Friday, March 30, 2012

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Surviving the Sophomore Manuscript: Guest Post by Tracey Devlyn

Book Two. Second manuscript. The sophomore book. No matter what one calls it, the follow-up story to one’s debut can be a terrifying and paralyzing adventure for some authors. I definitely fall within this category.

I had years to write and polish my debut novel, A LADY’S REVENGE, without the pressure of a looming deadline or editorial pet peeves swimming around my head. Not so with book 2, CHECKMATE, MY LORD. Don’t get me wrong. I had plenty of time to write the manuscript. In total, about twelve months. Yep, you read that right. Many authors can write two, three, or even four books in the same amount of time.

Without going into the gory details, the ten months following THE CALL were not what I expected. Because of that, I spent a lot of time worrying, thinking, spinning my wheels, and starting the beginning of book 2 four times. My lack of self-confidence resulted in good deal of lost time and thousands of wasted words.

On top of all that, I couldn’t see beyond the midpoint. The last half of the book was nothing but impenetrable darkness. And that’s when the fear set in. True fear. Especially when I didn’t finish the rough draft on the deadline date I had set. A date I would change two more times before finally finishing the draft (absent the final two chapters).

When I eventually reached the end, I was so lost that I couldn’t write the climatic chapters. Plus, I only had a few weeks until my deadline. Not enough time to ship the manuscript off to my awesome critique partners, get their feedback, and revise. Talk about going it alone. Yikes.

My husband, who reads a ton of mysteries and thrillers, had just finished reading the advanced reading copy (ARC) of my debut. Out of desperation, I asked him if he’d be willing to read my current manuscript. Without hesitation, he agreed. He might have been motivated by the help-me-I’m-dying look I was flinging at him.

So I buckled down and line-edited the manuscript while my dear husband read it for the picture stuff. As it turned out, we made an awesome team. He asked great questions and pointed out little nuances in the plot that I had missed.

I made my deadline with one day to spare.

Moral of this story?  Bear with me—I have more than one.
1.    Try to block out the white noise.
2.    The more time you have to write, the more time it will take you to write.
3.    Put your nose to the grindstone and push forward.
4.    Don’t allow yourself to dwell in I Can’t Do This Land or I Don’t Have Enough Time Land or It’s Too Much Land for long. It’s not healthy and will negatively affect your productivity.
5.    Have faith in your abilities. They got you to this point and they’ll carry you through to the finish line. Never give up.
6.    Surround yourself with a positive support group.
7.    Ask for help.

And don’t forget to have fun and bask in your incredible accomplishment.

Where are you in your writing process? Have you ever fought with self-doubt? How did you overcome it?

Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win A Lady’s Revenge. (Contest is open only to U.S. and Canada)

* * *


A British agent flees her French captor’s torturous dungeon and falls in love with the decoder responsible for her imprisonment.

British agent Cora deBeau has spent the last three years seducing secrets from the most hardened of French spies while searching for her parents’ killer. When her latest assignment goes awry, she suffers at the hands of her French captor until Guy Trevelyan, the Earl of Helsford and master cryptographer, saves her during a daring rescue. Scarred and wary of men, Cora shies away from the one man who could heal her savaged heart.

After rescuing Cora from a French dungeon, Guy discovers it was one of his deciphered messages that led to her captivity. Guy strives to earn her forgiveness while outwitting their enemy. But will he find the scars on her wounded soul run too deep?


Tracey Devlyn writes historical romantic thrillers (translation: a slightly more grievous journey toward the heroine's happy ending).

She’s a member of Romance Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Australia Romance Readers Association and the Windy City, Beau Monde, Women’s Fiction, and PASIC Romance Writers of America chapters. Tracey’s also co-founder of Romance University, a group blog dedicated to readers and writers of romance, and Lady Jane’s Salon-Naperville, Chicagoland’s exciting new reading salon devoted to romantic fiction.

An Illinois native, Tracey spends her evenings harassing her once-in-a-lifetime husband and her weekends torturing her characters. For more information on Tracey, including her Internet haunts, contest updates, and details on her upcoming novels, please visit her website at:

Monday, March 26, 2012


So we just saw THE HUNGER GAMES yesterday. And it was AWESOME!I haven't seen a movie that good in a long time. Although, THE HELP came close. :) And these two films have something in common:
They did their best to remain faithful to the book.

Most successful books based on movies end up being successful. Which begs the question: Why do some directors/ screenwriters choose to deviate from a book? (I'm glaring at you, makers of THE QUEEN OF THE DAMNED)

The purpose of this brief post is to declare two things.


