The Power of Perseverance

Perseverance

[pur-suhveeruh ns]

noun
1. steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained. — Marie Curie

Photo credit: tricky (rick harrison) / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: tricky (rick harrison) / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Yesterday I received some wonderful news about one of my close friends from my college / theatre days. Joe Calarco was hired as a resident director and director of new works at the Tony-winning Signature Theatre in Washington DC. I realize most people who follow this blog are readers and writers, so let me emphasize that this type of position at this theatre is HUGE. This announcement moved me on many levels. The first being pure joy for my old friend. He has put in his time as a freelance director-playwright having directed his first musical with Signature back in 1998, plus countless other productions across the country and abroad. Prior to that I remember the days when he was writing, adapting, and doing whatever it took to find venues for his own work. Nothing would stop him. It is a lesson in perseverance I greatly admire, one I’m sure came with many sacrifices along the way. As stated in the article, this will be Joe’s first full time job since high school. All those years of sowing the seeds, working constantly in a freelance capacity, earned him a reputation of excellence in his field which brought about this hard earned opportunity.

It made me think of not just my theatre friends, many of whom are still out there, pounding the pavement, knocking on doors and WORKING in a relentless field, but my writing friends as well. It is hard to work in a field where rejection is paramount such as the theatre and publishing. We have to develop thick skin as writers. Back when I received my first publishing contract one of my writing friends said, “I always knew you’d be published. You never gave up on your goal.”

Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other. —Walter Elliot

In many ways now that all three Brothers of Audubon Springs books are out, I feel like I’m back to a place where I’m starting all over on my path to publication. I have my list of lessons learned from my publishing experience, and three new series I am actively writing at the moment. While working on all these projects at once makes me feel like I have writers ADD, until I decide on the absolute best route and project for my future, I’m not willing to let any of them go. Just as I’m feeling overwhelmed about the RoseAnn DeFranco, Author 2.0 path, and questioning “Do I have the energy to do all this?” I’m reminded of Joe’s success, as well as the success of many of my author friends. None of it would have been achieved were it not for the power of perseverance.

What are the things that keep you charging onward in the face of a long uphill climb? Do the successes of others inspire you as they do me? Is it the support of family, your writing circle? What gets you through…other than chocolate, a writer’s best friend, of course!

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Time Traveling in Colonial Williamsburg

The Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia was the official residence of the Royal Governors of the Colony of Virginia. This is a reconstruction of the original building.

The Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg, Virginia was the official residence of the Royal Governors of the Colony of Virginia. This is a reconstruction of the original building.

As an author of historical romance, I’ve often wished I could go back in time to see what daily life was like for the characters I write about.

A trip to Colonial Williamsburg, where the fake and real are artfully blended to recreate Virginia’s colonial past, is probably the closest a writer can get to time traveling.

So I set out to visit the quaint town that was once the capital of Virginia, Britain’s largest, wealthiest, and most populous outpost in the New World.

The historic area of covers 301 acres; 88 of its buildings are original structures from the 1700s, while other houses and shops were reconstructed on their original foundations.

The people who work there, known as interpreters, dress in period costume and address visitors in the formal language one might have expected to hear 200 years ago. It was a time when a lady never exposed her elbows and life expectancy was between 42 to 48 years old.

These ladies told me they like wearing stays because they are “comfortable & support you.”

These ladies told me they like wearing stays because they are “comfortable and support you.”

Costumed attendants also practice the ancient crafts, such as blacksmithing and brickmaking, in much the same way they would have in 1700s America.

The writer in me was fascinated to get a close-up look at this living history museum.

I started at the Millinery Shop to get a look at clothes and accessories from the colonial era.  The lady’s shift we saw was cut very wide to give the wearer more padding. Not exactly something a modern woman would want!

photo 1

Gentlemen’s riding breeches, these are leather, at the Millinery Shop.

 

photo 2

A man’s banyan with a floral pattern. Few colors or patterns were associated with gender back in colonial times.

 

A man's wrapping gown for casual dressing at home or at one's shop.  So yes, they were seen in public dressed this way.

A man’s wrapping gown for casual dressing at home or at one’s shop. So yes, they were seen in public dressed this way.

