Wednesday, May 31, 2006

First-time publishing advice

I just ran across an excellent (old) article on Backspace by Jenny Bent--a realistic take on the process of publishing for first-timers. Check it out!

What to Expect When You Get Published

When you can't write

Well, yesterday ended up being extremely sucky--but I kept my whining to my girlfriend group, and they propped me up again. (yes, they rock!) So all is at least back to a normal level today.

But with vacation, post-vacation, intense everyday play rehearsals, work, picking up parents at the airport, etc., I haven't been able to write anything since...geez, since Wednesday last. A full blooming week. I will squeeze some in today because I'm getting itchy. Plus I have a secret fear that if I stop for any longer than that, some dread thing will happen--I will lose momentum, or drive, or discipline--and I won't be able to pick up easily again. Or maybe the characters will get pissed off and desert me. Or I will somehow forget all that I have learned. {shrug} I think a week is about my limit.

So we all know that Life intervenes sometimes, despite our very best intentions. What do YOU do when you can't write due to circumstance? Do you feel lonely without the characters, as I do? Do you feel restless? Do you feel at odds, like there's something missing? How do you handle the itchy feeling?

And do you have the secret fear too? I bet most writers do, but I'm just guessing here.

Medieval Word of the Day: gegge: A term, apparently contemptuous, applied both to man and woman.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I am back!

As always when returning from vacation, there are mixed emotions. Vacations, while tons o' fun, are also a wee bit stressful for me. There's all that planning, packing, uncertainty, pressure to be doing things, time crunches...(yes, on vacation! Aren't I type A to the extreme?) So in that sense it's a relief when we're back home, and can drop into our normal, known routines, pick up with friends again, have a wide variety of clothes to choose from...

But then half a day in I miss being on vacation.

Anyway, San Diego was fabulous, and we did manage a very good mix of relaxation and excitement. Here are some of my favorite moments:
  • Taking Child to the beach on the first day (we almost always do this first). We poked around for shells, chased the seagulls, curled our bare toes in the sand and faced the surf together. There was a moment when her daddy was showing her a crab in one of the tidepools, and I just stood there, warm in the sun, staring at the ocean. Lovely.
  • Going to a Padres baseball game in the new stadium! We had great seats and lots of bad-for-you munchies. And the Pads hit 3 homers, made fabulous defensive plays, and beat the Cardinals 7-1.
  • Playing in the fabulous kid's area of the Science Center, which we got into for free since we are members of the Museum of the Rockies here. Sweeeet.
  • Taking long naps in the hotel. What is it about those blackout curtains and big pillows that just tempt me into naps?
  • Going shopping and buying lots of summery clothes and new sandals. And 4 (count 'em, 4) summer dresses for Child, who is ecstatic about this, and wearing one of them to preschool this morning.
  • Discovering to our complete surprise that the Balboa Park international houses were having a celebration for Memorial Day, with all the yummy food from all over that we haven't had since we left. We had Argentinian empanadas, Norwegian open-faced sandwiches, Czech pastries, and Scottish cake. All while sitting on the grass in the sun.
  • Being lovely and warm. (It snowed back home this weekend, which I am thrilled that we missed)
  • The food! Mexican, Thai (mmmm), even burgers. Yessss.
And that's a good snapshot, I suppose! Last night I came back to a dress rehearsal for the play I'm in--tonight is another full dress for a reviewer, Wednesday is preview performance, and Thursday we open. Whew. This is one crazy week.

Medieval Word of the Day: unkithe: to disappear; vanish.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Top 10 books you haven't heard of

Well, today is strange because it's my last day pre-vacation, so of course I'm running around like a chicken with its head cut off (as my dad would say) in prep. After this post, I won't be back near a computer until Tuesday, so I'll see you then!

Because of busy-ness, in lieu of a writing post today I'm going to post my list of 10 books that are excellent, excellent reads that you've probably never heard of. Philippa Gregory, Diana Gabaldon, even Mary Stewart you might have read, so I won't include those. Just the overlooked gems, as it were. Check them out if you're so inclined!