2.)  Everyone: GO SEE THE HUNGER GAMES!!! 

Friday, March 23, 2012

3 reasons why I don't get too political in public.

BEST ALBUM COVER EVER!!!  As you can see,Vic Rattlehead is non-partisan. :)

As it is an election year in the United States, political issues/ topics/ jokes/ slandering/ scandals/etc are growing more heated than ever. Many people I know, including other authors, are making heated statements and sharing links relating to their stances. Many times I've been tempted to chime in as well, especially with certain issues that have me flat out terrified and appalled.

But I bit my online/ public tongue. (Though I still signed certain petitions and voted according to my reasoning and beliefs.)

For all of my reasons, I give an example. Who remembers the TV show, "Malcolm in the Middle?" There was an episode with which I'd wanted to youtube clip, but alas, it was unavailable. So you'll have to bear with my describing it:

Dewey, the youngest child of the sitcom, is charged with selling candy bars for prizes. He sells a ton by lying to the neighborhood in regards to what "causes" the candy bars support. The matter comes to a head when two outraged women who seem to be best friends confront Dewey's mother.

"He told me these candy bars support pro-life causes" one accuses.

"He told me these candy bars support pro-choice causes," the other says at nearly the same time.

They turn to each other with equal looks of astonishment.

"I had no idea you felt that way."

"Well, I had no idea you felt THAT WAY!"

And, POOF!They are now sworn enemies and hate each other for life.

The whole scene sickened me because I've seen it happen so often in real life with practically every political "issue" there is. And this scene may stand as a prime example of all the reasons I usually publicly avoid politics.

1.) It is "bad for business." Yes, many celebrities and bestselling authors voice their opinions on issues, but as a newbie, I feel I do not have such a luxury. I write romance novels which focus on unique characters getting their happily ever after with no political message involved. It would be very depressing if someone refused to buy my book just because I support X and they support Y.

2.) It would just confuse people anyway. Even if I did voice an opinion on X or Y, people would likely get confused with the mixed messages because I also support B vs. C. I am honest with my Facebook profile labeling me as "anti-partisan." (It used to be "bi-partisan" until too many idiots became fixed on the "WE hate chocolate because THEY like it" concept.) For example, I know many pro-choice republicans as well as many pro-2nd amendment democrats.

I've publicly commented that I own firearms for hunting as well as for home protection. I'd rather have the cops arresting and interrogating me over an invader's dead body than the cops investigating my dead body as well as those of my children in hope of finding a culprit. Education and safety are key, however. I'm not one of those dumb-asses who leaves a loaded gun in the presence of children, much less children (or adults) who don't understand the damage a firearm can do. I also believe some people should not own guns.

So I swing on both sides of the fence on the partisanship with that one.

On the flip side (again I fail to see why it's a flip side) I see no logical reason to oppose gay marriage. If you really do your homework on how much the government and the economy profits from marriage and divorce, there is no reason to oppose a legal union between two consenting adults.     

3.) It's pretty funny how I can say in any company, "Damn, the government sucks, huh?" And I have yet to hear someone reply, "What are you talking about? Everything's great!" Which kinda proves my point that those of us who are U.S. citizens and taxpayers are ALL citizens of the same country and maybe we should quit bickering and remember that. 

Oh, okay, I guess I did get a little political...especially yesterday when I publicly called the president of the Idaho state senate on his appalling abuse of grammar:

I'm watching the convening of the Idaho Senate and the president keeps saying "There ain't no further debate" and "There ain't no objections." 
I am appalled. Mr. president, please speak proper English. You are supposed to be representing my state, and speaking like a hillbilly is not a form of representation I would like to see. 
On a positive note, they seem to be working on getting more dearly needed funding for higher education, so maybe then he'll be able to take an English class."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

You've Come A Long Way Baby (a post on adding word count)

This ad is so ridiculously funny on so many levels that I couldn't resist. Which is more superior to men? Women? Or the cigarettes?  Anyway, back to the post.

As you can see from my progress bar, I completed the layering operation for BITE ME, YOUR GRACE. W000T! I didn't quite get it up to the 90K I was aiming for, but considering that the very, very first draft was only 55 K, I think I did okay...and I learned a lot about adding necessary word count.

By the time I got the deal with Sourcebooks, the manuscript was at 78K, but they wanted 10K more. "No problem," I thought. I already had a bunch of ideas. 

But then I went through the book and immediately saw some of my amateur attempts to plump up the book: Clunky descriptions, redundant dialogue tags, you name it. During the latest overhaul, I had to cut almost as many words than I added. 

