September 2010


My friend Pat and I had a nice chat today. I made it to her place at around 11 a.m. and didn’t leave until close to 2 p.m. — and then only because I had to get ready for work.

We shared a lovely lunch (salad, spaghetti and chocolate chip cookies) and settled on “Li’l Slugger” … or maybe “Big Slugger.” What guy wants to consider himself “li’l” anything? 😉

A good portion of our time was spent discussing various stories we’ve written (or are still writing) and it got me thinking about some nearly-finished manuscripts that I haven’t thought about in ages.

One is a Harlequin Presents type of story (high-powered businessman and successful author) with a twist: The two knew each other in high school, when he was an exchange student at her school. They started dating by graduation and she eventually transferred to university in London … but she up and left him with no explanation while they were in college. Now, four years later, their paths cross again when her book is being turned into a movie filmed at his hotel chain.

The other one is a sci-fi romantic comedy that I seem to recall having some very funny moments. I don’t think I’ve worked on it since moving from Indiana, so the details aren’t quite as fresh. I remember I got the Earth girl back to the planet of her hero, who’s as human as she is, just from a different galaxy, and then had no idea what direction to take it in.

I started the other one much more recently, basing it on characters in a collection of short stories my roommate and I wrote about life in high school (tentatively titled  “High School Hell”). got it to a certain point — probably the point I abandon most projects, somewhere in “the sagging middle” — and stopped writing.

Anyway, before heading to work this afternoon, I dug them both out of hiding. (I was pleased to discover I knew where they were — one buried under a stack of magazines on the nightstand, one in a satchel I packed to save get out of the house in case of wildfire several summers ago when one threatened.)

I got sucked into the Presents, and plan to read more when I get back home. It’s pretty near the end — I hope, because I’m nearly out of story. It’s all hand-written, so I have no idea what the word count is.

So far, I like what I see. I may have to see about reviving it after Golden Heart season and the NaNo. (I already have my NaNo idea in place … it’s the story of Brad’s brother, Kenny.)

Of course, I still have Bethany and Cody to contend with. (Even though I still love the story, I think they’ve lost a bit of their luster … They no longer call me to work on their book. I’m probably coming to that dreaded middle again.)

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After last night’s good news on my contest final, I got more excellent news this afternoon.

One of my writer friends had asked to read “Beauty and the Ballplayer.” She’s read a couple of my other manuscripts (“Blind Date Bride” and “Operation Snag Mike Brad”).  She’s always busy, though, as a grandma of I don’t know how many … so I didn’t expect fast feedback.

Boy, was I surprised. She called today and said she read the whole thing in one day.

That in itself is a great sign … and she also said she loved pretty much everything about it. (Another excellent sign.)

She does, however, take issue with my poor hero, who refers to his — ahem — male part using a word that begins with “c.” I figured he’s a guy, and that’s what he’d be likely to think of it as, when he’s thinking of it (which is often). Besides, I already used my favorite name, “Mr. Happy” in Kari and Damien’s story. Two different heroes can’t have the same … er … pet name for their anatomy.

Pat steadfastly maintains Matt would not use such a crude word … so she made up a list of alternatives. We’re getting together Tuesday morning to go over them. I can’t wait.

… Ah, the life of a romance writer! Where else can you have a breakfast meeting to discuss the male anatomy?

P.S. Now that my creative juices are flowing, I’m thinking I might lobby Pat for something like “Li’l Slugger.” It’s a little more creative than the C-word — and it fits. Matt is a baseball player, you know. 😉

What do you do when you get great news at 11 p.m., when everyone who cares is sound asleep? I have to share it with someone … I already tried texting the Boyfriend, with no response. I shared it in my Facebook status and got one “like.”

But I’m still too excited to settle down, so now I’m going to shout it to the blogosphere: The gals at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood picked my first line as one of 10 finalists in their “Make It Golden” contest.

I was thrilled — and a little stunned, because I read the competition. There were some fantastic first lines. Many of them made me want to read more.

For the next round, I give them the first 250 words. I was pleased when I discovered my first 240-ish ended on a mini-hook.

The grand prize is my $50 Golden Heart entry fee. Not too shabby!

But even if I don’t win, I’m excited to have finaled. There were 79 entries. Yes, 79. I’m not great with math, but I think that puts my first sentence in the top 12 percent — and that has to be a good place to be.

I’ve been so busy writing on Beth and Cody’s story and thinking of a new title for Bree and Mike’s that I haven’t done any editing on my Golden Heart entries.

What is that about? I need to get busy … that deadline is going to be here before I know it.

It’s no secret that I hate the working title on Bree and Mike’s story, “To Catch a Wife.” I blogged about it way back in May.