(in no particular order)

1. Seen by Moonlight, by Kathleen Eschenburg (civil war romance)
2. If I Never Get Back, by Daryl Brock (baseball time travel, male POV. fantastic book)
3. Suspicion, by Barbara Rogan (contemporary ghost story)
4. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis (14th century time travel, but not your ordinary time travel)
5. The Dark Is Rising, by Susan Cooper (first book of a fantastic YA series; I must've read it 10 times at least, and still remember bits word for word)
6. She Goes to War, by Edith Pargeter (a phenomenal account of a woman's experiences in the military in WWII England; fiction, but very realistic)
7. An Acceptable Time, by Madeleine L'Engle (most people have read A Wrinkle in Time, but this one is less well known, and also an amazingly strong YA, with time travel)
8. The Canterbury Papers, by Judith Healey (strong medieval suspense)
9. Through a Glass Darkly, by Karleen Koen (true character-driven historical)
10. The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul, by Douglas Adams (not a part of the Hitchhiker's Guide series, this book is Hilarious. I dare you to start reading it and then stop. Oh, and not laugh.)

Medieval Word of the Day: tumblester: A female tumbler or dancer; a dancing-girl.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


You know, it's a really good thing that I'm not trying to write to a market, because I would be driving myself insane.

I'm in an odd place, just now. Because I'm revising I'm not yet sending out queries, but I'm not head-down writing all new stuff either. The book is done, I'm just tweaking it to make it better--and at the same time, researching my publishing possibilities. I have one foot on each side of the great divide, writing and marketing.

So if I was susceptible to rumors about "the market", this is the point where I could seriously mess up my book. (Sexy sells? Quick, put in more sex! First person doesn't sell? Quick, change to third!) Ack. Of course there's nothing I can do about the fact that it's a historical. I do listen with interest when folks talk about the historical trends (down, up, dead, just on the verge, coming back), but that part is not going to change.

Yet I am altering the book slightly to integrate some feedback from agents. Heck, when one of THE primary movers and shakers in historical publishing tells me the book would be stronger with a bigger presence from real historical characters? If I can do that, and only make the book deeper, you can bet I will.

It's a fine line, isn't it? I guess it all comes down to what I've talked about before, whether the changes resonate with me or not as being true to the book. Changing to third would kill it. Changing the MC would kill it. Adding in a scene with the king present? Just bonus.

I still haven't got Chaucer in there, though. He'll just have to wait until the next book.

Medieval Word of the Day: argol: The tartar deposited from wines completely fermented, and adhering to the sides of the casks as a hard crust; crude bitartrate of potassium, which, when purified, becomes cream of tartar.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Writing Update

I am now 85% done with editing TMT! Unfortunately the next scene needs a lot of's currently (ick) sappy. Remind me never to write a full-on romance; my romancy scenes are definitely the weakest.

The good news is I know this, and can make it better.


Ack. There was a complete kerfuffle at work today. People getting pissed off at other people, people throwing money at other people in a huff (!), people sending out emails to ALL about what other people should not be doing anymore...{sigh} I would try to stay out of it, but sadly I'm the boss, and they all keep coming to me. {head. on. desk.}

Anyway, I hope it's over now, and we can all get back to some sort of non-junior-high behavior. One can only hope. In any case I am in the 3 days between weekend and vacation (San Diego! Huzzah!), so I just have to hang on for a little longer.

Now, to writing talk.

Here's a question that comes up, over and over, on writing boards and the like: "What do you do when you're stuck? How do you get past writer's block?"

First, I hate the term "writer's block". It bugs me. I guess because in my experience people who say they have "writer's block" tend to use it as a crutch, as a valid reason not to write. "Oh, I'd be writing now, but I have this horrible writer's block, so I'll have to wait until that's gone." Or worse, "The muse is not speaking to me right now."

Thus I will say that I've never had "writer's block". What I have experienced--and no doubt ALL of you other writers have too--are the difficult, dark times of writing. The struggles. The times when you sit down and write, and absolutely everything sounds like crap, like you've forgotten how to put a sentence together so that it makes some sort of sense. Or worse: the plot is a mystery to you, the characters are dull and lifeless, you can't see why on earth you ever thought you could write a decent book that anyone would want to read. The Doldrums.

I suspect the doldrums are a normal part of the writing process, nasty as they can be. From the little time I've been doing this fiction thing (roughly 6 years), I've noticed that there are cycles. Sometimes the writing is up, up, up, fast and furious, wonderful inspired stuff; sometimes it's just work, one word in front of the other; and sometimes there are the doldrums. But it's all normal, and we all experience these cycles.

