Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas from all of us at TWRP

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our authors, readers, and friends from all of us behind the garden gate.

We are on official holiday shutdown from December 20 until January 5, 2009.

We wish you a blessed and happy holiday season and thank you for all you've done to make our garden bloom and grow this year. Here's to a wonderful 2009 for all of us.

God Bless!

Rhonda Penders

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Make Sure Your Dialogue Sparkles

This time of year everything is sparkling. The silver and gold ribbon on our wreaths, the metallic gift wrap, and even the decorations adoring our homes.

I love things that sparkle, and the one I like best is dialogue. In a romance, witty repartee between the hero and the heroine brings their chemistry to life. It is one thing to say they are opposites that attract, for instance, but quite another to show it through their actions and conversation.

How can you be sure your dialogue sparkles, and doesn’t fall flat? Here are a few tips:

Cut the chit chat. If it doesn’t move the story forward, cut it. If you mention the weather, for example, it better be because a storm is moving in and is going to strand your hero and heroine together. Go through your manuscript and make sure each piece of dialogue is absolutely necessary.

Omit unnecessary tags. Keep your dialogue tags to a minimum. It’s better to show who is talking through action, and even to some extent dialect. Too many tags distract the reader. And, while we’re on the subject of tags, I would suggest using simple tags whenever possible. The reader doesn’t really notice “said” and “asked.” And those simple tags distract a reader less than “intoned” or “demanded.” Certainly, there are times when something more descriptive is needed. But, use descriptive tags less frequently than the old standbys. Rely on the dialogue itself to make your point.

Show their growing attraction. Sexy, fun dialogue makes a manuscript sizzle. (Even a sweet romance should show romantic tension.) Work on developing the romance with their conversation—or even better, with what they are not saying. It can be very intriguing to read a conversation where what isn’t being said is more important than what is. It makes the reader feel like they’re in on a special secret shared by only the character and the reader.

Use strong words. Make sure your word choices are strong for maximum impact. You don’t want to use boring words. Boring words=boring dialogue.

So, this holiday season, make sure your dialogue is one of the items sparkling.

Happy Holidays!

Renee Lynn
Editor--Champagne Line
The Wild Rose Press

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Romance of the Holidays

I thought I’d change the tone up a bit on our blog and talk a little about holiday traditions. No matter what holiday you celebrate, or even if you don’t celebrate at all, there is just something special about this time of year.

The crisp air, new pristine snowflakes, gorgeous lights and decorations, and the spirit of love. It makes me think about curling up on the sofa with a good book (or e-reader!), and sipping hot chocolate. Nothing is more satisfying than a good romance during this time of the year. By nature, the holidays are full of romance.

Part of our holiday tradition is baking cookies. Okay, I’ll come clean. My husband is the cook and baker in the family. We have a deal: he cooks, and I clean up. It works for us. But we will put on Christmas music, and he’ll make some mouthwatering concoctions, while I entertain our young son.

But, to be honest, just seeing him in his element, loving his family and doing something so domestic, makes me find him all the more attractive. It’s heartwarming to see the one you love being so domestic.

I guess you could say, I’ve found my hero :) I can’t help but feel blessed at the holidays to have an amazing and loving family and a job I love.

What are your holiday traditions? Do you buy a real tree? Go caroling?

I’d love to hear about it!

Hope you are all having a fabulous holiday season.

Renee Lynn
Editor--Champagne Line
The Wild Rose Press

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What I really, really want for Christmas

by Kathy Cottrell, Senior Editor, Last Rose of Summer line

This is what I really, really, realllllyyyyyy want for Christmas--and throughout all of 2009:

1. A hero who makes me drool. Making me laugh counts, too. And if he can make me weep, all the better. I'd like to find a hero who yells, "Hey, Kath, over here! Look at me; let me show what I can and will do for you." I want heroes like the three men in Kathleen O'Connor's "Men Of Paradise"; Diane Amos' "Getting Personal"; and Lainey Bancroft's "The Trouble With Tessa", all from TWRP due out in the spring of 2009.

2. A heroine with a backbone. Perhaps it's always been there but might need a little softening. On the other hand, it might emerge as the story progresses. That's even better. The one with the strong exterior shell but who underneath is a mass of fears and anxieties is best of all. She'll make the hero work to "uncover" her weaknesses. And I'd really like it if she has a past.
For great heroines, IMO, Check out Dara Edmondsen's "Compromising Positions" and Nicole McCaffrey's "The Model Man", both Last Rose of Summer best sellers in 2008, and Diane Amos' "Mixed Blessings", due out in 2009, also part of the Old Lady Saloon.

