Friday, 29 June 2007

Hunk of the Month - Boris Kodjoe

I've decided that besides posting on writing, publishing, and my journey to published author status, I'll also post about other stuff that interests me. So where does the Hunk of the Month post fit in all this, you may well ask. Well, men surely interest me, but that's beside the point. Seriously. Before I begin writing I have to form a physical picture of my characters. So this post is really about the writing. Every month I'll try to post a pic of a gorgeous man whom I would love to play main man in my stories, guys I'd actually like to see on the covers. Come on - this is serious stuff.

Then again, maybe I just want to post pics of assorted sexy guys. So, sue me.

Sorry ladies. This one's spoken for. But there's no harm in lookin'...

And no, he's not my significant other (if wishes were horses...). He's actor Boris Kodjoe from the Soulfood series and lately of Madea's Family Reunion. Married to Nicole Ari Parker, father of Sophie Tei Naaki Lee and Nicolas Neruda Kodjoe.

Yumm. I mean, great inspiration for crafting my male protags. He's the number one contender for the hero of my third romance novel.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

The sex thing sure was easier for Florence

I was working on cataloging my books on LibraryThing this week, and as I entered The Rosary by Florence L. Barclay, I couldn't help reflecting on just how much times - and romance novels - have changed. The Rosary remains one of my favorite romances, and favorite books, regardless of category. My copy really belongs to my mother, but I hijacked it years ago for my own collection. The book was first publishsed in 1909, and it is still in print. Our copy is old, the pages yellowed and brittle, and it was a fixture on our bookshelf all my life. For thirty-something years I never gave it a glance, mistaking it for a religious tome.

One day, after I had separated from my husband and moved to my mother's apartment, infant son in tow, I was busying myself cleaning bookshelves and something prompted me to open The Rosary. I began reading, and was immediately captivated. The language is simple and elegant, the story of the love between the plain, sensible Miss Champion and the handsome, artistic Garth Dalmain deeply moving, and as I read of their struggle to overcome their particular obstacles I felt their pain. To me, the story is transcendent. And there isn't a single sex scene.

I re-read The Rosary every few years, as I do many books that I love dearly. This one was written at a time when love was idealized, women were [supposedly] virgins when they married, and the writers of their love stories did not dare venture beyond the threshold of the bedroom. What the couple did behind closed doors - and this was post-marriage, of course - was private. Whenever I read The Rosary I feel deep nostalgia for those times. Although I thoroughly enjoyed writing the love scenes for my first romance novel, by the time I got to the second one I found myself groaning whenever I came to the bedroom scenes. How graphic should I get? Shouldn't less be more? At what point did romance become erotica, and erotica become porn? I understand why some romance writers write the story and simply type [insert sex scene] at appropriate intervals, then come back when the novel is written and labor over the parts where the couple get down to business.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy a sexy contemporary romance as well as the next gal; hell, I even write 'em. But I'm ambivalent about the raunchy sex that has become a requisite today. Writing it and making it fresh is a challenge, but that's not all. I feel more and more a responsibility to convey positive, safe messages with regard to sexual behaviour in light of the pandemic of STDs. We must change our sexual behaviour, and so must our characters, I believe. We have to reexamine the old values of abstinence, virginity, monogamy and fidelity, of necessity - and so must our characters. It has become a survival issue.

Some publishers/editors now require condoms to be a part of sex scenes between unmarried couples, although we all know that condoms are unreliable, and they're not the solution to STDs. Should our stories be a gentle reminder of the realities out there? Or should they remain a fantasy arena, the readers' respite from the wearying realities of the real world, a place where no holds are barred, anything is possible, and nothing irremediably bad ever happens to our hero and heroine? Therein lies the conundrum for me.

I suspect things were simpler in Florence Barclay's day.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

As if I didn't obsess enough...

Last night I was perusing a blog discussion of timeliness (or rather the dearth thereof) in the publishing industry. One commenter noted that she was still shopping a manuscript although she'd had a verbal offer from a publisher. A verbal offer is pretty much what I have right now - I haven't even received the draft contract yet. The commenter went on to say that last year she had three verbal offers from publishers fall through, so she does not consider a deal done until the contract has been signed.

