Why this Author Loves Her C Grade

Dear Reader,

Last week I got a review at Dear Author, which was both awesome and a little “meh.” The “meh” came in because I got a C-, which I’ve been told is still a solid grade. To confirm this, I looked up some of my favorite romance authors to see how they fared: they all got Cs as well. Mary Jo Putney, Candace Camp, Lucinda Brant, and more.

Why I Love a C Review

The awesome came in because I got a five page critique from the reviewer. No, seriously. I copied the text into Microsoft Word and it was five single-spaced pages.

Let me repeat that. Five. Single-spaced. Pages.

She went into detail that I would expect from an editor getting paid for her judgment. I kowtow at her feet and offer as much tea as I can brew and she can drink with multiple bathroom breaks. Her critique was spot on, pointing out everything I’ve wondered about my writing. She essentially gave me a checklist of things I need to make sure NOT to do in The Rebel’s Hero.

Do you know how many authors would commit murder for this kind of free feedback?

This is important stuff, I feel, because so often we authors can be a bit sensitive about reviews. And sure, when the reviewer launches into an emotional reason about why they did or did not like the book, that is less than helpful. Still, each review provides a learning experience, positive or negative. It is feedback for the next time we put pen to paper, and we should value them all, garnished with a grain of salt.

Plus, a C-range grade from Dear Author isn’t nearly as bad as some authors feel. It translates to “this book is competent, but not for me.” It’s a “good but not great” book. It’s a book that was “fun, but not sure I’d read it again.”

That’s fair. I’ll take that. Some of my favorite authors have multiple books in that “not sure I’d read it again” category. Darling Reader, I invite you to read the review and leave your opinion in the comments. The review was more than fair, and the comments were very nice. I would be interested to see your responses, as I know some of you left reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, etc.

Tumbling Around the Interwebs

Completely unrelated, I created a Tumblr for the videos, photos, and inspirational quotes I want to share that don’t warrant an entire blog post.

If you follow me on Twitter and Facebook, then you will see the content there. The fun part about Tumblr is that it’s an easy way to ask me questions, or to submit fun content for others to see. I’ll see you over there!

And finally, if you’re a fan of Readability, we have a new link available in the sidebar. Read now or later, this is a quick and easy way to syndicate the blog.

All right, I think that’s it for this week! Best,

Belinda

 

 

Chapter Two of The Rebel’s Hero

Dear Reader,

Remember, my goal for ROW80 was pretty simple: write 750 words a week. I like achievable goals. They make me happy. Here we have the second chapter of The Rebel’s Hero, something that I wrote three times because each time I wasn’t hitting the right tone. Read the first draft of chapter one.

What do you think about this chapter? Is the characterization over the top? Is Tempest unbelievable, given that she’s a tomboy during the Civil War?

After they finished their silent dinner, Tempest followed Howard and Sophronia to the parlor. Still stinging from Howard’s remark of her “wildness,” Tempest made sure to float across the room and sink into her chair with no more noise than a soft sigh. She kept her posture rigid, her eyes narrowed, and her hands clenched in her lap.

Howard paid no attention, which meant she was giving herself a headache for nothing. Sophronia lounged on a chaise in a dark corner, a handkerchief laid across her eyes. There would be no help from that corner, of that Tempest was certain.

Tempest’s mind raced. Howard had been serious at dinner, she knew he had been serious. And her mother had sat there, sipping her soup because Howard had instructed her to. Tempest worked her jaw in an effort to fight the telltale growing pressure of impending tears.

Of all people, why Walter?

Fifteen minutes passed as the three of them listened to the grandfather clock ticking from the hallway. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Tempest cursed her heart for the way it continued to beat, keeping time with the clock, as if the world had not just ended. Tick. Tock. Everything slowed and Tempest just knew if she did not leave at that instant, she would scream. At the chime of the quarter hour, Tempest jumped to her feet.

“Pardon me, I have a headache,” she said in stiff tones. She held her chin high and refused to look at either Howard or Sophronia as she sailed from the room, her wide skirts swaying with the speed of her escape.

She walked to the front porch of the house and stared out at their farmland. No doubt this was why Walter was agreeing to marry her. It was always about land with these stupid men. Tempest shook her head. She would never understand it. How could a man marry a woman he knew didn’t love him, didn’t even like him, would prefer to spit on the ground than speak to him, just for some dirt?

