Archive for March, 2011

The Road to Santiago de Compostela

Friday, March 25th, 2011 | The Writing Life | 2 Comments

I am currently fascinated by the medieval pilgrimage from southern France to Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain. I have read that Santiago de Compostela translates to “St James the Greater of the Field of Stars” which is poetic beyond belief and enough to make me love the road sight unseen.

I read of it years ago in one of Paulo Coelho’s wonderful books…I think he writes about the road to Santiago in more than one. But I did not really pay attention to the pilgrimage  until working on TO BE QUEEN, because Eleanor’s father takes that road, with disastrous results.

The same themes and ideas come up again and again in my work, and it looks as if the Road to Santiago may be one of them. I am researching an idea for a story that takes place on the Road to Santiago, so I am reading a great deal about that pilgrim road, which was highly traveled in the medievel period, especially during the 10th -12 centuries.

The book I am drawn into at the moment is I’M OFF THEN by Hape Kerkeling, the German commedian, who took time out  to walk this road and contemplate his life. The result, along with whatever personal insights and strengths he gained, is this wonderful, funny, heart-warming book.  Deftly translated from the German by Shelley Frisch, I am finding myself transported by Herr Kerkeling’s journey and his charming story telling.

As hard as the road to Santiago sounds, his book makes want to try it for myself. Research trip? Maybe someday. But I get the very disctinct sense that to walk the Road to Santiago de Compostela, you are more than taking a stroll. You are facing yourself and your life in a way that will transform you. That sounds like a journey that I would like to take.

Serenity in the Midst of the Busy

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 | Labyrinth Walks, The Writing Life | 2 Comments

I am preparing for TO BE QUEEN to come out on April 5th, so I am writing guests posts, contacting bloggers and reviewers, and getting ready for signings. All of this makes for a lot of busy-ness. I am reminded of THE TAO OF POOH by Benjamin Hoff.


His Rabbit was always “Busy, Back Soon.” In an effort to bring my mind back to serenity and peace in the midst of work, I want to reflect on the fact that I want to be here and now, even in the midst of a book launch. I love my work, and I love working to let other people know about Eleanor. I also love feeling centered and peaceful. I wonder if both are possible at once.

To that end, here is a photo of a beautiful labyrinth in Moncks Corner, SC, a serene and beautiful place that I will go back and visit…as soon as all my work is done.

Strategies to Selling A Novel: Freelance Editors

Friday, March 18th, 2011 | The Writing Life | 2 Comments

The hardest part of being a writer is still learning to see my work with a modicum of objectivity. It is hard, almost impossible, especially after the first draft is done, and I feel as if my work is a miracle. It IS a miracle to finish a first draft. It is a time to celebrate and dance a jig or have a glass of wine. But soon it is time to start draft two, then draft three. Hard work…it is something every writer, published or not, is very familiar with.

So how on earth do you get from polite notes of rejection to getting an agent not only to read the entire manuscript, but offer to represent your book?

One way is to work with a freelance editor.

Donald Maass spoke to Writer Unboxed. I posted the first segment on Wednesday…here is the second part of that conversation.

In it, Mr. Maass mentions his wife’s, Lisa Rector Maass and her Third Draft NYC. I had the pleasure of hearing both Mr. and Mrs. Maass speak at a conference in San Francisco in 2008. What I heard them say helped me look at my work in a new way, and helped me work toward fixing it, and making it better.  I think their classes and the information I garnered from them helped me to finally sell THE QUEEN’S PAWN in November 2008.

Lisa Rector Maass’s website is:

And if it is too expensive for most to work with Lisa Rector Maass directly, she speaks at conferences often, as does her husband. It is worth the time and money to hear them speak…at least, it was for me.

Another freelance editor who helped my work get better is Alice Osborn, based in Raleigh, NC.

Alice Osborn - Write From the Inside Out

Alice and I met at a writer’s conference in Wilmington, NC  and she helped my work immensely over the years. In my experience, she has a very good eye for story and for making writing better.

Freelance editors can help us see things about our work that we would never otherwise discover. They can open the door to a new way of looking at things, a way to tighten our prose and raise the stakes of our story to make not just agents and editors want to read it, but people buying books as well. And that’s the ultimate goal. Reaching readers with the worlds we have created.

Strategies to Sell a Novel: Getting an Agent

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011 | The Writing Life | 2 Comments

I have found that the best strategy to selling a novel is hard work…aka making the writing so good that an agent and then an editor says…”I love this. I want to work with this writer.” Even at that point, there are ages of edits to go through, but once you have developed your voice and a storyline that the market can support, agents and editors will be willing to look at your work. Not just willing, eager. They need good stories  just as I, as a reader, need a good  book to read every time I walk into Barnes and Noble.

I will break this blog entry into two parts: How to Get an Agent and Tools to Improve Your Writing. Both are essential to selling your novel.

My first bit of advice on getting an agent is: don’t give up. I sent out three or four query letters a week to handpicked agents who represented my genre, historical fiction. And over time, as my writing and query letter improved, I got positive responses back.

I found my first two agents by querying representatives that I found in Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents.

I bought this book twice … one of the best investments I ever made in tools of my craft, second only to my computer. Here’s the link to see more…

I learned to write a query letter by going to writer’s conferences and by reading books on the subject. I also heard Donald Maas speak at more than one conference, and his presentations helped me immeasurably to write a strong query letter which immediately began garnering responses. Here is an interview with Mr. Maas on Writer Unboxed. I will say more about Mr. Maas and his wife, editor Lisa Maas’ inspiring work in Part II.

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Also remember that you are not alone. We have all been there. A lot of people still are. And a lot of people are going to get published. It just takes work, and a will like Eleanor of Aquitaine’s, a tenacity that says I Will Never Give Up.

Here is a link to a lovely blog about a writer just like us…a woman who faces the blank page one day at a time, and who faces the challenge of trying to sell what is on that page, just as each of us have. Thank you, Julieanne, for your honesty and your blog, which reminds us that we are not alone in this.

So my main advice, for what it’s worth, is keep working to get better, both at marketing your work and in writing the work itself, and never give up. On Friday, I will explore the tools I discovered along the way that helped make my writing better, and ready for an editor.


Where Do Writers Get Their Ideas?

Friday, March 11th, 2011 | The Writing Life | No Comments

I know that as a writer, I have heard this question asked since I was small. “How on Earth did you come up with that?” It’s a popular question at writers’ conferences and luncheons. Since I have entered the ranks of published authors, I often get this question myself. And it is a tough one to answer.

Where do these ideas come from?

Some, like my concept for TO BE QUEEN, grow out of other projects that I am currently working on. Sometimes a character who is supposed to be an antagonist or a second string player comes to the forefront and takes over. And they are so interesting, at least in Eleanor’s case, that not only do I let them, but I welcome them with open arms and sit back and enjoy the fireworks that they bring onto the page.

Other characters come to me quietly, like a still, small voice when I am doing something else: when I am up to my elbows washing dishes, or when I am in the car with no notebook in hand, or when I am walking to the subway.  Princess Alais from THE QUEEN’S PAWN was this kind of character…a woman who was not insistent, but whose quiet presence I could not turn away from for three years, who even now that the book is done I have not completely turned away from.

All writers know what I mean. Our ideas simply show up, and when they do, whether in the midst of other work or after a long drought of writer’s block (God forbid), we welcome them. And if we follow them, those characters and ideas can open up whole worlds not just for us, but for readers to explore with us.

My Latest…