3. I want someone [hero or heroine] whose motivation goes beyond wanting to acquire a tract of land so he/she can build condominiums on it because they grew up poor. Yawner of all yawners. How about someone who might be scared to death each day, but goes out there and does it because it's the right thing to do? Think TV's Monk; the psychic hero on "The Mentalist"; or Charlie Crews, on "Life".
For those of you who aren't familiar with these three darling men--all heroes in my book--Adrian Monk, a former police detective, suffers from numerous phobias and idiosyncracies, yet he manages to reach beyond them to solve crimes and save lives. "The Mentalist", a new fall show on TV, focuses on a psychic who advises the California State Police on violent crimes and who, on a daily basis, is reminded that his much loved wife and child were murdered--in part due to his arrogance and Grand Canyon sized ego. Charlie Crews is a cop who spent 12 years in prison for the murder of his police partner, railroaded by other law enforcement officers. He is released on appeal, wins a gazillion dollar lawsuit against the LAPD, yet returns to work there as a homicide detective. Think about the stress of working with some of the same people who put you in a maximum security cage for 12 years, hoping they'll watch your back, knowing they won't.

4. I realize Hogwarts has been taken. I'd still like to discover a setting that jumps off the page and becomes as real as the humans. The kind of place that I feel I MUST visit sometime [Kathy O'Connor's gated Florida community "Paradise"] even though I loathe hotter climates--or go back to so I can burn it down [No Man's Land in Kat Henry Doran's "Captain Marvelous"]. It can be a small town or a big city, or a neighborhood inside a big city. It might be a college campus or a high school. Check out Eileen Dreyer's "Sinners and Saints", a 2006 release through St. Martin's Press. If New Orleans isn't your cup of chicory, read Sandra Brown's "Envy" for a look at one of the sea islands off the coast of Georgia.

5. Conflict is the basis for the story and it must consist of something more serious than what can be resolved in a 5 minute conversation. Sorry, the reluctance to offend the other's sensibilities, or fear of what the parents might think are more than yawners to this editor. They put me into a coma faster than a duck . . . never mind.
I want to think from the beginning of the story "these two do not stand a chance of a popsicle in hell of staying together". I want to know that one of them would give up their life-long dream in order to keep the other in their life--and if it's NOT the heroine who does all the changing/giving/making compromises, that's even better.

6. Proper spelling, punctuation, a dearth of frothy prose, limited speech tags, and tight narrative goes a looooong way with this Wild Woman Editor, so take advantage of spell check, a thesaurus, and a good critique group.

Friday, December 12, 2008

More on Critiquing...

Following on Donna’s excellent critique partner post, I’d like to write about the actual experience of ‘critting.’

So you don’t think you have enough experience to be a critique partner?

Can you read?

I know. It sounds simplistic. But critique partners don’t develop overnight. And when you’re first starting to realize you need one, you can be sure that Nora Roberts is probably too busy to look over your work. (She writes 8-9 books a year). Needing a critique partner usually means the person expects you to critique their work, too.

I know it sounds strange to put two people together who’ve never done this task before. Or to put an experienced critiquer with an inexperienced one. But you’d be surprised at how well it can work.

So, how do you develop YOUR skill as a critique partner if you’ve never been one?

Read, read, read.

Once you’ve stepped off the cliff and offered to read another person’s work, there are a few rules for a newbie ‘critter.”

Be polite.

Grammatical errors are usually the easiest to find. Note them.

Look for instances in which you do not understand what is happening. Ask for clarification. Even if it is something as simple as “Who’s talking here?”

Read passages out loud. If it sounds odd, uneven, choppy or awkward, make a note of it.

Do not be afraid to insert a comment, sentence or paragraph that might clarify – such as “This doesn’t sound like how a little kid would lick an ice cream cone. Kids are messy and usually need bibs, napkins and a bath...perhaps this can be a little more realistic?”

When something makes you smile, sigh, get angry or sad, say so.

Start slow, read carefully, and most of all, enjoy your friend’s story. You’re job isn’t to take a hatchet to it, but to read it as a reader and note the areas you enjoy and the areas that need improvement.

