If it seems like you’ve waited 250 years then yeah, you’ve got it bad

I’ve been told that several “Easter eggs” have been planted throughout Outlander Season Three premiering this Sunday, September 10 on Starz. So what’s an Easter egg? It’s those little hidden gifts the producers like to plant in various scenes that only true fans will know the significance of. Sounds like fun and I can’t wait to look for them. But you’re an old-time devotee of the series, then you’ve already noticed quite a few pieces of coal as well. What I mean is we old-timers have been on the Claire/Jamie team for well over twenty years now since the Diana Gabaldon’s first book of the series, Outlander, debuted in 1992. And as readers of the books–sometimes two or three times–there’s certain things that have veered from the texts. Personally, I’m not complaining, as many variations have either had no significance or even improved the story. And since Diana Gabaldon has had such an active part in the production, she must approve of the changes. Plus ultimately, showrunner Ronald D. Moore is certainly entitled to his own vision and for the most part, I overwhelmingly approve. Still, there are some things that have veered from the written text that stand out for me (and if you don’t want to know what they are, if you think I’m a spoilsport and should just shut up and watch, then stop reading right here):

  • Claire, unlike the very talented, blue-eyed Caitriona Balfe, has brown eyes. In the book they are described as very unusual and “sherry-colored.”
  • The wedding ring Jamie gives Claire is a silver band decorated in the Highland interlace style, a small Jacobean thistle bloom carved in the center.
  • Jamie gets violently seasick, so bad he’s literally unable to come on deck when a ship is in motion. After he is liberated from Wentworth Prison in the book, he’s mostly unconscious and it’s not until France when he’s taken to the monastery to recover. The fact he’s unconscious is a lifesaver. Gabaldon deals with this quirk of Jamie’s in an inventive way with a novel character in Book Three and sailing on a ship becomes pivotal to the plot. Not that I’m telling you here!
  • In the books, Jamie and Claire’s daughter, Brianna, is described as tall and big-boned, size 16 and six-feet tall. There is no doubt that she is Jamie’s daughter, with her height and flaming-red hair. She was also born and raised in Boston, and there’s no doubt in my mind she pahks her cahr in Ha-vahd yahd.

Don’t get me wrong–I love-love-LUFF this series, and I can live with any of these changes and enjoy it tremendously. But I’m not going to deny the fact as a tall and big-boned woman, I would have loved to see an equally tall and big-boned woman playing the part of Jamie’s daughter, especially in this year of Wonder Woman. But if that would mean living without Jamie each Sunday night at nine, well, come on. Life is all about compromise, isn’t it?

Sunday night at eight.  You’ll know where I’ll be.

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Editors! Agents! Authors! Oh my!

Jones-ing for some editors and agents and a little literary elbow-rubbing? Then how about taking a trip to Red Bank for the LitPow Author-Preneur Workshop by the River on September 16, 2017.  This event is an amazing multilayered interactive full day workshop with presentations by  Literary Agent Marisa A. Corvisiero, Esq., and other key industry professional guests dedicated to authors’ success. The workshop is presented at a beautiful location by the Navesink River in Red Bank, NJ, where the setting is relaxing and inspiring. Light breakfast, lunch, and social mixer will be provided.

During this retreat like full day workshop authors have the opportunity to attend various Presentations, pitch Literary Agents and Editors (Optional), get a book signed by NY Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Heidi McLaughlin during our Mixer, get work critiqued by Agents and Editors (Optional), attend the Gong Show: First Page Critique Literary Agent and Editor Panel, and Network with authors and industry professionals all day long and during a Networking Mixer after hours.

For more info and registration about the Author-Preneur Workshop visit their website here.

(Un)Totally Awesome

That’s me in all my hefty glory staring up at the sun (yes, it’s true the camera adds ten pounds. Or it’s what I choose to believe!) I was staying at a hotel in Smithville, NJ, and as it happened our room had its own deck on a pond (or “lake” as they chose to believe), which gave us a great view of the moon slowly chipping away at our local star.  Okay, so it was only at approximately 76-80%, and the sky didn’t really darken, and the birds didn’t hit the trees to roost. But it was really, really chill looking at this cosmic event. Or as Neil deGrasse Tyson  tweeted, “The divided United States of America will unite today, sharing a cosmic event predicted by the methods and tools of science.”

So why is this important? I mean beyond the expected scientific significance? Because of all the rampant divisiveness lately, this was one instance where we all came together as humans, as like the setting and rising of the sun itself, the eclipse affected everyone. Everyone had a chance to revel in or marvel at it, as even complete strangers, caught up in their glee over it, were willing to share their solar glasses so those unequipped could have a peek. Although I and my husband didn’t view it in a group per se, we were at a public place (the hotel we stayed at is in the middle of a little commercial village of shops and cafes), with people walking by, kids fishing in the pond, or employees milling about, with everyone ready with a comment and the willingness to share their eclipse glasses if you didn’t have a pair. We had three pairs and gave away two, one before and one after the peak, both of them to kids.  Both were delighted.