Howard is hiding something.

Tempest sat on the swing that hung from the rafters of the porch and with smooth, practiced motions, lifted her skirts high, and dropped the hoop skirt then and there for all the world to see. Not that anyone could or would see, it was just her and the slaves and the farm and the black sky. Not even the stars dared shine tonight, not under the threat of Tempest’s furious frown.

Freed of her hoops, Tempest crouched easily to remove her shoes and stockings, discarding them where Howard would be able to see them when he came out for his evening smoke. Might as well. He already thought she was wild, and one evening of perfect behavior wouldn’t change his mind. Tempest tucked the hem of her skirt into her waistband so she could do what she had been wanting to do since hearing Howard’s awful news. Run.

Why now? she thought, knowing she would get a stitch in her side if she ran as hard as she wanted to, thanks to the stupid corset she was forced to wear. I’ve been of age for two years, why now? And why Walter?

Leaping from the front porch, Tempest ran. She ran from the house in her bare feet with sure strides that belied the way her stomach sloshed with every step. The tears she refused to show to Howard now flowed freely, hanging in the air like rain drops as she sped to her tree by the creek.

Walter. The name sent shivers down her back even though the air was thick with hot humidity. Her hair curled at her temples at at the back of her neck. Her arms became slick with sweat. Walter the Breaker, she had once heard him called on a bright morning before Sunday church. Breaker of spirits, horse and human. Another shiver.

It’s because I’ve been asking questions.

Tempest’s toughened feet paid no mind to the grass, twigs, and bugs they crushed. Tempest was the very embodiment of her name, dust flying, birds squawking, as she reached her tree. She caught a low-hanging branch without bothering to slow down. She swung around and kicked off the side of the tree trunk to jettison upwards. She caught another branch, and another, scrambling up the tree with the speed of a squirrel. She stopped when she was high enough to see the farmhouse.

Plopping onto a branch that was thick enough to hold her weight, Tempest leaned back against the tree trunk and crossed her arms over her panting chest as she wheezed.

Things had not been right since her father’s death. Everyone said Reginald Granville died via an unfortunate accident with the drink, but Tempest knew better. Reginald had never had problems with drinking. Even Tempest, at eight years old, had known that her father wasn’t a drinker, that he couldn’t have smashed his head into the cellar floor because he had tripped over his own feet. But that was what Howard had insisted, with tears in his eyes.

Tempest scraped the back of her hand against her traitorous tears. She should have known better than to ask Sophronia about Reginald’s death the other day. She should have known her questions would send Sophronia into ten years of latent hysterics, and Howard would come running. Tempest hadn’t expected to trigger Sophronia’s bad habit of sleepwalking to the cellar, though. No doubt that was why Howard was trying to get rid of her. To silence her questions and stop causing her mother’s hysterics and sleepwalking. Things could be peaceful at the farmhouse, if only Tempest wasn’t around.

Her chin jutted out. If Howard wanted to get rid of her, he didn’t have to marry her off.

A plan began to form. Hadn’t Sophronia received a letter not too long ago? They so rarely received letters these days. Tempest had been surprised at how dismissive her mother had been about it. If only she could find that letter. Someone knew they existed, even though as a principle, the family refused to leave the farm for anything but church.

Maybe, just maybe, Tempest could find that letter, and find the writer of it, and get some of the answers her family refused to reveal. No doubt this person had a history with Sophronia, one that went longer than the last ten years, and lived far enough away to not know how she had changed.

Everyone in the village knew Sophronia was not of this world any longer. She floated through it, suffered it, paid no mind. Someone knew her before Reginald’s death, and cared enough to write. Whoever this person was, whoever it was that cared about her mother, this was Tempest’s best option.

“One of these days, Howard,” Tempest muttered as she climbed down the tree, “you’re going to regret pushing Reginald Granville’s family around.”

All the best,

Belinda

– – –

This is part of the ROW80 Bloghop

I LOVE Historical Romance Web Comics

Dear Reader,

If you haven’t realized that I am a huge geek, I am outing myself right now. I have been a fan of web comics for the last… oh… seven years or so. Three of my favorites happen to be historical romances. Be prepared, as this post is a huge love rant for all of them.