Feed back is important. There is nothing worse to a writer than to have someone go through their manuscript, write “Good!” and “Wow!” in 8-10 places and that’s it. On the surface, that sounds great, but authors are really looking for a gut reaction. Authors want recognition for telling a story that reaches out to the soul in some way. They want to know if they touched the reader, if they elicited emotions that can be treasured, examined and mulled over.

Authors are like engineers. They construct the story, putting the right words here to support the theme, and the best words there to frame their masterpiece. The reward is a reader who steps into that world and finds something that speaks to them.

Read your partner’s work. Give them value for their construction. If a theme is weak, or a framework unsupported, it will fall. But if you can assist in strengthening the book, the reward is a gift that many people can enjoy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

To Critique or Not to Critique

by Donna Basinow

You know, there is nothing harder than to tell another writer, “Sorry, it’s just not good enough.” At least here at the Wild Rose Press we go a little beyond that and tell you why. We try to point you in the right direction, guide you on the road to improving your writing so next time the answer could be different.

The bottom line is that most of us are writers as well as editors, so sending a rejection letter is almost like receiving one ourselves. And our writing is no better than anyone else’s.
The problem is that when you write a story…you’re involved. This is your child. You’ve created it (monster or angel doesn’t matter). And like most parents when someone criticizes your child you take offense.

So what do you do? First you write the story that’s burning to get out, then you proofread it, then it’s ready to go, right? Heavy sigh. Polish, polish, polish, shine, shine, shine.

The best way I have found to polish my writing before I submit is to let someone else read it. But you know that if the person who reads it is: your mother, your sister, your best friend, your aunt, your cousin, or anyone else you know they are more than likely going to tell you what you want to hear. “It’s wonderful! I can’t wait to see it in print! I’m going to call cousin Ida now and tell her to watch for it at the bookstore!”

So okay, you say, if I can’t let someone I know read it then who? What about another writer? They’ve struggled with the same problems you have. They understand about characters and conflict, about plot and setting, about point of view…ugh, point of view… And the one advantage they have here is that they didn’t write this story. They can see mistakes that you can’t!
Have you ever noticed it’s harder to catch your own mistakes than someone else’s? That’s because you can’t see what you’ve written if it’s still alive in your head! And trust me, it takes a long time for those characters to get off the stage and move on.

So here’s my Dear Abby piece of advice for the day – join a critique group, or at least find a critique buddy. It will do wonders for your writing!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

It's Not Personal, It's Business

That’s a quote from one of my favorite movies. Not The Godfather, although I’m told that’s where the quote originated. But Tom Hanks says it to Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail. He’s the owner of a B&N style mega bookstore chain, she the owner of a small, local bookstore. She can’t believe he’s destroying her business; he can’t believe he’s falling in love with her. Sigh. Great movie.

But back to that quote. I think it applies very well to what we do here at TWRP. Most of us write because we have a passion for it. Writing isn’t a path you choose so much as one that chooses you. Most writers I know can’t not write. Even if they wanted to stop, the stories would keep coming. And when you regard your creations as your “baby,” it’s easy to forget to be on your best behavior when someone rejects—or asks you to change—that creation.

Which brings me to the point of this blog. There are two types of authors we deal with here at TWRP. The professional author. And the Unprofessional author. Let’s talk about the differences.

The Professional author makes it a point to know the romance industry. She reads trade magazines, may or may not belong to RWA, and reads within the genre she writes. She knows about POV, pacing, showing versus telling and conflict. She critiques, either with a group or a partner, takes their criticism objectively and is always ready and willing to learn more about her craft.

The Unprofessional author doesn’t pay attention to any of those things because that’s not her style. POV, pacing, showing and conflict are unimportant to her because she has written The Great American Novel (her mom even said so!). And so what if the hero and heroine don't even meet until page 345 (of a 700 page book) she wants –no demands!--an editor love her story just the way it is. She doesn’t critique. She’s tried that before, but everyone she met was an idiot who didn’t “get” her story.

The Query.

Professional Author reviews the submission guidelines to ensure that the story she is planning to submit fits within the guidelines. When the editor requests a partial submission and tells her she will hear back in sixty days, she marks her calendar and moves on to the next project. Should day sixty come and go with no response, she sends a brief note to the editor, because it is entirely possible, in this cyber age we live in, that the editor’s response was lost somewhere in cyberspace, or that she, the author misunderstood.

