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Book News, Writer's Life

What’s Happening?

I’m a bit snowed under at the moment, but here’s a progress report.

First, let me share this handy How Publishing Works infographic designed by Floris Books:

The Ruin of Evangeline Jones is at the QA and copy-editing stage. Meanwhile, book 3, tentatively entitled The Talented Mr. Ellis, is waaay back at the very beginning of the process. I’ve submitted a book proposal–first few chapters, blurb, and synopsis–so fingers crossed my editor likes it. While I wait to hear, I’m busily writing the rest of the book.

As for The Madness of Miss Grey, marketing is hard! And time-consuming! But that’s okay because I have a secret weapon: Mr. Bennet has become a marketing genius. So much so, that he’s starting to look like this:

Barney Stinson “I’m Watching You” Gif, via Tenor.

Anyway, I’m frazzled, but I hope to resume normal blogging next week.

writing

My Process: How I write fiction

Full disclosure: This isn’t my typewriter. I don’t know whose typewriter this is. I bet it’d be a pain in the arse to write a whole book on it.. Nonetheless, it’s pretty. I use a Desktop, which is nowhere near as photogenic.

Let’s be honest, there’s no one right way of doing this. We find what works for us and whatever it is becomes our process. We’re always refining it. But if you’re just starting out and/or struggling, it can be useful to hear what other writers do. Like finding a map when you’re hopelessly lost.

Step one: Have an idea

Honestly, this is easier said than done. No one knows where ideas come from because they come from everywhere. Books we read, films we see, song lyrics, dreams, a random comment someone makes. I have lots of ideas, but I can’t always see how to develop them into a full-length novel. What works for me is to pick whichever idea has the most details sticking to it. For me, that means I see an image on Pinterest (or somewhere else) and it makes me think about my story. Maybe it’s the face of a character in an old painting. Maybe it’s an antique chair I can imagine them sitting on. If details start to stick to your idea, it’s a sign it might be the one to focus on.

Step two: Start writing

Full disclosure: These are not my writing implements. Mine are like this but imagine more mess and dirt.

I write two drafts at once. Sort of. For example, I write the first draft of scene one in longhand. When it’s finished, I type it into Word, developing, expanding, and fixing as I go. The end result is the second draft of scene one. I repeat this process for every scene.

What happens if you get blocked?

If I’m stuck and the words won’t flow, I make myself write 100 words every day. 100 is hardly any but, by the time I get that far, I often find I can keep going. If I can’t, I let myself stop for the day, patting myself on the back for hitting the minimum amount. I keep doing this until the block goes. I use the free time to work on marketing, research or just reading.

But what if you’re still stuck with no idea how to progress the plot?

I print off the entire manuscript so far and go through it with a red pen. Usually by the time I’ve typed up the changes and rewritten sections, I’ve figured out how to go on. If not, I go through the entire document again. And again. And,if necessary, again.

Step three: Revising

Once I have a complete second draft, I reread the entire thing. Sometimes I print it out and use red pen. When I have a complete draft I can read out loud to myself without wanting to change anything, it’s ready to show my agent and my editor.

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments.

About Books

Books I’m Excited About

I’ve been writing so much lately that I haven’t had nearly enough time to read, which is terrible because there are so many books I’m desperate to get my hands on. I thought I’d share some of them with you, so that you can get excited about them too. Some are new releases but some aren’t. The book covers are also links, so just click if you want to know more about any of them. The list includes romance (contemporary and historical) and non-fiction because that’s what I happen to be in the mood for at the moment.

Contemporary Romance

There’s a couple of reasons I’m looking forward to this one. First, I loved (I mean LOVED) the previous book in the series Untouchable. Second, the heroine of That Kind of Guy is forty. Forty! Anyone who reads romance will know how unusual that is. Slowly, “seasoned” romance is becoming more of a thing, but it’s still rare enough that I’d read this even if the reviews weren’t great (which they are!)

Helen Hoang is a fellow Bookends author and last year’s The Kiss Quotient was one of the biggest romance debuts of last year. The Bride Test is about an autistic man and his arranged bride.

I loved the first book in this series A Princess in Theory Alyssa Cole is fast becoming one of my favorite authors and fake engagement is one of my favorite tropes.