The Phoenix Requiem

Sarah Ellerton is a genius. Hands down. Ellerton is the writer and artist behind The Phoenix Requiem, a “Victorian-inspired supernatural fantasy story about faith, love, death, and the things we believe in.” Heavy, right? Not really, it’s a joy to read.  The reason why I love The Phoenix Requiem is because of Ellerton’s detail to clothing and culture; her hero is charming and adorable, her heroine is serious and lovely. From the website…

On a cold December night, a gentleman stumbles into the town of Esk, gunshot wounds leaving a trail of blood in the snow behind him. Despite making a full recovery at the hands of an inexperienced nurse – and deciding to make a new life for himself in the town – he is unable to escape the supernatural beings, both good and bad, that seem to follow him like shadows.

As they try to discover why, the nurse must question her beliefs and risk her own life in order to protect her family, her friends, and those that she loves.

The comic is now complete, and you can read the whole thing from the start. I plan on buying all the volumes once Ellerton puts them in print. That is three (or longer) years of work that she released for free, and as a fellow independent author, I want to support her fantastic work.

Dreamless

Dreamless is another of Sarah Ellerton’s comics, this one written by Bobby Crosby. Set during World War II, this is a tale of star-crossed lovers who share their dreams. Literally. Eleanor and Takashi don’t sleep the way the rest of us do.

When Eleanor sleeps, she is in Japan, seeing what Takashi sees. When Takashi sleeps, he is in the United States, seeing what Eleanor sees. They can’t speak to one another, exactly, but they can hear what the other, and the people around them, are saying. Read the complete web comic to find out what happens to this young couple in the days leading up to Pearl Harbor.

And finally, we have…

The Dreamer

The Dreamer is a web comic by Lora Innes, an artist who lives in the same city as me and seems to know some of the same people I do, going off her blog. I have never met her but it would be pretty sweet if I could! One of these days I will make it to the Columbus Comicon. One of these days. From the website…

Beatrice “Bea” Whaley seems to have it all; the seventeen year old high school senior is beautiful, wealthy and the star performer of the drama club. She begins having vivid dreams about a brave and handsome soldier named Alan Warren–a member of an elite group known as Knowlton’s Rangers that served during the Revolutionary War.

Bea begins to research Colonial America only to discover that her dreams recount actual historical events that she knew nothing about! She grows increasingly detached from her friends and family as she tries desperately to figure out what is happening to her…

This comic is in the middle of its story, so unlike Dreamless and The Phoenix Requiem, you can’t pick this one up like a book and blast through all the pages until reaching the satisfying conclusion. The interesting thing about reading web comics is that it’s a lot like reading a series while the author is still writing them. Remember how antsy you felt when waiting for the next Harry Potter? Same thing. Except it’s on a weekly basis.

So there you have it! Those are the historical romance stories I keep up with weekly in my RSS reader. Are you reading these comics or others that I should know about? Let me know in the comments!

All the best,

Belinda

Update from the Trenches

Dear Reader,

Have you ever been so sick you can’t even stumble from bed? That’s what I’m going through right at this moment. My manager mentioned it might be strep, which I hope it isn’t because that means I have to leave my apartment to get antibiotics.

Anyway, over the weekend I wrote another 900+ words for Catching the Rose, which is pretty great. Not that what I wrote was fantastic, but it’s progress, anyway. I’m upping the tension in the book much sooner… I’ve cut out pages and pages of description and pitted Amy and Veronica against each other in a way that both surprises me and has me interested. Which I hope my readers will feel the same way. An excerpt to wet your whistle…

As if there wasn’t enough to worry about these days, with the southern states breaking away from the union. Amy pushed her tongue to the side of her mouth and bit it lightly to keep from saying anything. Veronica was a spoiled brat who had no concept of what was going on around her. She wouldn’t know, or care, that this war was chasing Amy south, for a little while, anyway.

“But you know,” Veronica said, leaning back in her seat, “they probably should have. Or they would have, if they had any idea what I’m intending to do here.”

The carriage skidded to a stop. Amy’s stomach landed somewhere between the stamping hooves of the horse that dragged them to the quiet street where Mrs. Beaumont lived.

“And just what might that be, Miss Vernon?” Amy managed, hand on her stomach.

“Ronnie,” Veronica corrected. She rifled through her satchel, which had sat hidden beneath her skirts all this while, and pulled out a careworn journal. She flipped through it expertly until finding a page some three-quarters of the way through. “Find him, and marry him.”