So what’s next on the nature extravaganza schedule? Welp, we’re now officially in hurricane season, which is supposed to be more active than normal, which is apropos as this October brings us to the five year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. Not only that, but current studies are showing us it’s not only the West Coast that should be worrying about earthquakes, and we’re way overdue for one on the East Coast. Really? Now I’ve got to worry about that?

Maybe I’ll just wait for the leaves to change. As the eclipse just showed, some nature is much more passive than aggressive.

 

And you sir, are no George

Bust of George Washington on display at the Museum of the Revolution in Philadelphia, said to be the closest resemblance in existence of the nation’s first president.

The father of our country has been getting a bit of bad press lately. There’s been chatter going around that he’s no different from General Robert E. Lee, saying they both were Southerners, they both owned slaves, they both revolted against an oppressive government. The chatter says if you’re tearing down monuments of Gen. Lee, you should also be pulling down monuments of Washington, as what’s the difference? They were both flawed men, both incited dissent and revolution, both, I don’t know–rode horses (thanks, Brian Williams). And if we want to be perfectly truthful, both were men of their times. But there’s a distinct difference that some don’t get. Or rather, refuse to acknowledge.

What Washington did, along with Jefferson and Franklin and Adams to name a few, was extraordinary in its audaciousness. They dared to propose a government not of kings but of laws, not of a hereditary monarchy but of the people. Of course it was exclusionary, but it allowed for evolution, to create a more perfect union, to strive for …the pursuit of happiness.  This American Revolution began even before Jefferson’s pen scratched out its principles, because it was so revolutionary in its thinking it instantly made obsolete every form of government before it. These men were not only of their time, but of the future. They envisioned a way forward, they dared to think that all men were created equal, even if all men at that time weren’t. But toward that more perfect union they marched, this government of laws that no man was above, in a sincere effort to get it right.

But Gen. Lee disagreed and led a march toward the past. He was defeated, as all backward thinking usually is. And in that, we find another truth.

We won’t go there again. We can’t. Because it’s not only in our nature to not go back, it’s in our collective DNA.  We’re still marching toward that more Perfect Union.

 

If I only had the time, sigh…

I read an article today in the New York Times by Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed about a woman who had a powerful dream one night about writing a book. The dream was so intense she awoke in tears, almost ready to quit her job and become a barista so she could pursue it. (Riiiight. Because that’s the path bestsellerdom, certainly more practical than getting an MFA and adjuncting yourself out as an English professor. But I digress.) Cheryl Strayed, who knows a thing or two about dropping out, acknowledged that dream may have been a kind of wake-up call, but also issued a few cautions. “Writing a book is drudgery,” she said. “It requires an apprenticeship. I suggest that you begin by doing it. Sign up for a workshop or take a vacation and spend it writing. See where that leads you. You don’t have to immediately quit your job to become a writer. You need only to start writing.”

Words never more true. You can’t call yourself a writer if you never write because writers write. I’d like a dollar for every time I’ve heard, “I’d write a book if I only had the time,” or “When I retire I’m going to write a book.” Yeah, because writers are really people with these friendless, vacant lives, and they only write to give themselves something to do besides watching The Bachelorette. (And no I didn’t.) Now, when I retire I’m going to preform brain surgery because you know, it’s the same kind of simple skill set. In my opinion, this type of thinking boils down to what many outside the profession believe: that writing is either something anyone can do if one could afford the leisure, or it’s this ephemeral kind of vocation that awards stardom upon completion of the inevitable masterwork. In reality, I hate to tell you, it’s usually neither.

But one thing I can say with absolute certainty is the writing life is just that. It’s like being being pregnant: you either are or you’re not. You can’t be kinda. When you’re in the life, it’s all-consuming. A work-in-progress is a cruel, unrelenting succubus (or incubus) that forgoes your loins for your every creative thought. It demands all of your time, whether working or driving or eating  or sleeping–it takes hold of both rational and irrational thought and doesn’t let go. It demands you set every word and impulse down by forcing you to confront the blank page, administering pain no opiate could numb, but rewarding you with a pleasure beyond sublime in the process.  But to be good at it, to be a success, it entails hours upon tens of hours of trial and error, the ability to withstand heaps and heaps of criticism, the tenacity to write the same passage a dozen times over, and the capacity to understand failure as a fact of any writer’s life.

In the end, if you have a hardened enough hide to spend hours in a chair, days without family, weekends forgoing anything social, and months and months of hurrying up to meet a deadline, only to spend an equal amount of time hearing nothing back, then maybe–just maybe you’re ready to wake up from that dream into a new reality. And take that job as a barista.

