Friday, March 21, 2008

Rejoice, my druids!

Yeah, I seem to have a lot of flower pictures latey. But I just walked out my door to see that there were tiny irises blooming by the walk. Deep purple ones. It hit me right in the head that it's spring.

You might think that is a fairly obvious conclusion. But we've had a miserable winter this year. Cold, wet, icy, snowy, and just dismal well past the time we usually see the first shoots poking through. So the fact that the first time I see the daffodils poking through the mulch at the end of March is inconceivable here(usually it's the end of February, and then we have a big snow at the end of March and kill everything. A usual rule in St. Louis is that if the tulip trees bloom before the middle of March, just kiss those flowers good bye).

The other reason I'm so excited is that I decided long ago I must have been a Druid in a former life. Or many former lives. Several of my less complimentary friends have said I was actually an Irish fairy. The short kind. It doesn't matter. I live for the color green. I wilt and die in the winter when everything is dead. Or I should say I endure. From that first fallen leaf in September to the first tiny iris in Spring, I hold on, because I know spring is coming. I even realized a few years ago that all the artwork I buy has at least a bit of spring green in it. This last year I took that one better. My little writing office is painted entirely in neon spring green. My husband won't come within fifteen feet of it. I love it. It always makes me smile. And I don't fall asleep if I'm in there(a great peril in the winter).

Which is why you'll never see me relocating to Arizona(the only thing you should rake on a lawn is leaves). I can't tolerate anyplace that doesn't have trees taller than I. Believe it or not, deserts make me claustrophobic. I literally can't breathe. I swear I can hear the animals screaming for water--especially if the city has golf courses it's wasting water on. Also no surprise that the most holy place for me on earth is Ireland. And right now the lambs are arriving, and soon the bluebells and wild iris will take over. And it will be....GREEN.

I can breathe now. Wait til I get back to my writing. It's spring!

Eileen/Kathleen, the evil twins

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Continuing Story of Eileen and the Book

When last heard from, my manuscript was languishing in publishing purgatory(that place where you sit for eons thinking on your sins)(in publishing, those are mostly of pride). The good news was that two editors reacted very well to my manuscript--actually it was more than two, but the sales forces got in the way of one. The bad news was that another five houses couldn't figure out what to do with me(not unusual in my career. I tend to write about fifteen months ahead of the curve).

Well then, off I went to Prague to visit already existing publishers and sightsee with my husband. I'll have my report on the historic Prague on my travel page soon. But wheil I was there, I was fortunately connected to Wi-Fi, because I actually got two offers. TWO. That's never happened before in my life. I actually had to make a decision.

It didn't come down to money. It never does with me. Of course, nobody's ever offered me the kind of money that makes your mouth go dry, so I don't know what would happen in a case like that. I would call these offers respectable. Both from successful houses, from editors I respect. And both from editors who said that they loved what they saw on the page, even the history that had confounded a couple of the other houses. What do do? What to do?

I'm not going to get into all my deliberations. Suffice it to say that I'm very grateful to have a very left-brain engineer of a husband, because he sat down with me and did a very credible 'pro and con' list for each house. I contacted authors from each house to ask their experiences(and let me say right now, that in my experience, authors--especially romance authors--are some of the most generous, helpful people in the world. They didn't just offer help, they offered the truth).

The outcome? I got to take my husband out in Prague to a fabulous restaurant to celebrate the sale of my historic trilogy to Grand Central Publishing(formerly Warner books). We've talked a lot back and forth, and God willin' and the creek don't rise, they will be out in succeeding months in 2010. I feel bludgeoned. I feel exhilerated. I feel....of course. Terrified. I'm now on a very tight deadline. But then, my cousin, who once wrote scripts with me assured me that I was no damn good til the two minute warning. So I figure I'm in the perfect position.

I'm still trying to convince myself I'm a historical romance author. It's such a new place for me. But I absolutely adore the period, and I find that there's enough action amid the romance for the heart of any suspense writer.

I'll keep you posted on my progress. I'm also going to add a research page to the Kathleen side of my website. I'm using a lot of the same old research, but I've found some really cool things to add to it. Because to me, historical means historical. Not just dressed in outdated clothes. I just hope I make my history fun.

