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