So how do you get past the doldrums? Some writers find success in going to another WIP, in varying their mental landscape. People who actually make their living writing probably have to do multiple projects to make it a go. Failing that, my answer is the only answer, I think: keep writing. Don't stop because of doldrums. Don't give up. (Don't throw out all the "crap" you write while in them, either; it's probably not as bad as you think, and some can be saved.) Keep Writing Regularly. If you work at it, it will get better. Things will swing around again, and lo and behold you're in a fast and furious, genius phase.

Oh, and make sure you get support from your writer buddies when you're in a low phase. If you pick the right ones, they're really, really good at telling you you're full of it and you don't suck as bad as you think.

Right, Ladies? :)

(And thank God I'm not in the doldrums right now. Halfway between fast and furious and work, I think.)

Medieval Word of the Day: sleme: weariness.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Stronger than an Angry Mom

I'm almost to the super action hero bit of TMT, editing-wise. I'll bet you didn't know a 16-year-old medieval girl could be a super action hero, huh? If you do enough Bad Stuff to a character...

I guess she's not a super action hero exactly. But she is...umm...forceful.

From The Murderess's Tale, Copyright 2006 by Susan Adrian, All Rights Reserved

Robert held out his hands as if to stop me. "What sin is this?" he screeched.

I did not stop. I pushed past his hands and dug the point of my knife into the soft flesh of his neck. He flattened against the wall, his eyes bulging.

"Who did this?" I hissed. "Where is the child?"

He swallowed, his Adam's apple sliding past the knife. "What mean you?"

I shoved the knife further, drawing blood. He gasped. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a tonsured head peek through the arch, then pull back quickly. No one came to help the Prior.

I must admit these are some of my very favorite scenes. There's only so much you can take, even if you're a normal girl, before losing it. And I don't recommend messing with a woman's kid, unless you want to see the vindictive mama-bear come out.

On another note, I realized yesterday that I was severely short on description of the church in these abbey scenes, so I took a bold step and e-mailed an archaeology professor at Sheffield University who has worked on the actual site, to see what he knows. What do I risk? Having to re-write the whole section, potentially, to fit "reality". But if I can make it more real from known information, I certainly will. And this is the perfect time in the process to do that. (Okay, it probably would've been better in the First draft, but then I just wanted to get this part of the plot done!)

Not much else of interest at the moment. Readying for the weekend, and vacation next week. A blasted squirrel apparently bit through our transformer this morning and knocked out power for a while, but obviously we're back up...

Medieval Word of the Day: Chichevache: The proper name of a fabulous monster said to feed only on patient wives, and hence, from the scarcity of the diet, to be always lean and hungry. Cf. BYCORNE.

(Man, I love these old tales.)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Now and Then

We're having a heat wave here in Montana. It's been 85 degrees for the past few days.

Hey, don't laugh! For Montanans that IS a heat wave, especially in May. And oddly enough, early and lengthy heat is causing flooding concern--all our lovely snow pack is melting too fast, and pushing the river levels up. Good for trees and flowers and all, not so good for our water levels either now or in late summer...

Anyway, in my continuing series on blogs (heck, 3 days counts as a continuing series, right?), I want to touch on another purpose of blog reading: they connect me to my past, and also allow me a glimpse into the future.

First, the past. I love to read Bookseller Chick. She's smart and funny, and has interesting thoughts on the bookselling and publishing industry. But more, I've been there.

Before I was an editor, I was a bookseller. See, I graduated in 1992 with my newly minted English degree, all ready to take the world by storm...and discovered that in 1992, there weren't many jobs for engineering graduates, much less English majors. I couldn't find a blasted job to save my life. Grrr. So when a bookseller friend in San Diego said she could get me a clerk job...well, I went. At least I'd be around books, I had a would work for a while.

And it did. Except I wasn't a clerk for long; after a few months I went to manager trainee, then manager. Eventually I switched bookstore chains, but all told I worked in the bookstore industry at varying levels for 3 years, and managed several stores. (And I met my husband there, so yay for those years!)

So when Bookseller Chick talks about shelving issues, or author visits, or Christmas craze, or searching for the mysterious blue book, I get it. I remember all that. One of her posts actually made me nostalgic for opening boxes; I used to love to hide in the back and open boxes every once in a while. Her blog makes me think of things, feel things, that have been put away for a long time. It's another type of connection.

