The allure of the abandoned

Confession: I have a minor obsession with abandoned places. The more crumbling, overgrown, and full of dangerous bits of rusted metal or roofs in imminent risk of collapse, the happier I am.

Here on the New Hampshire Seacoast, I've managed to squirm my way into some places I am patently not allowed to go (and will therefore not list here in a public forum).

Maybe it's the same reason I'm nuts for archaeology. Crawling around the ruins of modern society's abandoned places really isn't all that different from exploring what's left behind when other cultures and societies fade away or move on. Inhabited, maintained spaces have their mysteries, of course - my lit fic cohorts love to explore those, in all their twisty emotional glory - but they don't sing out at you like those in deserted places.

Are romance novels good for you?

Romance novels get a lot of crap. Very Serious Readers are inclined to label them ‘trash’, as though the 74.8 million women (and men) who read them each year either have poor taste or simply aren’t bright enough to appreciate Real Literature.

Well, that’s a load of bollocks.

But perhaps even more insidious is the argument that reading romantic fiction is somehow actually physically bad for you. As in bad for your health.

How I managed to get a novel published

I’ve had quite a few people asking me for the scoop on this lately, so thought I’d put my publication story up here for all and sundry. But first off, a caveat: every journey to publication is different.

Steve Berry, for example, wrote eight complete manuscripts, took six years to get an agent, and another seven to make his first sale, after a total of 85 rejections.

James Redfield skipped the whole traditional route, self-published The Celestine Prophecy, and sold a gabillion copies.

And we all know what happened to E.L. James.

So please, Aspiring Writers, keep in mind as you read this that when it comes to writing and publishing a novel, every case is unique. That said, here’s the step-by-step guide to how this particular author managed to find a publisher for one particular book.

I Need a #%$@& Title

Maybe this isn't the sort of thing one is supposed to admit on a writer's blog, but... I need a title.

I mean that I desperately need a title.

The manuscript is done - revised and copy edited with a cherry on top. Cover art is in progress. Publication date has been set.

And I still don't know what to call the damned thing.

Best-Ever Heroine Introductions

Today, I'm working on a new protagonist.

Forget Pygmalion. Creating the central persona of your novel is more like being a five-year-old with a tub of Play-Doh. Grand ambitions abound, but your elephant often ends up looking more like a lumpy purple rock.

Secondary characters are soooo much easier to create. Distinct and quirky personalities work wonderfully when we're not primarily seeing through their eyes. What serves as delightfully charming in small doses becomes irritating as hell when you put it front and center of your narrative.

This is probably the primary reason so many books suffer from relatively dull protagonists. And sometimes, that works just fine. The straightlaced foil surrounded by a circus of bizarre personalities can make for great reading.

However, when it comes to completing a writing project, I have the attention span of a gnat. If I'm not passionate about my protagonist, I'm pretty well guaranteed to reach Chapter 3 (roughly speaking) before I declare the whole book a useless boring mess and skip off to something shiny on the other side of my brain.