Last night, inspiration struck as I drove to the grocery store. I thought I’d found a perfect replacement: “Virgin and the Tramp.” A play on “Lady and the Tramp” … a description of the heroine and hero … perfect, right?

Not so much, apparently. When I posted the suggestion in my Facebook status, it was almost universally panned. One of my friends, someone I went to high school with, said it sounded like two lesbians. I have nothing against gay romances …. however, I did not write one, so I don’t want the title to make it sound like that’s what it is. I was thinking of Mike as the tramp (at least in everyone else’s mind. He works hard to maintain that image!)

Another of my friends said she’d pick up a book with the first title, but not the second.

So “Virgin and the Tramp” doesn’t play well in the Heartland.

Knowing that, I went back to the drawing board … again. “To Catch a Wife” was a decent title for the original draft of the book, in which Mike spent a good portion trying to convince Bree he wanted to marry her (because he thinks she’s pregnant, which she’s not). That still happens, but the book’s focus has shifted a bit, focusing more on Mike’s journey from pseudo-playboy who uses his bad-boy image to push away girls he doesn’t think he deserves to guy who knows he not only deserves but needs the love of a good woman.

Again, I started toying with the words I’ve been kicking around for months: mirror, image, playboy, virgin (because the heroine is one). I’d been down this road many times before and came up dry. However, the thought crossed my mind that Mike moonlights as a stripper — and a new perfect title was born: “Moonlight Madness.”

At first, I thought, “No way.” But it quickly grew on me. I walked through the parking lot to my car thinking, “That’s not bad.”

I think I even said it aloud: “That’s pretty good, actually.”

Why? Well, Breanne has harbored a crush on Mike, a coworker, since she started working at the paper … but she’s resigned herself to being just friends. As the story opens, she and her roomates are at a bachelorette party at the local strip club. She’s enjoying the show despite herself — until she discovers Mike’s the masked man shaking his junk at her.

Madness sets in and she can’t stop fantasizing about Mike. (She’s only a virgin, not dead!) When they get snowed in on assignment with one hotel room between them, she gets drunk and screws up the courage to give him her virginity (even though she knows it’s a bad idea). Mike, who’s sworn never to get involved with another virgin, doesn’t handle it well when he discovers he’s just taken it … and they spend weeks not speaking until Mike, who has a bad habit of eavesdropping, overhears what he thinks is Bree telling her former roommates (both of whom are now married) she’s pregnant. (She’s not.) Guiltily, he flashes back to that drunken night … yep. No condom. That’s what three hours of foreplay and a six-pack’ll do to a guy. But despite the image he goes to great lengths to create, he has old-fashioned values. So he sets out to seduce Bree back into his life. (Thus the original “To Catch a Wife” title.)

Every few months, it wallops me upside the head.

What is it, you ask? Nothing good, that’s for sure. It’s the fear that, even after years of writing — and getting a degree in journalism, I still don’t have a clue what I’m doing.

The familiar foe hit me again this weekend. My local RWA chapter, NARWA, hosted Erin Quinn for morning and afternoon workshops.

After lunch, she talked about creating a setting so strong that it’s really a character. (Think the storms in “Wizard of Oz” or the jungle in “Jurassic Park,” she said.)

The comment that stuck with me most was this: “If at the end of the scene, you could pluck the players and dialog out and plant them anywhere else without some major work, you haven’t done your job.”

Uh-oh. If that’s true, I’m in trouble. Many of my characters’ conversations — witty, laugh-packed chats — take place in restaurants or other standard “date” places … generic, could-be-anywhere places.

I think this is where my training in journalism serves me ill. When you’re writing a news story, you relay quotes and  facts … not take note of how birds flitted past overhead while your source was speaking, or how his eyes were the exact same shade of periwinkle as his sweater.

Heck … a journalist probably wouldn’t even use “periwinkle.” Don’t use a $10 word when a 10-cent one (blue) gets the point across just as well.

As a result, my prose is relatively straightforward. “He laughed.” “She wrinkled her nose.” “He bolted upright so fast he nearly fell out of his hammock.”

You get the idea.

My GH entries may need more help than I think. Good thing I still have some time to make ’em shine.

It’s not Monday, but I finally got around to doing what I said I would: I submitted two queries on “Beauty and the Ballplayer.”

Now, I wait … and continue to work on perfecting the GH entries … and write some more on Bethany & Cody’s story.

For some reason, I’m finding it hard to focus just on the Golden Heart entries. Seems that, this year, I don’t have nearly as much work to do. Last year, I had to do some substantial editing and rewriting on Brad & Erin’s tale.

This time around, I have decent synopses written for both my entries, and the entries themselves are in pretty good shape.

Or maybe I’m just getting too cocky … 😉

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