Historical Romance

This is a good one for those of you who prefer romance novels without sex scenes. Mimi Matthews has her own publishing imprint Perfectly Proper Press and “the love stories are sweet, the settings are authentic, and the history is scrupulously accurate.” I’ve read all of her previous novels, which should tell you how much I enjoy her writing and characters! This is the second book of her Parish Orphans of Devon series. The first book The Matrimonial Advertisement is wonderful and, since A Modest Independence follows secondary characters from that book, I’d recommend starting with Book One.

Non-Fiction

I know, I know. Not another book about Jack the Ripper. But it’s actually not. Hallie Rubenhold has chosen to focus instead on the five victims, dispelling many Ripper myths, including the notion that all of the women he murdered were sex workers. It’s a relief to find a book about the case that isn’t focused on fruitless attempts to identify Jack.

Let me confess, I have never read any of Ursula Le Guin’s novels, though some are on my tbr list. But I have come across tidbits from this craft manual in various books and places around the web, which were enough to convince me I wanted to read this.

As an historical romance author, I’m very interested in the sexual mores of different eras. The eight authors explore romantic and sexual customs from British history through the centuries. From the book description: “The British Stripped Bare chronicles the pleasures and perils of the flesh, sharing secrets from the days of the Anglo-Saxons, medieval courtly love traditions, diabolical Tudor escapades including those of Anne Boleyn and Mary Queen of Scots, the Regency, and down to the prudish Victorian Era.”

Every now and again, I go through a true crime phase (I nearly said spree, which sounded scary), and I think I feel one coming on. I don’t know much about Lizzie Borden (beyond the forty whacks rhyme) and, given the glowing reviews , this book seems like a great place to find out more.

history

Eminent Victorians: Sarah Forbes Bonetta

Full-length photograph of Sarah Forbes Bonetta taken in 1862.
Sarah Forbes Bonetta by Camille Silvy, 1862, via Wikipedia.

People call her Queen Victoria’s black daughter, but Sarah Forbes Bonetta’s story is more complex than that. Was she, as Wikipedia would have it, a West African princess, Omoba Aina? And did Queen Victoria really adopt her?

Unfortunately, we may never know the truth about Forbes Bonetta’s origins. She was silent on that subject in her letters and never referred to any royal lineage. And, in the circles in which she sometimes moved, it would probably have rated a mention. Captain Frederick E. Forbes, the man who brought her to England when she was seven, and after whom she’s named (Bonetta was for his ship,) suspected she was from a good family. But she herself had only confused recollections of her past.

Sally (Sarah) Forbes Bonetta, aged about 13.

The Captain was visiting King Ghezo of Dahomey as part of an anti-slavery mission on behalf of the British Empire. Personally, I have my doubts as to how successful the meeting was, with regard to its stated aim, since Sarah was given to Forbes as a gift to Queen Victoria or, as Walter Dean Myers put it, “a present from the King of the blacks to the Queen of the whites.” Charming!

To be fair to the Captain (not to mention Queen Victoria,) Forbes Bonetta would have been put to death if the “gift” had been refused. Still, it’s perhaps a bit of a stretch to call this process an adoption. On a happier note, Victoria paid for Sarah’s education (the Captain called his young charge “a perfect genius”) and took a warm interest in her well-being. After an unsuccessful stint in a school in Sierra Leone, Sarah was sent to Kent where she lived with the middle-class Schoen family. It was Mrs. Schoen, not Victoria, whom Sarah addressed as “Mama” in her letters.

Having been brought up as a proper English lady, Sarah was expected to marry like one. Though initially unenthusiastic about the match, she obeyed Victoria’s wish that she marry Captain James Pinson Labulo Davies, a British naval officer originally from Sierra Leone.

A portrait of James Pinson Labulo Davies and Sara Forbes Bonetta, 1862, by Camille Silvy .

Despite this inauspicious beginning, the marriage seems to have been happy. Together they had three children, one of whom, Victoria, was named for the queen and became her goddaughter. Sadly, Sarah died of tuberculosis when she was only 37. The queen settled an annuity on her small namesake.

As for Davies, he erected a monument “IN MEMORY OF PRINCESS SARAH FORBES BONETTA.”