Unprofessional Author doesn’t care about the guidelines; when the editors see her story, they’re going to love it so much the guidelines won’t matter. She receives a request for a partial and an assurance from the editor that she will hear back within sixty days. Two days later, Unprofessional Author emails Editor to ask if she’s had time to read her story yet. Does she like it? Unprofessional Author is thinking of changing this, that and the other thing, and what does Editor think she should do? Editor politely responds that she hasn’t had a chance to look at the submission yet, and requests Unprofessional Author hold off on any changes to the MS until Editor can have time to look it over. The following week Unprofessional Author again emails Editor to let her know she has made major changes to the plot and would like to re-submit the new version. Editor agrees and the author sends it. Throughout the next sixty days, Unprofessional Author emails Editor at least 57 times asking if she’s read the story yet and what she thinks. When day sixty comes and goes and Editor doesn’t get back to Unprofessional Author, Unprofessional Author fires off a nasty email basically calling Editor every name in the book for not getting back to her, curses her first born and all future generations of Editor’s family and goes on and on about how she, Unprofessional Author, didn’t want to be published with some small time press where she’d probably only ever five dollars in royalties anyway. Editor responds that she actually requested the full four days ago and tells Unprofessional Author what email account the request was sent to. Ooops. Unprofessional Author forgot that she had used that account with her original query and didn’t think to check it.

The Rejection.

Professional Author, while undoubtedly crushed that her story has been rejected, politely thanks Editor for her time and her thoughts. Professional Author gives herself a day or two to wallow in her disappointment, then reads the letter again. Maybe Editor had some valid points. Editor did say that she’d be willing to consider the story again if certain things were addressed. Professional Author contacts her critique partners, asks their opinions and makes plans to re-work the areas of the story Editor mentioned.

Unprofessional Author fires off a nasty email to Editor, snidely thanking her for wasting her valuable time and reassuring Editor that she’s made a huge mistake because everyone who has ever read this story has loved it. Editor is missing out because when this story sells it’s going to make a lot of money. Unprofessional Author is going to tell everyone what a lousy publishing house TWRP is and she’s going out on all her loops to tell people not to submit here because we obviously don’t know quality work when we see it. How dare we ask her to cut 400 pages and change so much? The next day, Unprofessional Author sends the story back to the editor, having cut 390 pages and fixed the conflict, pacing and POV issues overnight.


Unprofessional Author proceeds to bombard Editor with a series of emails. Every time she re-reads the rejection letter, she finds something else Editor said that she disagrees with and repeatedly emails Editor with her angry thoughts.


Knowing full well that Editor doesn’t know what she’s talking about, Unprofessional Author waits a few months, then resubmits the unchanged story through the query process as a new query. They’ll never know it was previously submitted and rejected.

The Contract.

Professional Author understands that edits will need to be made to her story. She may not always agree with what Editor asks of her, but realizes that she has signed a contract and the edits are part of the agreement. Maybe that scene she loved so much really doesn’t move the story forward. Maybe the first chapter really is merely back-story and can be removed, even though she loved that chapter. Professional Author realizes that Editor is not trying to destroy her story, she’s trying to make it tighter, more marketable and make it fit in with the stories TWRP sells and TWRP readers expect.

When the edits are complete, Professional Author patiently waits for her release date, understanding that it’s something Editor has no control over. When she receives her final PDF copy of her story and her release date, she realizes something –the story really is stronger now. She mentions to Editor that she has two more stories she’d like to submit, one for Editor’s line, and another that may fit another line and asks how she should go about submitting them.

Unprofessional Author argues over every little comma, and sends links to websites and grammar resources to show Editor that she, Unprofessional Author, is correct and Editor is mistaken. She bristles at being asked to remove her adverbs—she really thinks all those “ly” words add flavor to her story-- that’s her voice, after all! And how can Editor ask her to remove that vital scene written from the point of view of the heroine’s cat? It’s necessary to the story! Meanwhile, Unprofessional Author is out on the TWRP loops telling her fellow authors that she has the worst editor on the planet and she never wants to work with this editor again because she’s so stupid (she doesn’t give Editor’s name, of course, but people will still know out who she mans). After the edits are complete, Unprofessional Author bombards Editor daily via email for a release date. She needs one fast because an elderly aunt wants to read the story and the old gal could die any day now.

