We’re Moving!

It’s been awhile since we’ve spoke. I may have been quiet but I certain have been busy.

  • I’ve taken workshops and classes on craft
  • I’ve polished up my story to a high shine
  • I honed my pitch
  • I got THE call!

Carina Press will be publishing To Hearth and Home ~ Rebeka’s Story (working title) this fall. And we’ve made some changes. Come to my new address and hear all about it. You can find me at:

My name may have changed but it’s still me. Hurry up and come over. I can’t wait to tell you everything.

The Doldrums

Maybe it’s the hot weather. Maybe it’s my day job. Maybe it’s editing my manuscript. All of a sudden things in every area of my life seem to be moving slowly, like a sailboat stuck on the water without any wind or current, the doldrums.

My writing has been focused on editing and re-writing with the challenges of fixing the point-of-view (I really do head hop) and revisiting the show and tell issues scattered through my work. These mechanics all take a different mindset. There is definitely creativity in working through presenting situations in only POV. There is creativity in moving from narration to description and showing the reader. But I miss the easy flowing creativity and excitement of getting the story in my head written.

Yesterday I was catching up on my email and came across a blog that talked about the differences between Goals and Expectations. Goals are things that are totally in your control. Expectations are dependent on someone else.

It really got me thinking. What do I control? What are my goals? I started a list:

  • Complete my edits by the end of July
  • Start my second book by August
  • Complete the second book within a year
  • Choosing the publishers and agents I want to approach a RWA-NYC’s Golden Apple (It’s in September)
  • Read two books from my TBR list by August

Well, you get the picture, all the things that I can do by myself.

So, what are my hopes and dreams? Another list:

  • A call from an agent who simply must represent me
  • A call from an editor who has just the spot and marketing push for my book
  • Seeing my story made into a movie.

Ah… the dreams. While it’s great to dream, setting goals will keep you focused on obtaining what you want and maybe even help you influence some of your expectations.

That’s when it clicked, the way out of the doldrums in through goal setting. So I hoist my sail, catch the wind, and steer out of the doldrums to speed to my goal. I want to publish my story. Ok, so that’s an expectation but I will certainly do everything in my power to make that a reality.

Gaze into the crystal ball and glimpse the future of e-Publishing

In a 1995 article for Newsweek, Clifford Stoll, an astronomer and author, said “The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.”

Mr. Stoll was not uninformed about the internet. Quite the contrary, he had been working on the internet for years and was one of the first ‘hack hunters.’ But the internet of 1995 was in its infancy and like a newborn it would take time to mature – make order out of the chaos. He went on to say no body would shop on the internet, it would never catch on, it was only a fade. Mr. Stoll contended the internet missed an essential ingredient, the human touch. There were other things he felt would be big stumbling blocks, dealing with money being a big one.

The issue with Mr. Stoll’s position in 1995 was one of insight. He had none.

This past February, Mr. Stoll’s article was unearthed and was the topic of discussion on several blogs including Farhad Manjoo ( Slate Technologies) and Nathan Bransford.

Manjoo presented four principles for more successful predictions about our digital future:

  1. Good predictions are based on current trends.
  2. Don’t underestimate people’s capacity for change.
  3. New stuff sometimes comes out of the blue.
  4. These days it’s best to err on the side of (technological) optimism.

It goes past people’s capacity for change and to the heart of the matter. Stasis is not the norm.  So to Mr. Manjoo’s principles I have an addition. 5. Change is inevitable

In Nathan Bransford’s blog, originally posted in the Huffington Post, he looked at the ebook controversy and saw the ‘new skeptics,’ the Mr. Stoll’s of today.  He doesn’t speak about the enabling of the technology but rather the inevitability of it. He has his own predictions.