Then, the future. Well, the hoped-for future. I love to read the blogs of those who are newly published, or newly agented. Their stories are fascinating to me, in a can't-tear-my-eyes-away kind of way. I need to know this stuff, so I can be one of those too! I was daydreaming about agents in the shower this morning, I kid you not. (Should I send to this one? No, that one? But what if they BOTH asked for the full at one time? Yeah, get to work on the revisions, woman, THEN we'll see...)

Medieval Word of the Day: feminie: Womankind; a ‘set’ of women, esp. the Amazons; also the country of the Amazons. (reminder: all my words and definitions come from the online OED).

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Procrastination Station

Ah, procrastination. The life blood of writers, the bane of writers. At the same time.

I've always been a procrastinator, but I always get things in on deadline. How? Wait, wait, wait, dawdle, dawdle...think...GO! Write like a fiend, edit edit edit, proof, done!

Crazy, right? In college I would outline a paper ahead, but I would never start it until at least 6 PM the night before it was due. For some reason, that was just enough pressure so I could devote myself to it wholeheartedly. I'd be printing it out at 3 AM sometimes, sure--and I did have at least one panicky night when the printer stopped working--but I always got it done, and I always got an A.

Fast-forward {cough} years. That kind of procrastination doesn't work while writing a novel on your own time, does it? I don't have anybody setting me deadlines. It's just me, my brain, and my keyboard. So, now I have a new kind. I still get things done, just with a different way of fooling myself.

Yep, blogs again. And other internet time-wasters.

--Open current draft of TMT. Find where I am, read a bit. Drag out the printed copy I did some edits on, incorporate if there are any changes. Read again.

--Go look at Google Reader, see if any of my blogs have been updated. Read half of one.

--Go back to TMT. Get an idea, fiddle with the scene. Add in some new text. Get really happy with adding new text, but realize there needs to be more.

--Get up and wander around, get some coffee.

--Come back and add the new thoughts. Fiddle. Re-read the whole scene, make a few changes.

--Go back and read the second half of the blog.

--Lather, rinse, repeat.

Another writer was asking if this kind of thing was normal, and apparently for a lot of us it is. I'm not sure what the trick is there, really, but it seems to HELP my productivity. It's like a conscious mind break, to give the subconscious a chance to process. I'm still writing, in the sense that I'm thinking about it even while I'm distracting myself, and I almost inevitably come back from a "blog break" with more ideas, or fresher, or with a different perspective.

Blogs as a healthy procrastination tool. Who knew?

Medieval Word of the Day: ignotum per ignotius: An attempt to explain what is obscure by something which is more obscure, leading to ‘confusion worse confounded’.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Blog Freak

Okay, enough about me and weather and daily trivial stuff and the state of my glands. I'm boring myself.

Today let's talk about blogging, and the myth of social connection it gives. (Okay, there is a real social connection too, I acknowledge (hi friends!), but let's talk about the myth.)

My husband was watching a special about Star Trek fans, and how deeply involved many become in the show. You know you've seen them: the ones who wear Spock ears and uniforms to conventions, who go to baseball games dressed as Klingons (yes, I've seen THEM in person), the ones who learn the specs of a fictional starship and technology and rattle off episode numbers. A psychologist on the show said that many people become so deeply involved in a fictional world because it is an opportunity to learn about people in-depth without needing social skills.

You know, the ability to interact with others easily, to converse and share yourself, to listen and empathize--these things do not come naturally to everyone. Some people, perhaps a great many people, find them very difficult, even stressful. So in a fictional show--or a reality show!--they can feel like they're getting to know these people without the stress, the worry of putting themselves out and possibly getting rejected.

And you know what I realized? Blogging is the same. Here is a ready-made, easy opportunity to see into the lives and minds of other people, without having any connection whatsoever.

True, many of the blogs I read are those of my friends. Real-live friends, people I've met and shared drinks with and hugged in actual space. But the rest of the ones on my list? Not so much.

Let's take "DaMomma" for an example, over at Motherhood Is Not for Wimps. I LOVE her posts. I've read her blog for at least a year, and every once in a while I go and dip into the archives, even, when I need a good pick-me-up or a laugh. (Yes, she is THAT good.) I've talked to other friends too who do the same, even non-Moms. I've followed the ups and downs of her pregnancy, her illnesses, her life with her child, her inner thoughts, her relationships with her friends--and she is so open and funny that I feel like I know her. All her readers probably feel like they know her.

