A New Book in the Works

I finished my romance novel edits in December, as I wanted to do. Now I just have to format it and get a printed copy for my pre-readers (husband and a few friends) to check out and provide feedback. Then I’ll have another round of edits and I’ll be ready to query a publisher.

I have to get my query letter up to snuff between now and then. Given that I went through 4 versions of the first query letter I did, you’d think I’d be an old hand at making them, but the fact that Flames of Prague is set over a 20 year span and really has two separate plot lines in two sections (which tie together) really screws me up on the query letter. I have no idea how to approach it. Maybe I need to just write two separate query letters–one for each half of the book–then stick them together. That is how I wrote the book (although that makes it sound slapped together when it’s not; it’s about one family, only in two generations, so it flows together).

I began work on another historical romance yesterday. As my book on writing romance said, when you get done writing, write something else. Don’t sit around waiting to hear back from an agent or publisher. Always having something to work on is what keeps you going when the rejections come in.

I had a vague idea of a Hospitallar and a young woman having a brief romance, but didn’t know where to go with it from there. I also didn’t know where or when to set it. The era of the Crusader kingdoms is a bit earlier than I like, and while the Hospistallers were not limited to the Crusader period (they still exist under the name of the Knights of Malta), that was their heyday.

Bad make-believe costume!

Correct 13th century costume

This weekend my husband and I watched the movie Ironclad. It’s actually a very good depiction of medieval warfare and the men’s armor and clothing is accurate. Unfortunately they dressed the main woman up like a Renaissance Faire whore with some sort of off-the-shoulder metal-studded bodice.  Guess the costumer was tapping her inner Xena.

I hate when a movie is good right up to the point they turn all the women into strumpets. We will not speak of the maid servant running around with her hair constantly in disarray and a Frederick’s of Hollywood push-up bra popping her tatas up like only modern underwire and elastic can accomplish.

But, I digress. Said Xena-esque heroine really gets her strumpet on by seducing the resident Templar knight. Not that I blame her–I mean, he’s a man I’d like to seduce too–only I could have done a much better job because I’m a romance writer–unlike the person who wrote the terrible dialogue for the script.

And then, as I was trying to go to sleep that night, the idea for my new book came to me. Not a Hospitaller, but a Templar, and not the Crusades but the fall of the Order around 1308. And not in the Holy Land but in England. I started doing a little research on the Templars in England and I think I have a setting for my new knight.

Fleeing the arrests of the Templars, Sir Guy is going to go north, to the border country, where his foster brother has a residence. He gets there, only to find his foster brother is dead. The brother’s widow, however, gives Sir Guy shelter, disguising him as her new household priest. Some time passes, they become friends, and then, one night, the manor is raided by Scots (this is the period when Scotland was fighting for her freedom from England, so cross-border raids were a frequent part of life for people on both sides of the line). Brother Guy and the lady are taken… but not for long. He starts fighting bare-handed, then she pulls out her husband’s sword and tosses it to him, and shit gets really serious. They sneak out of the house and ride through the freezing night to the nearest lord with a proper garrison to raise the hue and cry. Did I mention, because they got raided at night, they’re in nothing but their underclothes for this long, cold journey on horseback? Yeah, that’ll be where things become romantic.

I’m not sure where things go after that–although I’m thinking an illegitimate child–but, then, I never know how a book is going to end when I start it. It just happens. I’m a big believer in characters–and even plot–developing naturally, as opposed to outlining everything in advance. However, there are many writers who are in favor of the later school of thought and wouldn’t be able to go anywhere with their stories if they didn’t have it planned in advance.

And you better believe all descriptions of clothes and armor in my books will be historically accurate!

Organizing Your Drafts

Here is some advice I will pass on to people who are just beginning writing:

When you start writing your book, just write in one document (although make sure you frequently make backup copies of it on more than one device!). If you find yourself deleting things early (which you generally should avoid doing, but, hey, it happens), cut the section and paste it into another document and save it under a title that reasonably explains what’s in it. Sometimes things I cut out of my first book wind up, in some form or fashion, in my sequels. And, of course, there’s always the possibility that you will want to put something back in that you cut out. (That happened with an entire chapter that was cut from my first draft, but was put back in the second draft.)

Once you more or less have your book completed, and it comes time to do the editing, start saving your book as a different file every time you work on it. For instance, I have “Book Two 081511.” When I save changes that I make to it today, I will do a “Save As” and save it as “Book Two 081811.” I have found this is easier to keep up with than copying and saving every paragraph and sentence that I end up deleting. If I end up needing to find something I’ve cut, I can just pick an earlier version and go to the appropriate chapter. I can also search Word using a word or phrase which I remember being fairly unique to the portion I removed.

