Friday, May 15, 2015

What's Next--You Tell Me!

As I've said before, I have so many plots rattling around in my head I won't get a chance to write all those books before I die--or at least can no longer spend four hours a day writing on a computer. Plots are everywhere from creating a contemporary romance out of my garbage collections problems (A Trashy Affair)  to spinning an historical novel of 112,000 words (Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball) out of one sentence found in A Taste of Bayou Water: "I remember that shawl from when she danced a fandango on a table out at Broussard's Barn on New Year's Eve back when I was just a tadpole." The reference was to the heroine's great-grandmother, a high-stepping flapper named Roz. For five years, I pondered Roz's story before finally writing it down.Sometimes a plot takes a long time to ripen.

Last month, I mentioned leaving my beloved Cajun Country to write a novel taking place in Maine. I'm now half finished with A Place Apart and already thinking what should I tackle next. A contract just came through for the next Sinners novel, She's a Sinner, about a female NFL player and Tom's love interest. Edits will follow shortly breaking my writing pace, but the Maine book should be finished by the end of summer if not sooner. Since The Courville Rose was turned down because its ghost character committed suicide 185 ago, I probably won't write the next two books in that series until I can find another home for The Roses series elsewhere. I had planned to do two short ones about Ty Beck and Jesse Niles.

Usually in the fall, I write a Regency novel, part of my unsold Longleigh Chronicles. Yes, I write books that might never sell. I think all authors do. But, always infused with new hope, I've sent the first of that series off to, gulp, a real New York publisher and await their decision which will come months from now. So, it is worth my time and effort to create more of these books, eight in the closet so far, or turn my attention somewhere else?

I have two ideas for single titles, A Splashy Affair, and An Ashy Affair to match with A Trashy Affair. You guessed it. Splashy Affair involves a swimmer and Ashy a fireman. The first has a rough draft, the second is still in the research stage. Other than a similarity in title, the stories really aren't connected. Of course, I can just move on to write another Sinners book, my best sellers really. I am pondering Xochi's story which isn't entirely worked out. I don't even have a title yet. Should it be called A Sinner's Sister or Sister of a Sinner? Or something else. I am open to suggestions.

So, I am leaving it up to you, my readers. Which plot should I pursue next?  I don't get a lot of comments on my blog, but do hope you will help me out.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Too Many Characters

     Too many characters--I find this written on almost every critique I get from my editor and beta readers.  For some reason, a romance novel can have only two major character or Points of View, and perhaps a third if you have a really good villain allowed to plot against them. It's a tried and true formula that has worked for Harlequin next to forever and which I find terribly confining. After all, how many people really fall in love and marry in a vacuum of space? Most of us get input from family at the very least. All of us have a workplace full of people and customers to deal with as the courtship goes on. Children come along and have their own opinions.
      I recently judged two well-written Harlequins for the Rita contest. In order for one couple to stay in their own little world, a beloved brother had to be called out of town as soon as they met, not to reappear until the wedding, and the friend who introduced them similarly took off, her role ending there. In the other, the troubled teen who brings the couple together as they try to save her suddenly reforms and leaves them on their own. She does get to be in the wedding.  Never in real life. I guess that is why they are called romances.
      In writing my Sinners series, my quarterback hero has accumulated twelve children and helped his friends with their love problems over the span of five books from Goals for a Sinner to Love Letter for a Sinner. He's accumulated a lot of POV's along the way, and my readers seem to want to be part of his large family and keep up with the other members of the team. I admit, it is best to start reading them with the first or second book as the cast does grow as they go along.  I recently got back a critique that said I'd given everyone a name. Heaven forbid!  The named people aren't props, but family retainers well-known from other books. I do wonder if Downton Abbey has this trouble?  She also felt the other football players should not have names or opinions. Pretty tough to play a game that way. The only solution is to stage all the stories during the off-season with no football at all which is what many sports romances do to keep down the character count. Unfortunately, my guys have Super Bowls to win.
      Diana Gabaldon now has a book for people simply to keep track of her hundreds of characters. Of course, she does say she writes historical novels, not romance.  Would it help if I called my books family sagas, do you think?  It seems every other genre can have as many characters as they want and not get dinged for it. Go figure. I've taken to listing the main characters in the front of my books now, starting with Son of a Sinner. If the sequel to the family saga, Always Yellow Roses, entitled The Courville Rose is ever published it will have a similar list, though I have every faith that my regular readers can handle a story with more than two characters--and long sentences and big words, too, because they are that intelligent.
     Just griping here about one of my favorite pet peeves of romance writing along with being admonished not to use big words. I don't advise new romance writers to defy conventions and go for more POVs.  You won't get published--unless call your stories something else like multigenerational sagas, and good luck with that!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Out of the Comfort Zone--Again!