Kathleen and Eileen, the evil twins

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A small break in writing

I'm interrupting the saga of Eileen and the New Book to present you a quick recommendation. Prague. There. Can't say it any faster. I'm here now, because my husband has business, and I have business.I'm seeing my agent and publishers. Yeah. Does that sound cool or what? Believe me, a girl from St. Louis does not think she has that combination of words in her vocabulary. Turns out, I do.
The Czech people are famous readers. One of their political heroes, Vaclav Havel, was a playwright. They have the largest bookstore in Europe in Wenceslaus Square. I've been there, and I can tell you they aren't exaggerating. I was on a cruise ship once, and I think it was smaller. As a matter of fact, that store was my definition of hell. Four floors of more books than I'd seen in one place in almost my life, and I couldn't read any of it.
I couldn't' even fake it. The Czech language, being slavic base, is so completely different than English that they have sounds that we simply can't make(I told one person that I think they use that sound just to prove that we couldn't). It's a beautiful language, soft and rhythmic. But terrifying at first glance when you walk down into the train line and all the signs are a variation of Vindhradska. And I'm not even adding the diacritical marks. I was paralyzed, until I realized that there was a lot of English around, and the universal symbols actually are universal. Taking the metro was a breeze(I also found that almost everyone speaks English--except all the Russian tourists)
The city itself is a fascinating mix of ancient history(I was staying at a hotel they said was "only built in the 17oos, as if that didn't count as historical)(it was haunted, too, but that's a different blog), modern progression and the remnants of communism. In fact, I think we Americans should make it a point to come here, if only to talk to people who had only recently fought themselves free of a totalitarian regime. It makes you realize how much we take our freedom and democracy for granted. It's a humbling experience.
Just as an example, if you look closely at Czech architecture, it's very ornate. Eastern rococco, I call it. Beautiful and expressive, with fantastic creatures spouting from eaves and churches topped by onion domes. Imagine that culture being constrained by another that thinks square block concrete highrises are the way to build a city. I think it would kill a soul.
Tonight we're in a business hotel in the burbs, but tomorrow we move to a hotel in the historic district, a 14th century convent that's been renovated(there seem to be a lot of hotels that were old religious houses). I'll let you know how it was on my travel page. But I can't wait, because I think that's the real Prague. I've only gotten a taste so far. And I still recommend it.

Eileen/Kathleen, the evil twins

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Late Frost in the Garden

So I got the first news on the latest proposal. And, contrary to the sad flower to the left, it really is a mixed bag. One very veteran editor said it made her cry(that's like making Dick Cheney cry). One said that there was too much history(in a historical romance), and another said it simply didn't fit their current requirements, which is perfectly valid.

It's not enough to have a great(if I say so myself) manuscript. Your story has to fit into the editorial slant of a certain house. For instance, I wouldn't think of sending a 300,000 word Viking Vampire Time Travel to Harlequin Historicals. They have a very strict word count.

True story. I sold my first suspense, A MAN TO DIE FOR, on a two-page proposal(never happened before, and certainly never since). By the time I finished the manuscript, the buying editor had left, and the editorial policy had shifted. I sent in the manuscript knowing that, so I wasn't surprised when they called to tell me that what I'd written no longer fit their list. Considering the fact that I sold the project on lines like "Her best friend still drops acid. Her ex-husband is a cross -dressing psychiatrist, and her mother has turned the third floor of the family home into the Chapel of Eternal Vigilance," you can probably pardon the publisher for thinking they'd get a light, fast, funny read. Unfortunately, once I figured out just why the mother had done this, the book had taken a much darker turn. So it was still funny(one editor calls my suspenses the funniest serial killer books you'll ever read), it was fast, but it was no longer light. I'd stepped away from genre, and the publisher didn't know what to do(The story ended well. I even won a RITA Award for the book).

So I'm not surprised that I don't fit somebody's parameters. But does that make me feel better about being rejected? Don't be silly. I still feel as if I've just been hit in the face with a swinging door. Huh? What? Ow, that hurt. Because the long and short of it is that my perfect fantasy has been run over by reality. It doesn't matter how good the manuscript is. It matters what's going on--or not going on--in publishing. My lovely young garden has been hit by bad weather, and the lovely green shoots are a bit curled and brown.

But not dead. I won't allow it.

Eileen\Kathleen, the evil twins

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The First Test

The other day I posted about submitting my newest proposal. It is officially called THE THREE GRACES, a Regency historical romantic adventure(good heavens. How many labels can a person put on one book? Be happy I didn't include time-traveling or vampires. You could have been here all day). The heroines of this series are Mrs. Olivia Grace, a widowed companion, Miss Grace Fairchild, the daughter of a Guards colonel, and Her Grace, Catherine, Dowager Duchess of Murther. All three meet on the eve of the battle of Waterloo, and end up ensnared in a plot to overthrow the British throne. This is the first time except for my proposal that I've actually put that into words. It is something I've never done before, and I have to admit, I'm having the time of my life(nothing like beating up a hero to relieve your stress).