Cainite Language

A friend expressed interest in how I made my vampire language, after my last post on the topic. In order to keep all my words organized so I can use them (also, Cainite words are formed from common roots, so I have to be able to find related words in order to maintain root consistency), I keep everything in an Excel table. Here is my dictionary, as of this date. (Note: all words subject to change; sometimes I go back and change a word because I decide I like a different root better, or I rethink the grammar a bit.)

Word Literal Translastion Plural Verb Form Verb Meaning
    ah i  
Food and Taste Senses
Om Food/Human Omah Omi To eat
Omeh Food of the Soul (blood) Omehah Omehi To bleed
Mu Taste Muah Mui To taste
Tigmu Bitter taste      
Ilamu Sweet taste      
Ohimu Sour taste      
Isha Salt Ishaah Ishai To salt
Ishamu Salty taste Ishamuah    
         
The Body
Meh Soul Mehah Mehi To live/to be
Omeh Food of the Soul (blood) (none) Omehi To bleed
Mehjima Soul’s Dwelling (heart) Mehjimaah    
Cho Flesh/skin (none)    
Omehnirinir Blood river (vein/artery) Omehnirlioah    
Shoshu Hand Shoshuah Shoshui To give (hand over)
Imumeh No soul (dead/death)   Imumehi To die
People and Relationships
Canichmeh Person descended from Cain (Cainite) Canichmehah    
Imuechmeh Not me (other; non-Canichmeh vampire) Imuechmehah    
Om Food/Human Omah Omi To eat
Omtu Human child (first year Yaechahre)      
Nichmeh Person of descent (descendant) Nichmehah    
Meh Soul/spirit/person/life Mehah Mehi To live
Echmeh Me/I      
Yameh You      
Nameh Man Namehah    
Namehom Human man      
Ashmeh Woman Ashmehah    
Ashmehom Human woman      
Rumeh It      
Yaechmeh We/Us      
Nashmeh They      
Orumeh All souls (God)      
Orunameh All men (everyone/people; Cainites and Yaechahre collectively, when capitalized) (none)    
Mehtu Child Mehtuah    
Namehtu Boy Namehtuah    
Ashmehtu Girl Ashmehtuah    
Yosh Parent Yoshah Yoshi To parent (to take care of)
Yoshomeh Parent by blood (sire; feminine and male prefixes are not used–this stays generic)      
Nayosh Father Nayoshah    
Ashyosh Mother Ashyoshah    
Omehechahre My blood (vampire child) Omecharheah    
Choechahre My flesh (biological child) Choechareah    
Nachoechahre Boy of my flesh (biological son)      
Ashchoechahre Girl of my flesh (biological daughter)      
Ish Sibling Ishah    
Naish Brother Naishah    
Naishcho Flesh brother (biological brother) Naishchoah    
Naishomeh Blood brother Naishomehah    
Ashish Sister Ashishah    
Ashishcho Flesh sister (biological sister) Ashishchoah    
Ashishomeh Blood sister Ashishomehah    
Eruj One (leader) (none) Eruji To lead
Useruj Fifteen (the Council) (none) (none) (none)
Erujmeh One soul (alone)      
Emotions
Icu Emotion      
Osheicu Sad      
Tralicu Happy      
Mehnir Soul’s water (tear) Mehnirah Mehniri To have tears (to cry)
Tral Smile      
Traltah Big smile (laugh) Traltahah Traltahi To make big smile (to laugh)
Traltahtu Little laugh (giggle)      
Oshe Frown      
Oshetu Little frown (pout)      
Im Pain Imah Imi to have pain (suffer)
Arumeh Two souls (love)   Arumehahi to love
         
Numbers
Ruj Number      
Imuruj Zero      
Eruj One      
Aruj Two      
Aeruj Three      
Oruj Four      
Uruj Five      
Ahruj Six      
Ehruj Seven      
Iruj Eight      
Yruj Nine      
Seruj Ten      
Eseruj Eleven      
Aseruj Twelve      
Dseruj Thirteen      
Oseruj Fourteen      
Useruj Fifteen      
Ahseruj Sixteen      
Ehseruj Seventeen      
Iseruj Eighteen      
Yseruj Nineteen      
Saruj Twenty      
Saeruj Thirty      
Soruj Forty      
Suruj Fifty      
Sahruj Sixty      
Sehruj Seventy      
Siruj Eighty      
Syruj Ninety      
Teruj One hundred      
Weather and Heavens
Li Sky/heaven      
Uch Light      
Liuch Heaven’s light (sun)      
Linir Water from heaven (rain)   Liniri To rain
         