Amy blinked at the handsome sketch of a man Veronica couldn’t possibly know. “What?”

“It’s not the best likeness, I know,” Veronica said. She sighed a little, staring at the portrait of a man with dark hair, sharp eyes, and the hint of a smirk tucked at the corner of his lips. “I haven’t seen him in years. But that won’t stop me, no ma’am.”

“You’re in Richmond to find this man and marry him.” Amy knew she sounded stupid repeating Veronica again. Her lips felt swollen and her tongue heavy. The nausea from the train came back with a vengeance and she swallowed heavily against riotous bile. She had come to Richmond to erase all traces of this man.

It’s a first draft, obviously, but I like it.

How is everyone else doing? Check out the Round of Words in 80 Days list of participants to keep up.

Best,

Belinda

Worderella Needs You!

Dear Reader,

This has been a craptastic week. I’ve been having nightmares about being in a car accident, so I took my car into the shop just to check it out. The car needs major repairs. It’s drivable, but only until the parts break off. The repairs cost the price of the car. So now I have no car, and there isn’t public transportation to my job.

Dearest Reader, I try not to ask for much. Just your love and adoration.

Heh, kidding. Kind of.

Seriously though, I need your help. The money I’m spending on the replacement car is the money I would have spent to hire a copy editor and publish Haunting Miss Trentwood. Never fear, I have a plan. And you, Reader, are a part of it. If you wish to be, that is.

I submitted an application to Kickstarter. According to the website, Kickstarter is…

A new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors. We believe that a good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide. We believe that a large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement.

Kickstarter is powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands.

Get this: I was accepted! This gives me thirty days (once I launch the project) to drum up some excitement and raise $1,200 (or more!). This is money that I intend to spend on hiring a professional copy editor ($$?), buying a pack of ISBNs ($500+), registering a sole proprietorship, buying marketing materials, etc.

My Kickstarter award system will be the following:

  • Pledge $1 or more
    Do I shout how awesome you are to Facebook or Twitter?
  • Pledge $3 or more
    Not only do you get to pick where I shout how awesome you are (Facebook or Twitter), but you also get a PDF copy of Haunting Miss Trentwood.
  • Pledge $5 or more
    PDF of Haunting Miss Trentwood as well as a permanent place on my website stating how amazing you are.
  • Pledge $10 or more
    PDFs of Haunting Miss Trentwood and Catching the Rose; a permanent place on my website stating how amazing you are; a handwritten note from moi.
  • Pledge $15 or more
    Print copy of Haunting Miss Trentwood; PDF copy of Catching the Rose; a place in the acknowledgment section of the book; a handwritten note from moi. Canada + $3; Europe + $10.
  • Pledge $25 or more
    Signed print copy of Haunting Miss Trentwood; PDF copy of Catching the Rose; a place in the acknowledgment section of the book; a handwritten note from moi; a surprise. Canada + $3; Europe + $10.
  • Pledge $50 or more
    Signed print copy of Haunting Miss Trentwood; two extra books for your friends/library (you pick the combination of Haunting Miss Trentwood and/or Catching the Rose); a place in the acknowledgment section of the book; a handwritten note from moi; a surprise. Canada + $10; Europe + $20.

I’m not asking that you help me out by pledging. I’d rather you help me by spreading the word that I need help; that I am happy to accept the smallest pledge possible, one dollar.  Plus, how cool is it to say that you helped an author make her book happen?

Think of me as your resident artiste, and I’ll think of you as my lovely, lovely patron(s).

I’ll post more details once everything is up and ready to go. I have to post a video and make sure my bank account is verified, which takes time. Thanks so much for the help, whatever you’re able to give.

In the meantime, would you mind helping me get a buzz going?

All the best,

Belinda

Worderella Reveals a Snippet

Dear Reader,

I am ashamed to admit it has been, according to 750words.com, five days since I last wrote a word for Haunting Miss Trentwood. Thank goodness for blogfests! I almost forgot I agreed to be a part of the Rainy Day blogfest, held by The Writer’s Hole.

Below is my submission, a first-draft snippet of Chapter 24 from my work-in-progress, Haunting Miss Trentwood. To give you an idea of the story, it is set in 1887 England, and the tagline is “Father knows best… even after death.” Enjoy!