But we DON'T. I've never even posted on her blog! Yet I feel that false sense of connection, that fulfillment when I "follow along" on her adventures. From the comments, other people do that on blogs too: Miss Snark in particular is funny, since no one even knows who she IS, yet people still think they "know" her.

So in conclusion, perhaps blogging is a psychological kick, a sense of connection in a splintered world.

Or maybe it's just fun. Stop me if I start wearing Snark stilettos.

Medieval Word of the Day: misbethink: to be mistaken or misguided.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Wait and See

It is GORGEOUS today. And I had a wonderful weekend, and Mother's Day. A good mix of outside yard work, outside play, and indoor concerts. Plus a scrumptious brunch.

Now, a story.

A bit over a week ago I was at play rehearsal, and THIRSTY. (Rehearsing: talking a lot, right?) So I go to the water cooler--there's water, but they're out of cups. {groan} Fellow cast member offers me her cup. She washes it out first in the sink, I get to have a few sips of water, much better. Harmless, right?

Fast forward to yesterday. I'm complaining to my mom on how swollen the lymph glands in my throat are. "Here, feel," I say. They're enormously swollen; I have to spread my hand wide to feel them. She looks suspiciously at me. "But it's just that and this nasty sore throat," I say. "It's an awful sore throat, deep down. It's been like that for 4 days, ever since I had that fever."

"Sounds like mono," she says, in the Mom Voice of Doom.

I suddenly remember, in a flash, that at next rehearsal same cast member, a teen, mentioned that mono was "going around" at school, and the week before she thought she'd had it. I hadn't thought a thing of it at the time. Until now.


Nothing's confirmed. I've got a call in to the doctor to see what they think. Sore throat's getting better, but the glands are still humongous. Will see...

Medieval Word of the Day: raith (Scots and north): a quarter of the year; three months.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Calling down a curse

Apparently I called some nastiness down on myself yesterday with that fever crack. By the time I got home from work I had a fever of over 101. Chills, pounding headache, aching bones, heat radiating from my head...once hubby got home I actually abdicated all responsibility and lay down for an hour, until the fever went down enough that I could function. Yuck.

This morning I awoke to no fever, but a good ol' regular cold. Better, anyway.

In early fever stages yesterday I did get some work done on TMT, and am now 70% done. This stage is funny, though, because I'm really not changing much at all. I liked these parts before, everyone else liked these parts before, and other than tweaking here and there and maybe adding a sentence or two, and checking for consistency, I'm mostly just reading. It makes me feel kinda like I'm cheating, and I should be doing more. {shrug} Ah well, I'll run it by a couple new readers when I'm done and see if my instincts were right!

Medieval Word of the Day: (because I have no scruples) cullion: A testicle. Def 2: As a term of contempt: A base, despicable, or vile fellow; a rascal.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A stuffed head...and not like Samson

I think I'm getting a cold.

You know that very, very early bit of a cold, when your head feels like it's stuffed with cotton, when you keep trying to pop your ears, and your throat glands are swollen? You don't have a cold YET, but you know it's coming, and there's nothing you can do about it. {sigh} Well, Child has had a cold for nigh on a week, so I can't say I'm surprised.

Maybe I'll write a scene someday where the character has a cold. I'll save that for contemporary, though, not historical. Everyone knows that in historicals characters only get fevers or life-threatening mysterious illnesses. (kidding!)

Anyway, due to aforesaid stuffiness I'm feeling kinda blah and wishing I could take a nap--at 9 AM. I'll just keep sipping this Odwalla Strawberry C-Monster and hope for the best...

Medieval Word of the Day: chilindre (or chylindre, chylindere): A kind of portable sun-dial of cylindrical form used in early times. (Like an early watch?)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

I'm feeling...tense...

So I asked what I should write about today, and Kreekie said "tension, how to keep it going without going overboard".

My first thought was, "Do I KNOW anything about that?" Well, I have some thoughts, anyway. I'll post those, and y'all can pop in with your comments.

So, how to keep tension going (because I love lists):

1. Questions.
One of the best ways to keep tension going--and to keep the reader involved, which is often the same thing--is to keep offering questions. There should of course be the large plot arc of the book, with its own major questions that will come to crisis and then be resolved. But you can't hang all the tension on that, or you will quickly bore the readers. You'll sound like you're playing on a one-key piano.

