to “The Agony of Beds.” The former was always meant as a temporary title, until I thought of a better one. Chapter 11, “Training for Trouble,” is the new chapter.

Rome hands Labriella over to the tavern wench, to be trained how to survive Lord Alonza’s party. But Labriella soon learns that what the prostitute is really teaching her is how to seduce Rome. Can she really take instruction from the prostitute who has gotten too cozy with Rome? Or will her prejudice and jealousy get in the way?

Go read it to find out!

Story Progress: Mixed Basket

Woohoo! I just finished writing chapter 11! Alright, so it’s not completely typed up yet; that’s the next stage. But it’s written! Yay!

I’m also partway into my rewrite of chapter 2 in volume 1. I admit I’m still moving parts around on my rewrite of chapter 1; I can never seem to get the opening just right. But I think I’ve finally found my opening lines:

No ward shall leave the temple, unless expressly instructed by their superior.

Most wards probably thought this rule was meant to encourage new maidens to settle into their new home—to leave behind their noble families and embrace their new role.

They were wrong. This rule was made for people like me.

This way, I have a hook in my first line, and it’s the catalyst for everything that is to come. I cite the rule, and all that follows is what happened this one time when the rule was broken—or rather, when the stipulation at the end of the rule got in the way. This will keep the opening in Labriella’s perspective. After these lines, the question is how much to show of a normal day in the temple, or whether I should just start with the bullying and lead straight into Mistress Healer’s errand.

The other current question in my rewrite of chapter 2 is what to do after Rome saves Labriella from the men who try to rape her. Rome kills all the men, and disappears back into the forest. Labriella doesn’t know her savior is Rome; it’s too dark, and his appearance is altered. Should she run after him, like she did when she got lost in the forest all those years ago? If so, then should he scare her away, or turn her away? Allow her to hide out in the forest, or take her back to his house? Should he have been living in his house all this time, or does he only return to give her a safe place to stay?

Or should Labriella stumble away from the carnage, back to the village? There she can get taken in for the night by a common family, and then make her way to the inn in the morning—the condensed version of some things I already wrote.

I kind of like the idea of her running after Rome better. But if she follows him home, how does Rome’s noble heritage come into play?

If I dealt solely with the temple runaway issue and the lovebirds’ reunion in the first book, and left the noble heritage dealings until the second book…would the first book have a plot?

Uggh, so many questions. >_<

In the meantime, I’m attending an online workshop called “New Kid on the Block: A Guide to Writing New Adult,” put on through Maryland Romance Writers with Chanel Cleeton as the instructor. There are precious few of such New Adult (NA) resources available (at least that I have been able to find), so I jumped on this opportunity to receive feedback on whether or not my story is actually NA–even though it meant joining the group late.

I signed up for another online writing workshop this week, called “Inside the Male Mind.” It’s through Colorado Romance Writers, and it’s about writing from a male character’s perspective. I look forward to the insight on how to make Rome’s P.O.V.  more authentically masculine.

I also joined a Critique Connection group, organized by Janice Hardy over at Fiction University. But after joining the Fantasy Faction, I realized that although I would absolutely love to critique other fantasy writers’ works, my manuscript might not fall enough under the Fantasy umbrella for it to qualify. What I probably need is a Paranormal Romance group. It ruffles my feathers a little, because my story does not take place in the real world, as so many other paranormal romances do. But the reality is that my plot is strongly romance-based, and I feel a bit timid about asking fantasy writers to critique my romance. They’re awesome, but fantasy writing comes at plot orchestration from a different angle.

I feel like such a mixed basket right now.

Ah well. The good news that I hope you take out of all this is that I am actively taking steps to better my story (including all the endless hours of outlining attempts that I have not yet mentioned), and I should have my next chapter out in the next couple days if all goes well with typing.