  1. The ebook reading experience will only improve as ebook technology improves. As technology improves, new enhancements will be available, color photos and art, embedded interactive features and creative designs even in mass market books.
  2. eReaders and eBooks will get cheaper as technology improves and production cost go down.
  3. Finding the books you want to read will get easier, reading through the jumble of self published books to find the good books.  Many people have opined about the quality of the work being self published. Anybody can upload their novel to Amazon or other resources such as independent e-libraries, like Lebrary. New literary sites like Goodreads and Shelfari are tools readers can use to find well written, critically acclaimed, prize winning books.
  4. People are ignoring the digital trend.  The economics of digital media is compelling. Digitization is cheaper, faster, and provides worldwide distribution. Other industries have embraced the trend (they too went kicking and screaming but that didn’t stop the shift): music, newspapers, and movies. Books are next.
  5. Habits change. As people are presented with better options they quickly adapt.

Are we at the same point in publishing as Mr. Stoll was in 1995 with the internet? Will we be looking back at 2010 and see we lacked insight? Or will we look at Mr., Manjoo’s principles of predictions and reflect on those of Nathan Bransford before we put our stake in the ground?

I am more than just a consumer deciding on what device to buy or application to put on my iPad, iPhone or Blackberry. I am on the other side of this tidal wave, a writer. How do writers embrace the digital age when the skeptics, agents and published authors, advise against digital publishing? Is the argument that good writers will be tainted by the poor quality long associated with digital self-publishing real or imagined? Will the influx of poorly written books overwhelm the industry make it harder for good writers to be identified? Will good writers become discouraged and stop writing? What do the publishing professionals really think?

Jesse Glass, co-publisher of Ahadada Books, a self publishing press was quoted by Liz Worth on the Broken Pencil blog:

From the beginning of the history of publishing there have been bad writers and bad books. Though the new publishing technologies might help bad books to proliferate, intelligent readers have a sense of quality, of what draws them in, of what delights and instructs, and they will make an almost instinctive decision regarding what they will read and what they won’t. … Good work – and interesting work, inevitably – given time – wins out.

Neil Nyren, the Senior Vice-President, Publisher, and Editor in Chief of Penguin Putnam was recently interviewed by JT Ellison on the Murderati Blog.  He said eReaders will not kill physical books. He believes the more formats that are available, the more accessible we make books, the more people will buy.

He went on to say that the new technology is subtly changing the way editors do their work. The publishing industry is embracing the new technology to improve their own efficiencies and make their editors and sales people more effective. Some editors use eReaders to read submissions.

It doesn’t really take a crystal ball to see the future of e-publishing. The signs are all around us.

  1. Change is inevitable.
  2. If good predictions are based on current trends, the digital press is the way of the future.
  3. eBook technology will improve and provide wonderful enhancements not available today.
  4. eReader technology will improve and become more affordable and grow the reading market.
  5. Well written and edited books will not disappear. Good books will always be in demand.
  6. New literary sites will emerge and provide the reading public with a means of wading through the jumble and help them find well written, critically acclaimed, prize winning books. The reading public will learn which imprints to associate with good, well written and edited books.

I think there will always be a need for printed books. I have a Sony Reader as well as Kindle on my Blackberry. I buy on line, I borrow from the library online, and I still buy books.

I’ve got all these words in my head that are just screaming to get out. Some are descriptive, emotional, sensual, horrifying, loving. I know you understand what I mean. For us, my dear writer, they are the heart and soul of our work.

There are the types of words we scrutinize: adjectives and adverbs. We search them out and agonize over having too many or too few. We edit, re-write and edit some more. We don’t stop there. We hunt out clichés and overused phrases ripping them out of the pages. And all the while we struggle for originality and that magic that hooks the reader and draws them into our stories. We work until our manuscripts shine with a high polish.

The readers are the witness, the hero or heroine, or whomever they prefer to identify with. It’s the juxtaposition of our words that create the pacing, paints the pictures, strikes the chord, arouses emotions and, for us romance writers, brings the story to a happy ending.

Some words we are eager to hear: the call, published, multi-published, reprint, best seller, finalist, award winning. But I’m getting ahead of myself. More often the words are strung a bit differently: I think the concept of your novel has a lot of potential …, Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read your manuscript …, Thank you very much for your manuscript which I have read with interest …, I think you have a wonderful voice … The ellipse is followed by the same word but. Different words but all with the same meaning, rejected, although I really prefer passed. It is just so much more humane.