Whoa! Hello? They make an offer and then... nothing? I'd never even heard of this particular phenomenon.

Jeez. I need a chocolate break. Think I'll have a double serving of that dessert I had last week. Death By Chocolate. I'm gonna go down to the place right now and gorge myself.

Just kidding. I think.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Publishing Myths

They say you can't get an agent unless you're already published, and you can't get published without an agent.

When I got my agent I had published squat.

They say you must have publishing credits before an editor will take a look at your manuscript.

I had no pub credits when editors began asking for my full manuscript (but hey, those clips can't hurt!)

They say if your romance is set in an 'exotic' country, no publisher will buy it since these don't sell well.

Mine is set on a tiny Caribbean island. We'll wait and see how it sells.

They say you have to know someone in publishing or it's hopeless.

They say queries should be no longer than a single page.

They say lots of stuff.

None of that really matters. What matters, to quote the inimitable Miss Snark, is that you write really, really well. Good writing will out. Usually.

Lucky Me

Sometimes, ignorance helps. I'm in the process of selling a book, my first sale, and it's the first book I wrote. Now I'm seeing everywhere that first books don't sell. Oh? Really? I can't count the blogs and websites where I've read the following:
  1. First books don't sell, and
  2. Sometimes, if a writer becomes famous and sells tons of subsequent books, she is finally able to brush the dust and cobwebs off her first manuscript, do some major editing and sell the thing, therefore
  3. Don't even bother to shop your first book to agents and editors. Box it, stow it under the bed and forget it, then
  4. Write several more novels, follow procedure in 3, and hopefully
  5. The fourth or fifth book will be worth pimping.

Well, that's not the way it worked for me. And I owe it all to ignorance of the box-under-the-bed rule.

Disclaimer: I did not try to market the book hot off the disc drive. I wrote it, left it to cool off for a long time, came back, tugged and tweaked and polished, then finally got serious about shopping it. But it was the first and only spawn of my fingers at the time.

I still think I'm lucky. And you shouldn't always believe the myths...

Sunday, 24 June 2007

I'm not bitchin', I swear...

Okay, I'm not complainin' - hell, yes, I am. The publishing industry is soooooo s-l-o-wwwww... I won't discuss here the turnaround time for manuscripts submitted to literary agents and editors at publishing houses. Today my peeve is the time it's taking for a draft of the publishing contract to materialize in front of my eyes.

I got THE CALL from my agent on April 6. In case you don't know what THE CALL is, it's the one the agent makes to you when she has sold your book. Well, I got the call, congratulations were exchanged, libations to the gods performed, and the negotiations between the agent and editor took off. Cool. Wonderful. Head in clouds, etc etc. So what's my darned problem?

Well, we're almost into July and I haven't even seen the draft contract yet. And the book is supposed to be released at the end of this year; it normally takes 18 months to 2 years to appear on shelves, so I have reason to be thankful, right? But the waiting hurts!

I moan and complain, although I should really know by now that this is publishing! The pace is glacial! So I watch my nails grow, and my hair go gray, and I entertain myself by wondering if the publishers have changed their minds about my book. Instead of working on polishing my second novel, I surf the net aimlessly, work at non-urgent projects and conjure up worst-case scenarios.

Don't envy writers. We're a pitiful lot.


Hullo, and welcome to my blog! Here you'll find info on the release of my first novel, a multicultural romance set on the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago. You'll also find info on my scheduled appearances and signings when that time comes around. But that's not all! I'll be posting my quirky thoughts on random issues - books, writing, writers, publishing, hunky men... No topic is sacrosanct! I even plan to post about my own journey from unpublished dreamer to published author. It's a cautionary tale that comes with a warning: Don't try this at home.

Hope you find my posts both informative and fun. Go ahead. Comment. Explore. Browse the links. Scope out the sidebar with random books from my library, courtesy LibraryThing, and remember, I bought some of these books a l-o-n-g time ago.