Thankfully, I noticed a major thing that was missing in the book: Emotion. It seemed that whenever I described how a character felt about a situation, it was all tell and no show. Besides the fact that this was only my 3rd manuscript and I was still honing my craft, I believe there are other reasons for this flaw in the story...but that will be another post. :) 

I wish I could post a magical formula of how to effectively layer a manuscript, but I don't feel anywhere near being an expert on it yet. My advice is sheer trial and error, learning what works and what doesn't. Also GET A CRITIQUE GROUP! Mine has been invaluable with this experience. 

On another note: Fellow Casablanca author, Shana Galen kinda laughed at me a bit when she heard of my plight. Apparently she has the opposite problem.

Which makes me wonder: How many of you are slim with your word counts and how many always seem to need to cut?

Monday, March 19, 2012


And the winners of a copy of the ROGUE PIRATE'S BRIDE by the wonderful Shana Galen are..

Tamarack and  CYP @ A Bookalicious Story!!

I'll be emailing you soon and passing on your info to soon as I finish my morning Red Bull :)

For the rest of our enjoyment, here's a hot guy to help us kick off our Monday:

Friday, March 16, 2012

Shh, I Have a Secret! Guest Post By Shana Galen

One of my favorite things about little girls is how they love to tell secrets. There's nothing as much fun as lying around with a bunch of little girls, who whisper secrets in your ear with bubblegum-scented breath. The secret is usually something like, "Hi" or "You're nice," and of course these aren't secrets at all. I suppose that, even from a young age, something about secrets appeals to us, though. It's fun to have a secret no one but you knows.

Unless, of course, your life depends on keeping that secret.

When Brooklyn Ann invited me to blog, she mentioned secrets as a possible topic. I hadn't really thought about how often I write characters who keep secrets from one another, but when I started thinking about this blog, I realized it's almost a theme in my work. In The Making of a Duchess, Sarah is a spy masquerading as the fiancee of a duke in order to discover whether or not he's passing valuable information to the French. Getting caught could mean her life, but when the duke catches her, she realizes he has secrets as well.

In The Making of a Gentleman, the hero Armand has been in prison for 12 years. He doesn't speak, and Felicity is hired to tutor him. What she discovers is that Armand has a reason for keeping silent. He carries an dangerous secret inside him. Felicity has secrets of her own, and they prove equally dangerous.

In Lord and Lady Spy, Adrian and Sophia have been married for five years. They're also elite spies for the Barbican group, and their identities are so closely guarded they've kept their secret identities even from one another.

Finally, in my most recent release, The Rogue Pirate's Bride, Raeven's secret is that she is the daughter of a British admiral. Bastien is a pirate who has had more than his share of run-ins with the British navy, so when she ends up stranded on his ship, the revelation of her true identity is not welcome news.

Why do I keep coming back to characters who keep secrets from one another? Because secrets add suspense and keep the reader turning pages. Most of us want to read books that are fast-paced. One element that quickens the pace is when one or both characters have secrets from the other. The reader is left wondering, at the end of every chapter, when the secret will be revealed and what the reaction will be.

This strategy is only effective if the reader also knows the secret. Have you ever been reading a book where, out of nowhere, a character reveals some deep, dark secret? It stops you, may make you flip back in the book to look for clues, and makes you question the character's reliability. How is it he or she had this deep dark secret and you, the reader, who has been in his or her head for X number of pages never realized it? You feel tricked, and justifiably so.

So the first rule in writing a book where one or more characters have secrets is that you have to let the reader in on the secret. You don't have to do this on the first page. You can hint at it and build up to it, but the secret must be revealed to the reader reasonably early in the novel.

The second rule is that the character must have a good reason to keep the secret a secret. This rule becomes increasingly important the longer the character keeps the secret. Of course, if the writer doesn't reveal the secret until the end of the book, this means more and more suspense for the reader. But it also means the hero and heroine have been through a lot together and have, presumably, developed an intimacy. The intimacy will be questioned with the revelation of the big secret, so the reason for keeping it must be life-threatening.

In The Making of a Gentleman, Armand does not tell the heroine or his family why he has refused to speak for so long until the last quarter of the novel. Felicity reveals her secret even later, but both characters have extremely good reasons for keeping their secrets. Armand is trying to protect his family and Felicity from the evil men trying to get to him because he holds valuable information they want. Felicity is trying to protect Armand from the life-altering machinations of a man from her past. Note in both cases, the secrets are kept to protect others. And in both cases, the character fears for his or her life or the life of others he or she cares about. The less serious the secret, the sooner it needs to be revealed.