I have worked hard on my manuscript. I am well passed my first draft. I have self reviewed and edited, my critique partner has reviewed and commented, at chapter meetings I have brought my five to ten pages for discussion. The version number on my document is in double digits. I know I have the words just right. I just need an editor/agent to love them as much as I do.

Sure I can. I can love them anyway you want them!

Special thanks to David Coverly for permission to reprint his cartoon.

Dave Coverly admits there is no overriding theme, no tidy little philosophy that precisely describes what Speed Bump, his syndicated comic, is about. “Basically,” he says, “if life were a movie, these would be the outtakes.”

These “outtakes” now appear in over 400 newspapers and websites, including the Washington Post, Toronto Globe & Mail, Detroit Free Press, Chicago Tribune, Indianapolis Star, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cincinnati Enquirer, New Orleans Times-Picayune, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Vancouver Sun, Baltimore Sun, and Arizona Republic as well as the published “Speed Bump” books.

In addition to his syndicated work, Coverly’s cartoons have been published in The New Yorker, and his cartoons are now regularly featured in Parade Magazine, the most widely read magazine in the world with a circulation of 73 million.

Coverly works out of an attic studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is married to Chris, and they have two daughters, Alayna and Simone.


The Three R’s

I spent my time this week re-writing. I looked at the comments that came back from judges (I entered two contests) and evaluated what they said. Overall, the comments were not consistent. Some loved the story, others did not. Some thought it started at the right place, others did not. All of them liked the voice (that felt good) and most felt the story had a great chance of being published.

I re-read my story with a more critical eye. One of the comments that struck me concerned the synopsis. I got high marks on it however, from what they read (the first 50 pages) they did not see the story coming together, too much back story.  I decided to take a bold step. I decided to cut the first two chapters as some of the judges suggested.

I loved, absolutely loved the first chapter. The judges didn’t see the value of the chapter because they only had the first 50 pages. The information in the first chapter is critical later on. But… the first chapter did not grab them. Cut. Ouch!

The second chapter really demonstrated (show) our heroine’s qualities. It was much shorter when I just told you (tell) but other critiques said to put the words in to actions and scenes. I deleted this chapter too. Double cut (it was longer). Ouch!

The more I read chapter 3 the more I realized I had to add a scene to set up the chapter. I have re-read it several times. It moves the reader quickly into the story (the entire point of this exercise) and to be honest, it may even be better. I am still a bit prejudice about the original beginning. I have not thrown out the chapters. The information they contain still needs to be threaded through the story. It’s a challenge to decide where to put these little nuggets, but overall I am actually enjoying it.

So, I am Re-reading, Re-thinking and Re-writing.

For those of you eager for the answers to last week’s test. Here are the books and authors for the opening sentences from some famous romance novels. Did you guess which one was mine?

  1. “As their elegant traveling chaise rocked and swayed along the rutted country road, Lady Anne Gilbert leaned her cheek against her husband’s shoulder and heaved a long, impatient sigh.”
    Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught
  2. “How does a person reenter a life she left behind years earlier?”
    Summer of Roses by Luanne Rice
  3. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  4. “It wasn’t a very likely place for disappearances, at least not at first glance.”
    Outlander by Diane Gabaldon
  5. “The noon whistle blew and the saws stopped whining.”
    Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer
  6. “Lord Arik’s commanding presence made him easy to spot as he led the three riders and wagon speeding across the forest trail.”
    To Hearth and Home, Rebeka’s Story by Ruth Seitelman
  7. “Who am I? And how, I wonder, will this story end?”
    The Notebook by Nicolas Sparks
  8. “Douglas Montgomery sat in the back seat of the rental car, Robert and his pudgy thirteen-year-old daughter, Gloria, in the front.”
    Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux
  9. “Cam called in markers, pulled strings, begged favors and threw money around in a dozen directions.”
    Sea Swept by Nora Roberts
  10. “They said he killed his first wife.”
    The Bride
    by Julie Garwood

The Hook

I wrote this wonderful forest scene. The description was spot on.