Interrogatories and Answers
Mehg Who?      
Seg What?      
Drog Why?      
Shug When?      
Juag Where?      
Merig Do…?      
Ranag How…?      
Oreh Yes      
Imu No, not, nothing      
         
Time and Place
         
Shu Time/now      
Jua Place      
Rojua There      
Rajua Here      
         
Misc. Nouns
Nir Water Nirah Niri To water (to flow)
Nirinir River      
Jima House   Jimai To house
Jimatu Room (in a house)   Jiamatui To take a room (board)
Shoshua Gift/present Shoshuaah Shoshuai To present
Triu Speech/word Triuah Triui To speak
Ca Fire Caah Cai To burn
Cauch Firelight      
Se Thing   Sei To (be) a thing (verb to be)
Nich Descent (none) Nichi  To descend
         
         
Misc. Verbs
Meri To do      
Jahni To take      
         
         
         
Misc. Miscellanea
Oru All      
Imuo But/except      
Gin And      
Dod With   Dodi to join

I am limited on the width of my table here, so a few rows of conjugation are cut off. But they are all easy suffixes.

For the past tense, add a “t” to the end of the word.
For future tense, add an “at” to the end of the word.
The diminutive form (equivalent to -ito or -ita in Spanish) is “tu.” “Meh,” the word for “person” becomes “child” when it is “Mehtu.”
The magnification of a word is done by adding “tah” to the end. “Mehtah” specifically means an “adult.”

These are my basic rules of grammar/functionality:

Rules
Grammar: Subject (Object) + adjective + verb + adverb + interrogative
Instead of a ?, eh is used to indicate a question.
There are no double letters in words except when prefixes or suffixes are added
Only nouns can be made plural.
There is no equivalent of the articles “the” or “a/an” in Cainite.

Advice for Young Writers

On the NaNoWriMo forums, a 15-year-old writer asked for a critique of his work. I went into specifics, then offered some advice, which I think is good for any new writer, but especially someone who is young and who is looking forward to a possible career as a writer.

I wrote my first “book” (okay, it was about 20 pages) when I was in 6th grade. Here I am now, 31 years old, and I have a book written and I’m trying to get it published. I actually wrote most of a book in college. And when I look at it now, ten years later, I see how badly it sucked, LOL. Looking back on my early writing, I see some broad truths:

Life experience helps you as a writer. I sometimes surprise myself by the things that show up in my writing; things you’ve studied, people you know… it all ends up in your writing, one way or another. The more things you’ve studied and the more people you’ve met, the better your writing gets. So know, as you get older, your writing will only get better!

Secondly, read, read, read. The more you read, the better your writing will get. One, you absorb vocabulary and sentence structure as you read, which will help you as a new writer. Secondly, you can see what does and doesn’t work. I think I learned how to kill off good, interesting characters by reading “Harry Potter.” Sometimes you have to build up a character just to kill him off.

Try reading a book critically. I did this recently with “Twilight.” Yeah, it’s easy for people to joke about the fact that it sucks, but most people can’t cite why. Make sure you can enumerate all the reasons why something sucks or doesn’t suck.

And not everything about “Twilight” sucks. I could have taken a black marker to the fourth book and edited huge chunks out of it, but I actually thought Stephanie Meyer did a really good job of building the tension at the end of the book. I liked the fact that Bella made arrangements to save her daughter in the even that she and Edward died. Picking up passports, getting together cash, planning clothing–all of these things built up tension and a sense of dread and inevitable doom.

I liked it so well, in fact, I did something very similar in the end of my third book–my people spend time preparing for their deaths. And that’s something that I like to emphasize in my writing: I want my readers to be emotionally-involved in the story. I want them biting their nails with worry that someone is going to die. You can only accomplish this by having really developed characters that readers love (even if they love to hate them). I want people begging to know if Anselm and Kalyn get together in the second book; you can only accomplish this by making them and their relationship realistic.

When you write, think about making your reader emotionally involved. I think books like that are not only good reads, but they’re books you keep coming back to.

I would also add a rule that one of my English professors taught us: in life, you only get three exclamation points. Use them wisely.

New Pages

I’ve added a couple of new pages to the right-hand sidebar: Canichmeh kinship and Orunameh in WWII.

The first is–for me–a fairly short explanation of the three types of kinship among vampires. It explains why Anselm and Micah call each other brothers, even though they are not brothers by birth or by sire.

The second is a paper published by a Canichmeh that briefly recounts the actions of the Orunameh (Canichmeh and Yaechahre are collectively referred to as “Orunameh”) during WWII. This was another exercise in historical research for me, as I dug up dates and places and got an education on various resistance movements in Europe. While the entire thing is fiction, of course, the stories within it are very much based on or are an amalgamation of real events during WWII. For all my fictional heroes, there were real people who did the same thing.