Finally, the last rule when writing about characters who have secrets is that the reaction when the secret is revealed must make sense. In The Rogue Pirate's Bride, the pirate Bastien wants Raeven off his ship as soon as he discovers who she is. It doesn't matter that he's attracted to her. The threat of the British navy is bigger than his attraction. In Lord and Lady Spy, Adrian and Sophia are married and more or less stuck with one another, despite their secrets. They have to learn to work out their trust issues and come to know one another in a new way. The reaction to the revelation of the secret, and the consequences of the secret, cannot be glossed over. The writer must deal with the fall-out from the secret in a way that satisfies the reader.

Do you enjoy reading books where one or more characters has a secret? Have you ever read a book where the author handled a character's secret either very badly or very well? I'm offering two copies of my new release, The Rogue Pirate's Bride, to two people who comment (open internationally). Thanks again to Brooklyn Ann for hosting me today!

Shana Galen is the author of numerous fast-paced adventurous Regency historical romances, including the Rita-nominated Blackthorne’s Bride. Her books have been sold worldwide, including Japan, Brazil, Russia, Spain, Turkey, and the Netherlands, and have been featured in the Rhapsody and Doubleday Book Clubs. A former English teacher in Houston’s inner city, Shana now writes full time. She’s a wife, a mother, and an expert multi-tasker. She loves to hear from readers: visit her website at or see what she’s up to daily on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, March 12, 2012

E-Book Pricing: Your Wallet's Perspective


Today's post is about E-book pricing in general. How much is too much? How much is too little? One thing I can definitely say is that the Kindle version of A DANCE WITH DRAGONS at $14.99 is TOO MUCH. So's the $35.00 for the hardcover. I enjoyed that book, so thank God for libraries or I never would have had the chance to read it. I do plan on owning it, but until the price goes down, or it comes out in paperback, my wallet's staying in my pocket.

That's all well and good for George R.R. Martin. His addicting series and huge following will keep him from being hurt from my reluctance to purchase his book at such a large price. But what about the debut and mid-list authors? What prices am I willing to pay to try someone new? Or keep following a series I liked?

On the other hand, authors and publishers need to make money. Is there possibility for a compromise? Is there a price readers are willing to pay that will still keep editors, cover artists, and authors fed so they can keep putting out awesome stories?

 For me, I think 7.99 is my limit, but that's mostly because A.) I'm poor and B.) Mass market paperbacks are my preferred mode of reading and paying more than Mass Market Paperback price for an e-book is repugnant to me since e-book is my 2nd choice of format.

How about you? What's the most you are willing to pay for an e-book?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Surprise Virgin

The Smart Bitches have ranted about this before but I really wanted to throw in my $1.05.

A big thing, which I'm surprised they didn't cover is: What makes it a surprise?

A.) What reason did the heroine have for not telling the hero before they got naked? I mean, um, it's kinda a big deal. And even if she was hoping to hide the secret, why didn't she at least ask him to be gentle? That's not an unreasonable request and if the hero is not one to comply, then he's not much of a hero.

B.) What makes the hero assume the heroine is not a virgin? (Especially if it's a historical). Usually it's something stupid, like some bitch tells him the heroine was sleeping with someone else, or the heroine is so innocent about sex that she says something "wordly" and he misunderstands. So why doesn't he freakin' ASK her? This type of assumption is stupid. Also, with STDs or potential heirdoms on the line, it's a valid question.

C.) With the surprise virgin scenario, the sex is almost always bad. I HATE it when the characters have bad sex! It reminds me of the old 80's romances where the hero rapes the heroine and I spend the rest of the book wanting to castrate him.

D.) Speaking of bad sex, as the Smart Bitches already mentioned, afterward the hero almost always says he would have done it differently if he had known. he usually doesn't do foreplay? He's always rough in bed? What does he mean? Whether a woman's a virgin or not, it's not comfortable for the hero to just thrust right in unless she is very aroused. So the hero must be a terrible lay.

E.) The details of the deflowering are often wrong, like where the hymen is. Also, many women do not have a hymen by the time they lose their virginity. Many are born without one or lost it horseback riding or even riding a bike. And if they did have one, the first time can still be pleasurable if the guy is really gentle. I went on a rant about this stuff here.

My summation of this often irritating cliche is that the author needed a BIG MISUNDERSTANDING to create conflict between the characters and she was lazy about it.

That said, many of my favorite novels feature the surprise virgin. So I guess as long as the rest of the story is engaging, I'll let em get away with it.

What is your take on the surprise virgin? What romance cliches bother you the most?