Within the large arc there should be many, many smaller question/resolution cycles. They could be minor, immediate questions (will she get the horse across the stream in the rain? How?) or obstacles in the course of the larger story (what will happen when the villain DOES catch her? Will she escape?). You do need to resolve these questions as they come up; otherwise the story will quickly prove unsatisfying. The trick is to resolve one question and immediately, or after a very brief rest pause, introduce another.

I think the question issue is a large part of why many books fall flat in the first couple of chapters, when the author starts with "backstory", or How Things Were Before the Conflict. There's no question, no mystery. No mystery, no tension.

2. Movement
Diana Gabaldon taught me this one, and it's a very, very good trick for avoiding description drag. (You know what that is, right? When the author stops the action to describe the setting, or the character's clothes, or the room? And you the reader start to yawn and fidget, and your eye pops down the page trying to find when Something Happens next?) I hate description drag, and I am a premiere skipper.

So the trick, you ask? Simple. Put movement in every paragraph. It could be the actions of one of the characters, of someone or something in the environment, or even fire crackling or the breeze blowing--movement keeps the readers in the moment. Here, let me find a description para...(not as easy as you might think; as I said, I skip these, so I don't have many. My description is usually combined with an action para anyway).

Okay, here's one:

From The Murderess's Tale, Copyright Susan Adrian, 2006, All Rights Reserved

Market Square was full of townsfolk engaged in the complex negotiations of buying and selling wares. Though the morning was still chill enough to require a cloak, the whole square was bright with sunlight; the contrast with the dark alley in which I stood, combined with the turmoil of activity, gave me the sense of being the sole audience for a mummer's play. I had to shade my eyes as a tinker's cart wheeled past, her ungainly collection of polished silver, copper, and tin flashing with fierce intensity. "Tiiiiiiiiin pans!" she screeched, voice high and hoarse. "Lovely tiiiiin pans!"

I don't know if that's the BEST example, exactly, but you see what I mean. I could've just described what the square looked like, but instead I added action and sound to make it more alive.

3. End Chapters Well
I think there are two main ways to end chapters, and maybe you need to have a balance of both to keep the flow going.

The first way, and my favorite, is: cliffhangers. Not the Dan Brown type, exactly, but leaving the reader with major uncertainty. Chapter breaks are a natural place to want to close the book and rest (or sleep); if you end with a major hook, they just can't stop themselves from reading on to find the resolution. And then sometimes you have them for the next chapter. :) I LOVE cliffhanger chapter endings, and many, many of my chapters end this way.

However, sometimes you just have to go for the second type of chapter ending: the quiet resolution. These resolve the main question at hand, perhaps even end with the main character at rest, or going to sleep. No major tension is introduced until the beginning of the next chapter. I think these are needed as well, in a balance, or it WILL be like Dan Brown; the reader may feel like they're running a race, and you never give them a chance to break. When you occasionally end with a quiet resolution, you give the reader a nice wrapped-up feeling, an aaaahhh. Then they're ready to read on. The trick as always is to balance the cliffhangers with the resolutions, so you keep the tension moving, and keep up a good flow.

There, that's probably all I know on the subject at the moment. Your thoughts?

Medieval Word of the Day: contumacy: Perverse and obstinate resistance of or disobedience to authority; rebellious stubbornness. (ooooh, I like that one)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Top Ten

Top Ten Highlights of My Weekend, in no particular order (a list that will never make David Letterman):

1. The cannoli I scarfed at Johnny Carino's in Bozeman. A little sugar-bomb, but scrumptious. Oh, and the leftover one I scarfed last night.

2. Seeing my daughter giggling like a mad-child on the dragon rollercoaster at our local carnival. She wanted to go all by herself, and she LOVED it. Went 5 times. Plus she went on the airplanes, the cars, the spinning bears, the ferris wheel, the merry-go-round...

3. The concert hubby and I went to last night. The group is called German Brass, 10 amazing brass players who played everything from Bach to Swing to South American folk songs. Oh My God, they were good. And funny too! If you like brass at all, go buy one of their CDs; we're buying at least two. (To buy them in the U.S. or Canada, go here, through Canadian Brass.)

4. Walking to the car with hubby after the concert, holding hands.

5. Playing with the Child with the hand water-pump at the museum (that pumps real water!), over and over and over and over.

6. The new Tommy Hilfiger mules I bought for work. Woo-hoo. I am usually so not into shoes, but these are CUTE.

7. Play rehearsal yesterday, when I found out that my part is "the comic relief".

8. The moment during the brass concert last night when my mind started drifting toward Book 2, and I realized that I really could put a trumpeter scene in there somewhere, and it would sound just like that.