     I nearly forgot to do a March post as I have shipped out of my comfort zone again and am researching and writing a contemporary romance taking place in Maine. I'm good about doing my Romancing the Jock blog since they send me a reminder every month to get something on the site, but my personal blog sometimes slips my mind if I am deeply engrossed in a new topic.
     The last time I left Louisiana mentally and set off for foreign parts, I wrote Paradise for a Sinner which took me to the other side of the world and into a culture I knew nothing about. My research folder for that book is among my fattest. At least, I've been to Maine, eaten plenty of fresh lobster, and met the locals most of whom do not have a Down East accent for which I am very grateful when writing dialog. No need to find out what Samoan men wear under their lava-lavas. I can assume lobster fishermen go with boxers or briefs or boxer-briefs--but what do they wear aboard their boats?  After watching an hour of Hulu posts, I conclude chest high waders in various colors and rubber boots. Other than that, whatever floats their boat.
     American courtship rituals should be similar, only maybe a lobster dinner isn't as impressive as in Louisiana where we only have crawfish and our lobsters are flown in from Maine to reside in tanks in high-priced restaurants.  But every area has its own colloquialisms.  In Maine, lobster isn't merely good, it's wicked good. I second that as it is one of my favorite foods which I eat only once or twice a year in Louisiana, but dined on every day in one form or another while visiting New England.
     New writers are often urged to write what they know.  Not bad advice for the beginner.  But after a while, all authors want to strike out in new directions. At the moment, I think I could write about Louisiana in my sleep, but not so Maine. While all Americans have certain similarities, it is the details of speech, food and drink, the history of the area, and how people earn their living that will bring a story alive. One caveat, however.  Do not clog your story with dumps of cool stuff you learned and can't wait to share. If it cannot be worked into a scene that reads naturally, don't include the info. I know. I just hate not being able to use it all--but don't.  I so desired to share the factoid that more Confederate soldiers survived amputations because the maggots in their wounds ate out the infection than the better cared for Yankees, but couldn't find a place for it. Hey, I just did--this blog. Nothing is ever wasted. You know, Maine had one of the highest enlistment rates in the Civil War. I think I can work that into A Place Apart, my new title that I hope to finish by September if I don't get totally distracted by my research (another pitfall to avoid). At some point, you must write the story. I'm already 10,000 words in so things are looking good.
     Bringing you up to date on other Lynn Shurr books, Son of a Sinner was released yesterday in e-format and soft cover. Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball is due out in reprint on April 3rd after being out of print for over a year. Have to go now. I need to do just a bit more research on Portuguese Water Dogs.
   

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Mardi Gras Madness

Not only is this the title of one of my books, but it is also what we are in the midst of in Louisiana at the moment. I do pity northerners who are experiencing always winter and never Mardi Gras to paraphrase C.S.Lewis, but I suppose snow would put a real damper on large parades and people, often tipsy, traipsing around in gaudy costumes. As I had to explain to one of my editors, Mardi Gras is both a season and a day, the day before Lent to be exact. The season starts on Twelfth Night, twelve days after Christmas, and runs until Lent begins. It is a floating holiday and can be long or short. This year it is very short, ending on February 17th. We hate that. No more King Cakes or revelry, just left with trying to figure out what you should give up for Lent until Easter and its candy comes along.