By the time they reached Wayland’s Smithy, it had begun to rain. It was the kind of loud rain which spoke of the end of winter and the coming of spring. Mary had been forced to jog that last one hundred yards to the black opening of the Saxon tomb. She had slid on the slick rock floor covered with decaying leaves. Trentwood’s tight grasp on her arm righted her. She jerked away from his unnatural touch.

Mary huddled beneath the sheltering rocks of the sarsen stones that made the ceiling, her arms wrapped tightly around her waist. I haven’t anything left to vomit. “Tell me what happened back there.”

Trentwood stood in the shadows beside her. She could feel his white eyes watching her, and fought the wave of nausea that shuddered through her body. Those white eyes had, for a brief moment, looked at her through Hartwell’s eyes. Certainly she hadn’t imagined that? Trentwood had, for a time, stepped into Hartwell’s body so he could land a devastating punch to Sedgwick’s jaw. One couldn’t imagine that. Just as one couldn’t imagine one’s father haunting one.

I’m not mad. Please, tell me I’m not mad.

Outside, the rain plummeted to the ground more furiously than Mary had ever seen. It was as if the sky vomited on her behalf. She closed her eyes and leaned her forehead into the moss that clung to the vertical stone walls. She sighed as the cool rock soothed the pounding at her temples.

“What would you like to know?”

She wasn’t sure where to begin. “How did you do it?”

Trentwood shrugged. “One minute I was watching you thrash about in bed, and I heard you scream that terrifying scream of yours, and the next minute, I was in your dream. I haven’t the slightest clue how it happened.”

Mary blinked. Wait, what? Her tongue felt heavy in her mouth. “I was talking about when you possessed Mr. Hartwell, Father.”

Again, Trentwood shrugged. “I’m as new to this being dead folderol as you are in watching it.”

Wiping beads of sweat from her brow, Mary whispered, “You will limit such… jaunts… in the future, I hope?”

“Indeed,” he said with a short laugh. “It pains me to do it as much as it seems to pain you to watch it. Do you know how difficult it is to be dead, hopping around from one mind or body to the next, not knowing how you got there, or how you’ll get out?” He stepped closer, and she could smell his death-stench.

“No, I don’t. I never thought it was a skill I would need to learn.”

He grunted. “Inherited your mother’s morbid sense of humor, I see.”

“Given the circumstances, I think I’m glad of it.”

Suddenly seeming sheepish, Trentwood took yet another step closer. “Mary, we must talk about your dream. We must talk about your mother’s death.”

Definitely make sure you check out the other submissions. Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Belinda

Find a Friend Dialogue Exercise

By _Yogu at Flickr

Today in class we talked about the mechanics of dialogue, and how it’s a weakness for some writers and a strength for others. We read Robert Bausch’s short story, “Aren’t You Happy For Me?”, which I suggest you all read as an excellent example of external conflict (the dialogue) and internal conflict (the exposition).

You should also read David Foster Wallace’s “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” for another type of story where the dialogue is the entire story. Not only that, but he only provides half of the conversation, leaving the reader to fill in the gaps. Disturbing and brilliant.

Besides talking about the pitfalls of dialogue, which can include talking heads and over-philosophizing, we talked about exercises that we each use as a way to strengthen our dialogue-writing skills.

I admitted to being a closet eavesdropper. One of the guys in the class pulled out a tiny composition book and admitted to taking it with him to the bar, which inspired another guy to pull out his own tiny notebook meant for the same purpose.

For our class exercise, we had to pair up and write a conversation together. This was a lot of fun. My partner and I began giggling because we were writing an argument that started over the lack of peanut butter… it was, as Dane Cook describes, a “nothing” fight. Yet, under the surface, there was real conflict. Amazing what can come out of five minutes of passing a journal back and forth.

Try this exercise with a friend of yours, whether they’re a “writer” or not. It’s a lot of fun, and inspires new story ideas, guaranteed.

  1. The first writer pulls out a piece of paper and begins their dialogue with the words “I’m sorry, but…”. They complete the sentence and pass the journal to their partner.
  2. The partner, after reading the sentence,writes a line (or paragraph) of dialogue which heightens the tension.
  3. Keep passing the journal back and forth, trying to throw curve balls at one another without delving into the absurd.
  4. Try not to rely on dialogue tags to reveal how the character is speaking.
  5. In fact, don’t use dialogue tags at all. Rely on your word choice and punctuation.

Do you have a favorite dialogue exercise? Let us know in the comments.