Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hey, hey, it's Anna Campbell Day!

Rising romance star (and one of my brill CPs) Anna Campbell celebrates the release of her second Regency Noir novel, Untouched , today. She's running a workshop on drama at Sandra's Goings On right now. Post a comment and you could win a copy of Anna's new book.

And if that's not enough, pop over to the message board at Romance Novel TV, where you can ask Anna about anything to do with writing and Tim Tams. Trust me, she's an expert on both subjects.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Amazon Adventure--the sequel

My uber cool CP Stephanie Kuehnert's first book, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone, has just hit Amazon. Hooray! You can pre-order here. Joey is an intense, absorbing read about a girl whose connection with punk music ties her to the mother she never knew.

Oh, and check out Stephanie's posts on this blog for MTV Books authors and readers. Fellow posters include Jennifer Echols, whose books I adore, and Caridad Ferrer.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Getting Drafted

I'm letting revisions on an ms rest for a while, so now it's time to get stuck into writing a new book. Whenever I start an ms, I seem to forget the rules about first drafts, and they are:

* Even if you're not a plotter, write yourself a few notes on what the book is about and who the main characters are.

* Don't bust a brain cell trying to find that perfect word or phrase. (Which is what I'm doing now as I write this post). Step away from the thesaurus; embellish later.

* Now is not the time to edit. First drafts are meant to be messy.

* If you get to a difficult part that needs intensive research, make a note of it and continue writing the story. You can always fact-check later on.

* You can write just dialogue or just exposition. Flesh the scenes out in your next pass.

If you have more advice on first drafts or would like to share your M.O., I'd love to hear about it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Amazon Adventure

A couple of brand-new YA authors are celebrating the appearances of their first books on Amazon. Teri Brown's Read My Lips is about a deaf girl whose lip-reading ability paves her way into the popular crowd at her new school. Preorder the book here. My day job involves captioning TV for the Deaf and hearing impaired, so I'm really looking forward to reading Teri's book.

Take the Reins by 20-year-old Jessica Burkhart is set to debut in September 2008 (the Amazon date is actually incorrect). It's the first in a tween series set in a high-brow boarding school. Being horse-mad, I know I'll love the equestrian backdrop.

Congratulations, ladies! May the sales start rolling in.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Publishers Marketplace and Publishers Weekly reported on thriller writer Ken Follett's extraordinary deals for his upcoming trilogy, The Century. The series generated a huge buzz at the Frankfurt Book Fair earlier this year. Now it has been revealed Follett's agent, Amy Berkower of Writers House, negotiated $50 million worth of advances from domestic and foreign publishers.

You read that correctly. 50 mill. If that's not thrilling, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Musical Youth

I'd been warned about the dangers of YouTube--how distracting, how addictive, how side-splitting it is--but did I listen? No. Today I've spent hours digging up "one more song" from my formative years. But I swear I'll restrain myself...right after I compile a list of my top five songs featured in '80s movies.

Melt With You - Modern English (Valley Girl, 1983):

Don't You Forget About Me - Simple Minds (The Breakfast Club, 1985):

In Your Eyes - Peter Gabriel (Say Anything, 1989):

The Time of My Life - Bill Medley, Jennifer Warnes (Dirty Dancing, 1987):

We Got the Beat - The Go-Go's (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1982)

Okay, I've talked myself into adding one more...
Xanadu - Olivia Newton-John (Xanadu, 1980)

Rush, Rush

Paula Abdul wanted Keanu Reeves to rush, rush to her, just as much as I'd like a publishing deal to hurry, hurry to me:

However, my agent's fab assistant, Beth, wisely urged me not to rush revisions on my ms. She's right. I'll take all the time I need to do the best I can with the book. I'm not under contract (yet--there's always hope!) and I don't have a deadline.

So, forget Paula. I'm taking Beth's and the Supremes's advice:

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Losing the Plot

I'm tearing my hair out over subplots right now. Since highlights at Toni & Guy don't come cheap these days, I thought I'd count to 10 and do some research to get myself out of this mess.

First of all, what is a subplot? Well, it's a mini storyline that runs alongside the main plot. While it shouldn't outshine the main story, a subplot is a story in itself and serves to reveal more about the protagonist. It can add depth and realism to characters. Subplots are generally introduced early in the book and they're resolved before the climax of the main plot.

I'll use Christine Wells's historical debut, Scandal's Daughter, as an example of expert subplot wrangling. At the heart of the novel is the main plot: a romance between Gemma, whose mother has a reputation to rival certain Hollywood starlets, and her childhood friend, Sebastian, an earl who's allergic to marriage. Gemma would like nothing more than to take charge of her beloved grandfather's estate. Unfortunately, it's not a task for a woman (It's the year 1814, you see.) Gemma doesn't know it, but grandad Hugo is dying and he wishes to see her to marry well. He believes Sebastian is The One for Gemma. Sebastian, meanwhile, has sworn off marriage as he knows it would've pleased his dead but detested father. So he promises to instead find a good match for Gemma. But as the story unfolds, it seems the only man fit to marry Gemma is Sebastian himself, an option neither wants to consider at first. Gemma craves a peaceful, rural life, and hedonistic Sebastian doesn't fit into that paradigm.

One of the subplots tracks Gemma's awkward relationship with her notorious but misunderstood mother. Rumours and innuendo underpin Gemma's shaky position in society. Another subplot is the on-again/off-again courtship between Sebastian's sister and her beau. This was handled in a fun and flirtatious manner that contrasted with Gemma's own romantic woes. There are a few more subplots that provide additional conflict/complications, each with a purpose and each intersecting with either Gemma or Sebastian, or both. By the closing chapters, you'll see how seemingly unrelated details in the subplots gradually lock together and go toward solving the main conflict.

A few points to consider when developing your subplot/s:

* Secondary characters are as important as main characters (MCs). Explore each character's goals, motivation and conflict. You don't have to incorporate all of these details in the manuscript, but it helps to know your characters well.

* Subplots can involve the MC and a secondary character, or they can be about two secondary characters. But find a way for the subplots to intersect.

* If the main story is a romance, you might like to take on a subplot involving the heroine's career/family/greatest fear, etc, etc.

* Don't allow the subplot to overtake the main plot. If the secondary plot is elbowing the main one off the stage, maybe you need to rethink the book's direction.

* Desperately seeking a connection? Find a theme or motif that carries through all the plotlines. Jenny Crusie and Bob Mayer have more on this here.

* Donald Maass says the subplot shouldn't have the same storyline as the main plot (MP). Others emphasise it should still relate to the MP.

* How many subplots can a book have? If it's a short category romance, you probably don't have room to have for anything other than the main conflict. Longer novels can have four or five or more, but I really don't have a firm figure on that. Just don't go for the world record for greatest number of subplots and you should be fine. If in doubt, cut the subplot if it doesn't serve a purpose to the MP.

* A subplot can show a different side to your characters. You might have a hero whose steely gaze alone could cut down a sequoia, but that same man turns into a softy who never misses his niece's ballet recital.

* By the same token, a subplot can be used to add interest or to clarify the main story.

* A subplot, like a MP, has a beginning, middle and end. Its turning points can affect those of the MP. The difference is subplots have shorter story arcs.

Am I repeating myself? Okay, it's time to go, then.