There are also many kinds of Mardi Gras: the high society type I described in Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, small town Mardi Gras where the floats are homemade and everyone participates as outsider Laura learns about in Mardi Gras Madness, and last, a country Mardi Gras where masked riders prowl the countryside asking for donations to the communal gumbo pot--the Courir de Mardi Gras or Mardi Gras Ride, which just happens to be the title of my newest book in the series.  The Courir is a custom dating back to Medieval times when revelers went door to door begging for ha'pennies or sweets and would often perform a song or dance in exchange. The riders in the courir will do horseback stunts, sing, dance, or chase down a live chicken for the pot which is the best of fun, though more folks today tend to donate a frozen bird or a bag of rice.  The masked men wear not finery, but homemade fringed clown costumes with tall, conical hats. It should be needless to say that all of this is well lubricated by alcohol. A sober captain, kind of like a designated driver, oversees their antics. Until recently, women were not allowed to ride in the group, possibly because one trick might be peeing off the side of a horse. The ride ends in town where the communal feast is prepared and a band encourages dancing up until midnight when Lent begins.

My heroine, Suzanne, finds life rather dull in the little country town where she arrives to catalog the antiques in an antebellum home until the Courir arrives at the house, and she is swept up onto the saddle of a masked man dressed in black and carried away from the festivities. When he ties her hands and puts her in a boat, it appears a real kidnapping is in progress. Suzanne escapes but vows to find out the man's identity--and any possible connection he might have to the silver missing from the house shortly thereafter.  She uncovers more local secrets than is good for her own health. Anyhow, I hope you will keep an eye out for the premier of Courir de Mardi Gras on February 13th (available now for pre-order form Amazon), something fun to read during those dark days of winter.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Contests Revisited

I know I've said it before, "No more writing contests for me." The best I ever did in five years of entering them was two second places and one third for Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball and Goals for a Sinner. None of those wins resulted in attracting an agent or big New York Press, but did give me a hint on which of my by then twelve novels to push forward to publication. Goals eventually started my career.  So why did I let myself be lured into entering a very prestigious contest open to both published and pre-published authors?--the ever present hope of being discovered by one of their star-studded final judges composed of major editors and agents.

How did I do?  About the same as I used to do though my scores were higher, proving I have learned some things over the past ten years. The results were based on a best score of 200.  My judges indicated they were a librarian (177), an RWA Pro (188)--I've been a PAN for four years myself--and an Other (190) whom I suspect must have editing experience considering her astute comments very similar to ones my own editor would have made.such as "You need to take out some of these hads."  Will do when I have the time.  My regular editor often does that for me. At least, it wasn't was. The judge giving me the highest score showed great generosity in marking the manuscript where she felt it needed improvement and making many comments. The middle judge commented on the score sheet. Hads didn't bother her. The low scorer appeared to find fault with my grammar and spelling which the other judges had given ten out of ten. I have no idea why, but she constantly marked every area lower than the other two mostly leaving no comments so I will forever wonder. In the end that eleven point difference sunk my chances of getting into the top six. All three indicated they would like to read the entire book and found it well-written, a sop to my frustrated soul.

What did I learn?  That there will always be a third judge with lots less enthusiasm for your work, probably a reflection of overall readers. That after all these years and fourteen books in print, I am still prone to get depressed because I cannot win a contest even though my scores were decent and the comments kind. I really don't know if Perfection will ever published because I no longer feel like submitting it. Now, I think it must be rewritten and that will have to be crammed between doing publicity on the new books coming out, Son of a Sinner and Courir de Mardi Gras, the reprint of Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, and working on the manuscript of She's a Sinner. I've got plenty to keep me busy. Do I really need to try to launch a new Regency series without the aid of that agent I hoped to attract? Maybe some day.

Would I recommend entering contests? I think they serve a purpose, among them raising money for RWA chapters, but also if you get a good judge like the editor, the advice can be valuable, especially for novice writers.  But prepare for the let-down and having your feelings hurt because they didn't love your magnum opus. As for me, I am done with contests. I will not yield to temptation again. I think I've said this before, only this time I mean it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Stocking Stuffers

