And left a check, from Random House. Just in time for Christmas. I’m a paid author now. Wow.

So, I’m in the mood to celebrate. And speaking of grizzled, bearded old guys, I’m also in the mood to rename one of my characters. So, contest time!

I have a character in Goats on a Boat Surrender of a Siren (as it says in my shiny new contract) in dire need of a new name. He’s the steward of the ship, which means he’s the captain’s manservant. His working name has been “Grub” – because I wanted something one-syllable with an evocative sound, like “Smee” from Peter Pan. I chose “Grub” after picking out random syllables from Lewis Carroll’s The Jabberwocky. For some reason, I kept gravitating toward G – “gyre”, “gimble” (that was his name at one point), “grabe”. But alas, I already have two other characters whose names start with “G” – not least of all, the hero, Gray. So I need a name with a different evocative sound. His primary characteristics are a flair for theatrics and a lot of hair:

Surely there was a man in there somewhere, Sophia thought. Somewhere under all that hair.

The hunched, ancient steward shuffled down the narrow staircase, whistling a jaunty tune as he went. She followed, treading gingerly on the bowed boards. As her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, she took in the greasy, gray tangle of hair that hung midway down the man’s back, the grizzled

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Well, my contest career is officially over. All my scoresheets and rankings and whatnot have at long last returned, almost eight months after I sent my first entry off. In total I entered five contests. In two I did not final, in three I did. I placed everywhere from (the bottom of) the bottom third to first place.

So, what lessons did I glean from this short foray into the craziness of romance contests?

I would say I learned something about hooks. The two contests I won were the two I entered with my first 50 pages. The two contests in which I did not final were ones that asked for 25-30 pages. (the fifth contest, for those doing math, was for sexy scenes) In my manuscript, 50 pages ended with the heroine nearly drowning, then calling the hero a cold, heartless man who hadn’t the courage to love. By contrast, 25-30 pages got me somewhere into the middle of breakfast.

Lesson 1: Breakfast is not a good hook. Not even a breakfast with chocolate.

Some judges adored my heroine. Others called her TSTL. Some judges thought my hero was “perfect”. Others said he was boring and blank. Some judges thought my sense of period was smooth and believable; others found errors in every garment, furnishing, and plant I described. And in every contest, one judge – the same judge? – would complain that I did not include enough smells.

Lesson 2: I’m never, ever going to please everyone. And
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You know, I just had this fairly salacious topic all ready to go today… and then I decided to save it for next week. I’m just not in the mood.

And then I thought – that could be a topic all on its own. Is anyone in romance ever allowed to be simply “not in the mood”? I’m rifling through my mental library and coming up empty. I can think of scenes where some “headache” or “female troubles” complaint is issued, but it’s always insincere. The complainer usually secretly longs to be ravished anyhow. And often enough, she gets her wish. And the men – I don’t think most romance heroes even have a switch that turns them off.

Anyone out there read or written a true “not in the mood” scene? Or is that just too real-life for a romantic fantasy?

I’m coming up on a scene in my WIP where the hero turns down the offer of more, because what he wants at that moment is just a kiss. But he’s still in the mood. Hm.… Read More »

For the writers among us… as you’re writing a book, what scenes do you look forward to? What is it that keeps you motivated and progressing? Is it the promise of bringing your h/h together, or the sick thrill of tearing them apart?

Be honest, now.
I always thought my answer was the former, but today I’m not so sure.

Readers… uh, same question. Only with “reading” instead of “writing”.
:o)… Read More »

After writing that title, I realize “quickies” could make for a really interesting topic some Tuesday.

But not this Tuesday.

I’m going to be out and about most of the day, so I thought we’d try another fill-in-the-blank, since it was so much fun last time.

So complete the following: (and if you don’t celebrate Christmas… uh… edit the prompt as you wish)

I couldn’t bring myself to write it down in a letter. I certainly couldn’t ask for it in the middle of a crowded mall, surrounded by strangers. But if I could whisper one wish in Santa’s ear and know it would come true — this year, I’d ask for __________.

(And please, no one spoil the fun by saying “world peace” or “an end to hunger” and making the rest of us look like self-absorbed, uncaring fools. Sure, we all want those things, too. Assume they’re the unspoken wishes #1 and #2, and this is #3. A purely selfish bonus to reward yourself, after you’ve saved the world.)