When Unprofessional Author receives her final PDF copy and her release date, she complains that the date is too far away. Other authors she knows who are published elsewhere had their stories released much faster. She still hates that cover and she isn’t even sure she wants to tell anyone she has a story out with us because it’s so bad now that Editor made her take out those commas and adverbs. She then sends Editor, via email, six more stories that she has written recently. Just to get her opinion on them…

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. *G* And I know you’re thinking, Come on Nic, you’ve exaggerated some of this stuff just to make a point. Sadly, I didn’t. All the above examples of unprofessional behavior are things that I’ve either personally encountered, or my fellow editors have encountered.

I also want to stress that I’m not implying you can never disagree with your editor, or never email her to ask her questions. As you know, TWRP is one of the few publishers who encourage author input and we pride ourselves on communication. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel requested edits are unreasonable or extreme and don't be afraid to ask "what comes next?"

Editors aren’t out to “get” anyone, we just want to sell great stories. So the next time you submit, keep those five little words in mind: It’s not personal. It’s business.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Trusting Your Editor

So, you finally have that contract in your hand. You’ve told your husband, your mother, and even the woman in line behind you in the grocery store, who wouldn’t know you from Adam :) I know, I’ve been there myself. It’s an exciting time.

Your book is going to be published! Maybe it’s your first book. Maybe it’s your tenth. Either way, it’s a fabulous feeling. Until you receive those first round of edits.

Suddenly, your manuscript—the one your editor swore she adored—is filled with more markups than the red-marked sale tags at a store closing sale. Your heart drops. Was your manuscript really in need of that much help?

This is a tough moment. Your words, your baby, has been critiqued and edited. It may be light, or it may have needed more work than you anticipated. No matter what, it’s a difficult pill to swallow.

The first thing I would advise is to just go through the edits once, and then set it aside for a day. You need time to let it sink in, and to think about what your editor had to say objectively. Keep an open mind as much as possible.

Your editor is trying to make your manuscript shine. She’s trying to polish it, not change the essence of it. And though your first instinct might be to fight the changes she’s asking for, I suggest trusting your editor. Give them a chance. Does this mean you shouldn’t question things you don’t agree with? By no means. Your name is going to be on this work. It’s your reputation on the line.

But also consider it is the editor's and publisher’s reputation as well.

Do editors make mistakes? Of course, we are human. But generally, many disagreements can be cleared up by honest communication and keeping an open mind. The editors here at TWRP are happy to work with you. This is a partnership.

Go over your edits with as much objectivity as you can muster and take what you can from them.

As TWRP editors we are always here to help and keep the lines of communication open.

Go ahead and ask questions. That’s what we are here for.

Renee Lynn
Editor--Champagne Line
The Wild Rose Press

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Finding the perfect story…

My last post spoke about what happens after you submit to TWRP. Now, I want to touch on what happens when we find a story we want to contract.

The title of this post is a bit misleading. A “perfect story” might lead you, as an author, to believe everything about your work must be perfect before it is contracted. That is simply not true. But, what is true is that it must be a story that has been polished, edited, and worked on diligently and with passion. It can’t be in a rough draft form, or sent out before it’s ready. While it’s an editor’s job to polish a manuscript until is shines, it is not our job to rewrite the entire work. So, be sure to send in your best work, and have it looked over either by a trusted writing friend or critique partner first.

That said, there is a rush when you find a story that has “soul.” I love discovering new authors! I also love seeing an author grow, book after book.

Now, while a manuscript having “soul” might mean one thing to one editor, and something all together different to another, there is a common factor—your passion as a writer. It’s possible to read a manuscript, which technically has all the right factors: the point of view is spot on, the characters say and do the right things, and the plot can make sense and have a sufficient amount of conflict…but the reader can still feel nothing.

What really adds the spark, the undeniable, intangible “something” to an author’s work is the passion of the author for her characters and their love story. Then, the editor is brought along for their ride. They feel all their emotions, all their desire, and all their pain.

When I find a story that moves me this much, excitement courses through me. I LIVE for moments like these. There is nothing better than telling an author her work is going to be published. Believe it or not, editors WANT to publish your story. We want to find a great romance. Regardless of the horror stories you might have heard about editors, we are just people who love writing, reading, and publishing.

So, send us your best work, your fabulous love story, your book of the heart. We are waiting to read your submission!

Renee Lynn
Editor--Champagne Line
The Wild Rose Press