The large full branches of the maple trees created a cool green canopy over the neglected trail. A gentle breeze played through the leaves and made them dance ever so gracefully. The sun light, falling in broad shafts, pierced through the trees and landed on the ground bathing it in great golden pools while the fragrance of wild flowers and herbs filled the early spring air with a delicate perfume.

My critique group said it put them there but, it didn’t put them in the story. They didn’t like it, well, not for the opening paragraph. I thought it set the stage for the following action which was in contrast to the calm idyllic setting. Wrong. It didn’t grab them.

They pointed me to Noah Lukeman’s book, The First Five Pages. The sub-title was compelling, a writer’s guide to staying out of the rejection pile. Dutifully, I did my assigned reading. The essence of the chapter – the hook is more than a marketing tool to draw the reader in. It sets the tone of the story, the characters, the setting, the mood, and more. The care you take to the opening line should be the same care you give to the first paragraph, page, chapter all the way through to the last sentence. But let’s get back to the opening sentence.

Here are some opening sentences from some famous romance novels. One of them is from my unpublished novel. Does it hold up with the others?

  1. “As their elegant traveling chaise rocked and swayed along the rutted country road, Lady Anne Gilbert leaned her cheek against her husband’s shoulder and heaved a long, impatient sigh.”
  2. “How does a person reenter a life she left behind years earlier?”
  3. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
  4. “It wasn’t a very likely place for disappearances, at least not at first glance.”
  5. “The noon whistle blew and the saws stopped whining.”
  6. “Lord Arik’s commanding presence made him easy to spot as he led the three riders and wagon speeding across the forest trail.”
  7. “Who am I? And how, I wonder, will this story end?”
  8. “Dougles Montgomery sat in the back seat of the rental car, Robert and his pudgy thirteen-year-old daughter, Gloria, in the front.”
  9. “Cam called in markers, pulled strings, begged favors and threw money around in a dozen directions.”
  10. “They said he killed his first wife.”

Answers will be posted in next weeks blog. If you can’t wait, please send me an email and I will share the answers with you. Have a good week.

Reprinted by request from my post on A History of Romance

… Ruth Seitelman

Happy Beltane!

I’ve mentioned my story to you many times. It’s a story of druids, magic, trust and love. In England on May 1st to claim her inheritance, Rebeka has no idea how an unexpected misstep at an ancient henge transports her through time and leaves her stranded in 17th century England amid a renegade druid’s plot for revenge.

May 1st, Beltane (bright fire), is an ancient pagan festival marking the end of the winter half of the year in the Northern hemisphere, by itself a cause for celebration. With the winter over, the lengthening of the days, and the first planting completed, farmers celebrated with great bonfires of purification and transition into the new growing season in hope for a good harvest. The pagan rites, led by druids, centered on protecting people, livestock and the land from the spirit world which they felt was particularly close at hand during this season.

Early historic sources indicate that the druids, the priests of the time, created need-fires (two bonfires) on top of a hill on Beltane eve. They would drive the village cattle between the fires to purify them and bring good luck.  The villagers also passed between the two fires for purification and to ensure their own good fortune.

For you history buffs, over time the holiday, first associated with the farm laborers, became synonymous with International Worker’s Day and took on a political meaning with demonstrations and celebration of union workers and other groups. The May 1st demonstrations in Australia led by the Stonemasons Society in 1856 and the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago in 1886, eventually led to the adoption of the 8 hour work day. In addition, May 1st has long been associated with various socialist, communist and anarchist groups. May Day celebrations in communist countries feature elaborate military parades. But I digress.

In our story, Rebeka is a woman of many accomplishments. She’s an internationally recognized authority in medieval studies dropped into a time she knows well, at least from her all she’s studied. She will discover that she must read between the lines of the history books to find the truth and for her it all starts with Beltane.


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