I’m still thinking about mine…… Read More »

Surely you all remember Ervin? How could we forget the genius that gave us Patience the Zombie-Slayer and so many other unforgettable FanLit parodies? Including my personal favorite chapter of the whole contest.

Well, Ervin has a new blog, on which he is posting excerpts from his memoir, Memories of a White-Trash Boyhood. You have to read it. It’s amazing. Start from the first post and work your way backwards, for optimal reading enjoyment.

Reading it made me realize I don’t read enough books written by men. Here I am writing romances that take place roughly half in a male POV, and nearly all the books I read (at least the books that mention love or sex) are written by women. Even though romance novels are admittedly stocked with rather idealistic versions of what we wish men think and feel about love and sex, it’s still good to have some basis in reality. And my own attempts to ask actual men of my acquaintance what they think and feel about love and sex have resulted in little but inarticulate exasperation. Thank God there are some guys who have the courage and talent to put it down on paper and restore my faith that there IS actually some thinking and feeling going on in there.

So that’s one reason why I’ll be obsessively checking Ervin’s blog for updates. But not the only reason. Mostly I will just because it’s riveting and damn good writing.

Really, I defy you to read … Read More »

Well, this post will be TMI of a different sort…

I haven’t blogged in a week, nor have I done much visiting of friends’ blogs – sorry! Truthfully, it was a rough week, in different ways. But it was a rough week of my own making, and I just couldn’t bring myself back around the blog, because last week’s topic was mocking me. Word to the wise: Don’t ever blog about how good you are at taking criticism – maybe don’t even whisper it in a darkened, empty room – because it is just tempting Fate to prove you wrong.

And honestly, the “incident” that proved me wrong is not something I would normally blog about – and I don’t plan to blog about it in any real detail, sorry! – but if I don’t own up to it and just leave that post below unamended, I will really feel like the biggest hypocrite ever. So suffice it to say, there are times when I do not take criticism in stride. There are times – rare times, I hope – when I let it trip me up and send me sprawling face-first in the most ungraceful and embarrassing fashion. And then, to my shame, immediately look around for someone to blame. Because someone must have pushed me, right? I do not just go sprawling face-first for no reason. Not me.

Heh. Yes, evidently sometimes I do. I am both clumsy and human, what can I say?

There, I have told … Read More »

So here’s something I noticed this weekend. I am far, far more comfortable receiving criticism than praise.

Cases in point:
Last Friday, shortly before our CP summit was to convene, a certain CP and I had an email exchange in which certain ugly truths were brought to light. The main of which being, she doesn’t like my current hero. Which she clarified as being a real, active dislike of my hero. As opposed to Jeremy, the hero of GOTH, whom she simply didn’t find especially likable for most of the first draft.

This was not a big shock, sadly. I had suspected this was the case. And it took about ten minutes of grumbling before I got over it and started thinking of ways to rehabilitate my hero’s image. Because he is not just a likable guy, he is a lovable guy! And I am somehow failing him. I can only conclude this is happening because I am so desperately in love with my own character, I am neglecting to endear him to everyone else. Anyhow, it’s fixable. It was very hard criticism, but I took it in stride.

Contrast with this the unmitigated horror of receiving an award and roses in front of what felt like hundreds of strangers. And having the same CP, plus the other CP, persistently gushing about me to everyone in earshot despite my countless pleadings that they stop already!!! It made me itchy.

I have concluded that I would far rather be pilloried … Read More »

Since I posted last week, I had about a dozen really wonderful things happen to me, and one minor tragedy.

CM and India flew out this weekend to help celebrate my birthday, my sale, and just the general awesomeness of life. We had an amazing time, and on Saturday we attended my local chapter meeting. I not only got my first-sale roses, but I also learned that I’d placed first in our chapter contest, the Orange Rose! It was really wonderful to have CM and India there to share the moment – I wouldn’t have accomplished any of this without them, and I can’t thank them enough. We had delicious meals and good wine and a lovely spa day to complete the weekend, and we hashed out all our plotting problems. It was a fabulous few days.

Plus, it marked the happy end of my contest career. What a relief…

But of course, life has a way of balancing good and bad. Last week, my kitty died very unexpectedly and tragically. My website bio says, “[Tessa] shares a tiny bungalow with her husband, their two children, a dog, a cat, and many dust bunnies.” And I can’t bring myself to edit it yet. *sniff* He is missed.

Sleep well, sweet kitty.

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I’m guest-blogging at Romance Roundtable. Please stop by!… Read More »