I wrote about the stage of proposing when the project was still pristine. The perfect moment in a book when it is still perfect and the next #1 on the New York Times . The next stage, inevitably, is to show it to a professional. If you have one, your agent. Well, I did that. And I have to admit, I did it with trepidation. I don't think I have to tell you that these are uncertain times for publishing. Everybody sees the numbers changing and nobody is quite sure how to stop the slide. What is selling? What is the next thing? What does the audience want? So giving your brand new, beautiful baby to an agent is akin to handing it over to Andy Rooney and hoping he's in a good mood.

I handed it over. I went to New York last week to talk to my agent. I think I held my breath through the entire plane flight and three acts of Cyrano de Bergerac(Kevin Kline. Be still my heart). I faced my agent over mineral water and prayed she would at least like the heroines' names. And I'm not sure what this means, but she didn't think we needed to change anything in the book. She liked it as it was.

I should be delighted, right? Please. Don't you know authors better? I'm looking over my shoulder, wondering what I missed. After all, she's sent the thing in to publishers, and I'm sure there's something both of us have forgotten to include. Another hero. An alien who exchanges Napoleon for Stephen Colbert. More sex(in romance that's never a mistake). And I'm ignoring it all while I write on the first book, because if I really thought of the fact that this brand new twist in my career is in the hands of editors who might like me but haven't ever seen me write historical romance and don't know whether or not they can really support such a thing(or more importantly, pay for it), I'd end up immobilized in a bathtub with a quart of Haagen Daz and wrinkled toes.

Now, I wait And write. And hope that what I'm working so hard on now doesn't get thrown away late. Cause I have to tell you, I think it's great. At least I'm having a great time with it. I'll let you know if anybody else does.

eileen/kathleen, the evil twins

Thursday, January 17, 2008

It is finished. It has begun

Actually I should have written this post about three weeks ago. But I've been having problems with my blog server, and if anybody hasn't told you already, I'm the last Luddite.

Be that as it may, the important thing is that I've put together a proposal for a brand new genre for me. Suspense fans, I'm afraid I have to disappoint you. It's going to be a bit before I can get my suspense in and see if it can be published. Which means that I'm focusing for a bit on romance. To that end, I did what I've been dying to do for years. I've begun a historical romantic adventure trilogy. The long and short of it is that I'm having a blast.

But the point today is that the proposal is put together. It has been sent in to my agent. And this is the most perfect point in a book's life. It reminds me of a garden in spring, when the detritus of winter has been removed, and the beds are pristine, the new mulch laid, and tiny green shoots forcing their way through the soil to prove that creation does repeat itself. At that moment, all is possibility. There have been no weeds or grubs or beetles to destroy the beauty you can still only imagine in those green shoots. Everything is tidy. The plants thrive. The flowers you wait for are still in the anticipation stage, and are still as bold and sweet-smelling and hardy as promised by the garden who supplied them to you. All is wonderful.

That is where I am(was three weeks ago. Bear with me here) right now with my next project. The idea that has been tugging at me for a good five years has found a voice. A face. A focus. I've defined my characters to the point of giving them family trees. I've scoured the internet and the British Heritage sites to come up with the perfect places for all my characters to live(I am not ready to launch a character until I know where he or she lives. It's stage setting for me, like Annie's house in Bull Durham. The minute you see that, she doesn't have to say a word to tell you who she is). I've put together a package of three books that involve sex, violence, pathos, suspense(okay, I couldn't get away from it completely), and humor. Not necessarily in that order. I madly love all my characters, eve the bad guys. I can't wait to see what happens. I can't wait to get to the desk to write(rare enough in an of itself) I've spent literal weeks trying to organize it into a comprehensive outline that will attract only the most enthusiastic editor.

And, like green shoots in the soil, it is still all possible. It has not been touched by editor or agent who think that if I'd just change a few things it would sell better. It hasn't been criticized or cast aside. It hasn't had a marketing department question its viability (are you sure the heroine has to be a duchess? Duchesses just aren't selling this week. Could we make her a prairie teacher instead?) It is still perfect in my mind, its future limitless, it's form perfect. It is a garden in spring. It is a young girl who sees her whole life spreading limitlessly before her. It is possibility.

Next comes the visit to the agent, who has the first chance to put a pin in my pretty balloon(okay, I'm mixing metaphors here). Meanwhile, I have to get back to see what happens to my heroine, who has just found her husband on the field of Waterloo in an enemy uniform.

eileen\kathleen, the evil twins