Hey, at least it has benefits.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Poor Yorick Journal

Poor Yorick: A Journal of Rediscovered Objects brings back into light the skeletons hidden in our cultural closets.  The free online journal welcomes writing and other creative productions about lost objects and images of material culture: sculptures and paintings in the back rooms of museums or in hidden corners of public spaces; murals forgotten in plain view; lost photographic archives and restored films; newly discovered letters or manuscripts; knickknacks in attics; oddities and curiosities in misbegotten sideshows; forgotten stories that remind us of pasts that we cannot afford to forget.

Poor Yorick invites submissions in any and every literary genre and any electronically reproducible visual or audio medium.  In addition to open submissions, the journal’s editorial staff will occasionally identify a particular historical object, collection, exhibit, etc., and call for submissions inspired by the selected artifact or collection.

Poor Yorick evaluates submissions exclusively through our submissions manager, Submittable, which can be accessed here.  For more information, visit their submission guidelines page.

Congratulations! You’ve been rejected!

I know I’ve dealt with the subject of rejections before and although it’s hardly a happy topic, it is one of transition. Reality is a cruel mistress, and you can’t spin in the real world of writers if you’ve never been kicked to your ass a few times (or over a hundred like I’ve been, probably more, as I trust my agent to only give me the good news.) And you may as well face it now, snowflake, it’ll probably get a lot worse before it gets better. True, there’s always the case of the author whose first manuscript lands with the first agent they contact who sells it to the first editor. This happens. I know of a couple of cases myself. But the bald fact is the road to publication is pocked with a shit-ton of potholes. The trick is to learn how to veer around them and keep on going.

A fellow writer of mine got her very first rejection yesterday from an industry professional. She said although getting one made her sad, the agent gave her such detailed comments, she considered it good advice rather than criticism. It made her reconsider her characterization, as well as where the protagonist’s actions were leading the plot. And that in turn made her see her protagonist in a new light. I cautioned her that you don’t have to always agree with what an editor or an agent says as ultimately, you have the final say on what you write. But sometimes you can come so close to a work, especially after many revisions, you lose sight of the overall story arc. And I hate to say it but sometimes, unless that advice comes from an industry professional, you may not take those suggestions to heart. Often we will already have heard the same thing from a friend or beta-reader, but who listens to those? Unless, of course it’s effusive praise.  The other thing is–and you’ll often hear an agent or editor echoing this–all writing, as well as reading, is subjective. As what may seem phenomenal to you may just seem meh to an industry professional. As in the–REJECTION I JUST RECEIVED WHILE WRITING THIS!! My agent’s text:

Just got a decline from XXXXX <publisher>. <Editor> said you are very talented, but she didn’t fall in love with the story as much as she wanted to. Sorry.

Fuck. Fuckity-fuck fuck. But I’m not going to get upset. I’M NOT. Really and truly. <goes to retrieve big piece of 72% Belgian chocolate to salve wounded ego. Drinks big sip of water. Feels much better. Though has been known to lie on occasion.>

A-hem! Where was I? Oh yes, my self-fulfilling prophecy. Call me a duck, because you do have to let it slide off your back. At this moment I’m channeling James Lee Burke and his book The Lost Get Back Boogie that was rejected 111 times before it was eventually published, and even nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Hey, you got to find your inspiration somewhere.

Now get back to work.

Call for Proposals!

Liberty States Fiction Writers, a multi-genre fiction writing group meeting in New Jersey (and for whom yours truly is the Vice-President) has sent out a call for proposals for our annual Writers Conference. Have a workshop about the craft or business of writing? Maybe you have a fun filled idea for a readers track panel? Perhaps you have both? Then we want to hear from you!

The Liberty States Fiction Writers welcomes pre-published writers at all levels as well as e-published, indie press and traditionally published authors.

Yearly dues for new members are $50 and include attendance at monthly workshops, reduced conference rate, access to Members Only section with videos/podcasts of past workshops, monthly newsletters, promotional opportunities and more.

Our annual conference will take place at the The Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel in South Iselin, NJ March 24 – 25, 2018. Conference includes workshops, panels, editor and agent appointments, select meals, networking, book fair and more. Conference registration opens in September, though for more information about LSFW and on submitting your proposal now, go here. Looking forward to hearing from you!

 

Sex Scenes for Chicks 101

Out of all my posts, this one seems to be the most popular, as the hits have been innumerable. So here is my sagey-est of sage advice. Hope it helps!

Gwen Jones Writes

man-kissing-womanSex scenes are as integral to spicy romance as whipped cream is to sundaes (or to use-your-imagination), but quantity hardly speaks for quality. A proliferation of ins and outs and seductive banter are only the more apparent components of saucy scene-writing. Truth be told, there should be much more going on before the point of contact than during. A romance writer should never forget to keep an eye on the romance if she’s ever going to make the scene truly sensuous. So how to accomplish it?

Romance is mostly written by and for women, and because of that the prose has to be approached with their sensibilities in mind. Women take their cues from the images they form in their mind as their senses are acted upon, rather than visuals observed as men are more apt to do. This is the greatest difference I’ve noted between sex scenes written by…

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Seriously Snark

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