As a footnote, in the listing of the deceased, James Stewart was Rose’s husband; Eva Matthews was her sister (and only sibling). She lost Eva less than a year before James died.

Rejections

A few rejections are still trickling in from queries I sent out over a month ago.

Here’s an inspiring story, though, of a hobby inventor who, at age 84, finally got a company to pick up his invention.

I hope I’m not going to be 84 before I get published, though.

I am doing one last read-through of my book, checking the proof copy for any remaining typos and grammatical errors. My husband also insisted that I redo the gun part, because it didn’t think it was accurate. After that, though, I’m going directly to publishers.

But a part of me is thinking one last-ditch attempt with agents. I still have some I haven’t tried yet. But looking at my list of 27 rejections (or no responses), I’m feeling like throwing all caution to the wind and doing stuff with my query letter that, technically, you’re not supposed to do (I don’t think). When people ask me what my book is about, I have trouble coming up with a short answer, and I usually just resort to saying “Jewish vampires.” And people get immediately interested. I’ve had a number of people say, “I don’t care for vampires, but I think I’d try that.” And I don’t think I disappoint; a friend who says she doesn’t like vampires either broke down and read it and is now begging me to send her chapters of the second book in installments.

But my query letter does not come right out and say “Jewish vampires,” although I label Micah as Jewish (and, if you’re paying attention, you’ll know that he’s a vampire, so, obviously, he’s a Jewish vampire). But maybe that’s too sutble for the 60 seconds an agent spends reading a query letter.

So how’s this for attention-grabbing?

Vampires. They’ve been done to death, right? (And more than once, obviously.) But what if they were gun-toting Jewish vampires living in Tennessee?

Why are they in Tennessee? Because, during the War, they worked on the atomic bomb at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Then they decided Tennessee was a rather pleasant place, and they chose to stay.

Why are some of them Jewish? Because they were born that way.

Why are they toting guns? Because there’s a new type of vampire on the loose, seemingly intent on killing all of them and their human servants.

“Accepted” follows the small group of vampires and humans in Tennessee. Kalyn is a star student in her junior class, a cheerleader, and just sixteen when she takes her place as an adult among the vampires’ human servants. She is placed in the care and tutelage of Anselm—a man she has been crazy about most of her life. He is an 800-year-old vampire who is introverted, perfectionist, and rather fond of Monty Python. Under normal circumstances, the only excitement in his life comes from his adopted brother, Micah, who is his Odd Couple opposite: lighthearted, disorganized, and irreverently Jewish.

But when Anselm rescues one of the strange new vampires from being murdered by his own kind, he, Micah and Kalyn lose their perfect, quiet lives, and become their peoples’ sole defenders on the front line of an emerging war.

“Accepted”  is an urban fantasy novel of approximately 110,000 words.

 

YA Writing Smackdown

I stumbled across this article today: Writing Young Adult Fiction, which details, briefly, some of the upsides and downsides to writing YA. I had no idea that the turnaround for a sequel was 6 months. That’s a crazy amount of time to write a book. It took me a year to write my first book, and that doesn’t include several of the more minor edits and letting people read it and give me feedback. It makes me have a bit more sympathy for Stephanie Meyer’s fourth book, Breaking Dawn, which needed some heavy editing. I always write more than I need, and I pare down unnecessary dialogue, scenes and chapters in editing. If she only had 6 months or so to write and edit it, I can see how she didn’t have time to go back through it and cut out all the boring, useless crap.

Speaking of books, I’ll be honest: I’m tired of querying agents. Last count was 26 or 27 queried. I’ve read books that are worse than mine and I think, “If someone will publish this, surely I can get published.” So my new tactic is to start querying publishers directly. It usually takes them 6-12 months to respond, which is a drag, but let’s face it: I’ve been querying agents almost that long. If I had started out with querying publishers, I might have heard something by now.

But first I have to do one last, last edit. I printed another proof copy a month or so ago, and my husband recently read it with editing pen in hand. He had a number of suggestions (nay, commands) to make my gun usage more accurate. (In fact, we spent an hour or so one day going over it; I drew him a picture of the terrain, and he showed me ammo and got out his sniper rifle for me to examine.) So I need to edit that part and I need to read through one more time and make my own corrections. Then, once I make the changes on the computer, I’ll be ready to print and mail.

While I’m waiting to hear back from someone, I can be working on my second book. I’m more than halfway through the first writing. I should be ready to make my first proof copy in 6 months or less. That way, if a publisher comes back and says, “We’ll take it, and we want to make it YA, so give us that sequel in 6 months,” I’ll be ahead of the game on sequels and maybe I won’t put out something crappy.