9. The 10 minutes or so in bed yesterday when the Child climbed up and started giving us animal kisses (here's a butterfly kiss, here's a starfish kiss, here's a penguin kiss).

10. The rib tips/loaded baked potato/corn-on-the-cob/corn muffin lunch. Mmmmmmm.

I guess this shows pretty well the things that are most important in my life. My daughter, my husband, writing, music, and FOOD. Plus occasionally shoes.

Medieval Word of the Day: toomhead: Emptiness, vanity. over tomehed, uselessly, to no purpose.

Friday, May 05, 2006

This Day

So far this has been a day of donuts and coffee, chatting and sun. A good day, and productive.

I added more good words to TMT, and am now up to some of my favorite bits, which only require a word tweak here and there. Hoo-rah. I am 60% done with this revision, and the last 40% should slide fairly well.

This weekend we might go for a day trip to the Museum of the Rockies, which is a cool place, and we have a "German brass" concert Sunday. Hmm. Plus my first blocking rehearsal for my oh-so-important part in Sarah, Plain and Tall. Oh, and my team made the first round of the hockey playoffs, so we have some TV watching to do. And maybe some barbecue? I'm looking forward to all of it...


Here's a pseudo-medieval joke for you, to start your Friday. More later after writing session!

These friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened up a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close. They ignored him. So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest thug in town to "persuade" them to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he'd be back if they didn't close up shop.

Terrified, they did so, thereby proving that only Hugh can prevent florist friars.

Medieval Word of the Day: renay: to renounce, abjure (one's faith, God, lord, etc.)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Writing Update

Finished Isabel scene. Updated a critical motivation/emotional trauma scene in a good way. Now up over 93,500 words.

I ended my writing session today singing "I so rock, I so rock, I soooo ro-ock" and bouncing around in my chair. This is good. Of course it's now an hour later and I am back down to "I am normal person with regular job" but that high was fun while it lasted!


I had one of those Mommy moments this morning. We all went to the dentist together (the family that scrapes together...) on the dentist's advice, so that Child could get used to seeing us get our teeth cleaned and thus be comfortable with it herself. And she was fabulous. While I got my teeth done she sat in the guest chair and colored and cut with scissors, chatting with the dental assistant about Pooh and Tigger and favorite colors. Then it was her turn, and she sat up in the chair with the little bib on, patiently opening her mouth and letting them count her teeth, poke and clean.

And I looked at her sitting there, with her jumper dress and purple tights she'd picked out herself and put on, with her little ponytail, with her feet idly rolling back and forth as the dentist cleaned. And I thought, My God. How did I get such a beautiful, intelligent child? And so big! How did I get so lucky as this?

And I loved her, with more of my heart than I ever knew I had. And I nodded and smiled, and told her how good she was, thinking "This. This moment of knowing love. This is worth everything."

Medieval Word of the Day: forferly: to astonish greatly.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Good morning, all!

I am cheery, though the sun hasn't popped out yet today, so it's still 32. I know it WILL come out, and then we'll be sunny and happy and mid-50s again. I'm wearing a tank top in anticipation.

Other reasons to be optimistic:

--Child is being SO good lately, she's a delight to be around. Woo-hooooo.
--I accepted a very small part in a local kids' theatre production of "Sarah, Plain and Tall", just to get my toe back into acting. It should be fun, and rehearsals start tonight.
--We're going on a 5-day vacation to San Diego in...checking calendar...3 weeks. Sun and beach, aquarium and Mexican food. Aaaaahhhh.
--We bought a new tree for our yard (a whitespire birch) and are about to buy another one (spring snow crabapple). We've been meaning to do this for years.
--Last but not at all least, the writing is going well. I added more to the Isabel scene yesterday, and hope to finish it up today and then get on to revising again.

In the words of my 4-year-old daughter this morning, "Do you know what people are saying now, when something's really good? You can say it's 'the cat's meow.' Or A#1, it means the same thing."

It's the cat's meow.

Medieval Word of the Day: gleg (N and Scot again; I seem to gravitate toward these. Hmm, because TMT takes place in the north, perhaps?): Quick in perception by any of the senses; esp. quick-eyed, sharp-sighted. Chiefly with defining phrase, as gleg of the eye, of touch.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

"Dialogue," she said, "and how to make it real."