     Christmas is bearing down upon us fast, and in the end we will all feel as if we were run over by reindeer. Might I suggest some of my books as stocking stuffers?  Yes, this is going to be one long ad for Lynn Shurr novels. But honestly, people frequently ask me which are my favorite books and why as I sit behind my display of fourteen books, Mardi Gras beads, foam footballs, yellow roses, and crushed beer cans at book signings. I am colorful and hard to miss at these events. Remember you need to stand out from the crowd.
     I can truthfully swear I have never written a book that I hate. I always strive to give the reader a good story and interesting characters which doesn't mean some won't like them.  They vary in heat level from mild to fairly spicy, but I don't venture into erotica. To me, the story is the thing, not the sex, and each tale will have varying amounts to suit the characters.
     Right now my favorite is A Trashy Affair, not all that trashy since it is really about recycling both trash and people, but it does have some Thanksgiving sex you will never forget. Based on my own garbage collection woes, it also has humor and some poignant parts as well. And it is long, 92,000 words so you get your money's worth in prose. I recommend it to those who like their stories spicy-sweet as a devoted environmentalist falls for a guy with a big-ass truck.
     Of my Sinners football romances, I think my favorite will always be Wish for a Sinner, the tale of womanizing quarterback Joe Dean Billodeaux who decides to pursue a more wholesome sort of woman, a child psychologist--just what his friends think he needs. You need to give Joe some time to give up his wild ways, but in the end, he might surprise you just as he does Nell. A fair amount of sex in this one because, well, he is a womanizer, a football player, and pretty hot. Although the second in the series, it can be read as a stand alone.
     In the new Roses series, I'd have to say I love the long, multigenerational tale, Always Yellow Roses, the best.  Almost sweet, it tells the story of several pairs of 19th century young lovers separated by family feuds and death and possibly reincarnated into the 1980's to live and love again. Though third in the series, it can definitely be read as a stand alone. If the research hadn't taken so long, it would have been the first of the Roses novels. Then, if you want to find out what happens to the two troublemakers in the book, Bodey Landrum and Renee Niles, you can check out The Convent Rose and A Wild Red Rose. These are both short contemporaries.
     An overall favorite of mine, Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, is out of print currently, though I do have copies I hawk at book signings.  All of the Mardi Gras books, all out of print, are fairly mild when it comes to sex. Your mother could read them--unless you have a mother like mine who would want more spicy scenes. Let's not stereotype mothers. They've seen it all. Queen will be back in March, 2015 along with Mardi Gras Madness in January and Courir de Mardi Gras in February. Bound together only by a Mardi Gras theme, they can be read in any order, but I am especially fond of Queen's heroine, feisty flapper, Roz St.Rochelle, who carves out her own path in life during the 1920's.
     Okay, I love all fourteen of my babies and will give birth to at least two more next year besides the reprints.  Some just claim a bigger piece of my heart.  Merry Christmas and Happy Reading!
    

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Better Late than Never

     I have to admit, I forgot all about blogging this month, and here we are half way through November.  It has been a busy month with second edits to complete for the controversial Son of a Sinner and working on the new book, She's a Sinner. If you want to hear even more about the brouhaha over Son, you'll have to check my other blog at www.romancingthejock.com. Otherwise, I am done with it. My last out of print book, Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, has been recommended for contract and should be out again in March, so no need to pay $96 for it on Amazon.
     The highlight of the month was our local RWA chapter's Readers' Luncheon. As usual, we had great food (this is Louisiana after all), lots of door prizes and great raffle baskets. I won one of those with enough Christmas supplies and chocolate to get me through the holiday season. Attendance was lighter than usual and with that, fewer sales, but I was happy to sell one Sinners book, one Roses book, one Cajun romance, and one stand alone.  Doesn't sound like much but often people will continue to read the series leading to other sales on Amazon and the Nook. I gave out hunky guy posters and yellow roses as promotional items hoping people will order my books later.
     Best of all, I got to meet readers and commune with other authors. One had the same problem with her publisher as I'd had over Son. Another author, far better known than me, agreed to give me a cover quote, something I am very shy about asking for. It's the only thing I am shy about. I offered her a free copy of one of my books, and she said she'd already read it and others I'd written. Now isn't that a boost to the ego? And no, I don't think she was lying, so don't try to burst my balloon like the person who told me fans at Romantic Times only said they loved my books to get swag. Poor them as I had nothing to give but a few postcards having left the foam footballs in my room. I do find the best way to boost your sales is to go to affairs like this and actually meet readers face to face. Even if they don't buy, you can still have fun and good food and win a raffle basket.
     So, not my most exciting blog to date. I can see the holidays bearing down on me like a locomotive on a pickup truck stuck on the rails. I am sure you feel the same. Happy Holidays to all and don't get crushed beneath the weight of them.