I just ran across a post I did a long time ago in another format about dialogue, and how to handle dialogue in historical fiction. It seemed to make some sense and still be relevant, so here you go. :)

I do have some thoughts on dialogue and what makes it sound realistic, particularly in historical fiction. The first two notes sound easy, though they take practice. The third one takes work.

1. Listen hard.
I’m one of those (likely annoying) writers who often works on the sense that the characters, and the story, exist somewhere in the ether, and it’s my job to transcribe as best I can. I find that if my dialogue keeps coming out stilted, I’m trying to force them to do something that’s not consistent with their character or situation (or not what they want to do). I get into their heads and listen harder, and it often smoothes out.

2. Read it aloud.
Even act it out a little. Read it as though you were reading it at a storytelling event, or for kids (if it’s not a graphic scene, but of course). You may _hear_ what’s missing or what’s too much when it’s spoken.

3. The most important “rule” I try to keep in mind: BALANCE.
A lot of time when dialogue feels stilted and awkward to me, when I’m writing OR reading, it’s because that’s all that’s going on. The writer has something particular that needs to be expressed (or the characters do), and that’s all we see. That’s where we get into he said/she said, simple exchanges back-and-forth.

But real-life dialogue isn’t like that, is it? Your husband says something, and while he’s talking you notice that the wind’s picked up outside, and you think you need to move the chairs before they blow over. You may say that next, before you respond to his point. Or you say something to your child, how naughty she’s being, but at the same time you’re gently wiping the food off her face. There are thoughts, actions, and changes in focus that go on—and to me, balancing these things in a fictive dialogue makes it FAR more interesting.

Show a difference between the words spoken and the thoughts—this gives depth, and shows subtexts. Change the focus for a minute (the wind example above)—this gives the reader perspective, and sometimes a breather, particularly if it’s an intense conversation. Put in actions that are direct reflections of the conversation, AND as well, some that are not, but are reflective of other things going on. Also, don’t forget to add different senses into the mix. All of this makes a dialogue far more “real”.

4. Another note, about individualizing characters in historical fiction specifically. Be wary with accents and historical words; they’re easy to overdo, and then your dialogue just is hard to make out, or sounds ridiculous. Sprinkle things in. But more interestingly, use metaphors particular to your character and/or time period. (My MC’s father, a mason, says: “Clearly I should not have trusted a girl of sixteen summers to have sense enough to lay one stone over the other.” This makes sense for him, but isn’t something any of the other characters would say.) Also, use different rhythms and sentence structure to distinguish different people, rather than just accents.

Medieval Word of the Day: runkle (Scots and north): a wrinkle or crease.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Entrance of Summer, and Isabel

Ahhh, the good weather has begun at last. It takes longer for us than for most places, but finally the grass is greening up, the trees are budding, and the first of my daffodils are blooming. It was over 70 degrees this weekend--short sleeves and sandals!--and everyone was outside if they could be. Montana truly is heaven in summer. It doesn't last long, but it's fabulous while it's here.

I did manage to write this weekend, and added a few hundred words on the new Isabel scene. Here's a bit of it:

From The Murderess's Tale, Copyright 2006 by Susan Adrian, All Rights Reserved

Even heavy with child she had grace, and an immediate presence. She was a full head shorter than me, at the least, and dark, with smooth, coiled black hair and cool Spanish eyes. She stood a few steps in, her eyes on the window slit as if awaiting something.

Juliana pushed to her feet and bowed her head, and I did the same. "Duchess," said Juliana, quietly.

Isabel of Castile—princess in her own right, Duchess of York, and aunt to the King—nodded to William, and he left and closed the door.

She crossed to Juliana and spread a small, heavily ringed hand over Juliana's jutting belly. "My fine husband's?" she asked. Her voice was still marked with the rhythm of the south, though she must have been fifteen years in England.

Juliana raised her chin, but said nothing. Isabel pulled her hand away and cupped her own belly, her dark eyes searching Juliana's.

"One of my ladies said it was so," she said, without emotion. "The fool insists on sleeping with William the sycophant, though I've warned her she will wake with her throat cut, on one of these morns." Her gaze swung to me, a quick up and down that left me cold. "And I see he has a spare."

It still needs some polishing, but that's her. She is fun to write about. I knew it. :)

Medieval Word of the Day: saucefleme: A swelling of the face accompanied by inflammation, supposed to be due to salt humours.