The rebuilt buildings were interesting but I was most fascinated by the original structures from the 18th century. The furnishings inside these houses are not original but they are period-appropriate pieces.

This parlor belonging to the lady of the house is painted blue because it was seen as a passive and feminine shade.

This parlor belonging to the lady of the house is painted blue because it was seen as a passive and feminine shade.

 

Wythe House, built in 1750, features the bright wallpaper that was a sign of wealth.

Wythe House, built in 1750, features the bright wallpaper that was a sign of wealth.

More signs of wealth: bright paint colors in two rooms.

More signs of wealth: bright wall colors in two rooms.

As a big fan of food, I paid special attention to the dining rooms, where the tables were laid out with fare residents of the home might have consumed.

Three meals were served each day: breakfast, dinner and supper. Dinner, what we now call lunch, was the biggest meal of the day and supper was often the leftovers from dinner.

Dinner at Randolph House might have included a leg of lamb, baked fish with peas, and sweet potato pudding. Pies without a top crust were called puddings.

Dinner at Randolph House might have included a leg of lamb, baked fish with peas, and sweet potato pudding. Pies without a top crust were called puddings.

 

Desserts in Colonial America included dried fruits and nuts, ginger cakes, pound cake puddings, red wine with lots of sugar and apple pie.

Desserts in Colonial America included dried fruits and nuts, ginger cakes, pound cake puddings, red wine with lots of sugar and apple pie.

And if your meal didn’t sit well in your belly, it was time for a visit to the apothecary.

I was amused to learn laxatives were the most-prescribed curative in 18th Century Williamsburg. Syrup of violets was used to ease this uncomfortable problem. Camphor was an inhalant to open nasal passages and also for muscle aches and pains. Sulfur helped with skin conditions and cloves eased tooth aches.

My favorite Colonial Williamsburg medical treatment was chocolate, which was recommended as a cough suppressant.

Spanish flies were used to ease urinary tract infections and also as an aphrodisiac.

Spanish flies were used to ease urinary tract infections and also as an aphrodisiac.

Overall, it wasn’t exactly time traveling but my visit to Colonial Williamsburg did give me a glimpse into the past and I was inspired when I sat down to write again; my characters and the times in which they lived came to life a bit  more vividly in my mind.

What about you? As an author, what inspires your writing? As a reader, what inspires you to read novels set in different time periods?   

I picked up this Colonial Williamsburg tote bag on my visit. I'll gift it to a blog visitor who leaves a comment. Thanks for stopping by!

I picked up this Colonial Williamsburg tote bag on my visit. I’ll gift it to a blog visitor who leaves a comment below.

 

Dealing with the Walking Dead

I’m going to put this out there. I am not a nice person. I can be pretty ruthless. When I no longer have use for someone, I have no problem throwing him out.

Sherlock idiot

Giphy.com

 

If I don’t like something that happens, I can easily tuck it away so that I forget it ever occurred. And if somebody says something that doesn’t make sense, I readily say “That’s stupid!”

Such is the life of a writer.

Oh, you thought I was talking about real life? Did you forget this is a blog about writing? Silly!

Let me first say, I’m a Capricorn. We Capricorns are known for being loyal to a fault…until you cross us. Still, I’m inordinately proud of the progress I’ve made in being able to disassociate myself from something that is no longer working in my manuscript. It isn’t easy. Writers become attached to their words in ways that are incomprehensible to most people.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to say this. Writing a book is like pregnancy, and can take just as long (or longer!). Sometimes, it can be just as painful. There’s this surge of joy when you come up with a new idea for a story, much like the feeling you get when you first discover you are pregnant. Your mind starts racing, you picture scenes and plotlines, characters and settings, you decorate and embellish the story in your mind’s eye just as you plan out the nursery for your new bundle of joy.

As you go through your book “pregnancy”, your baby gives you growing pains. Suddenly, a scene isn’t working and you have the worst case of indigestion. What do you do?

Your first course of action is to medicate with a handful of M&M’s, which are always at hand for any serious writer. M&M’s make everything better, at least temporarily. Then, you attack the offending scene with gusto, working and reworking it until it makes sense. Unfortunately, sometimes the reworking serves only to suck the life out of the scene completely. If that is the case, you chop it out. Cut off its head. Put it in solitary confinement in a file marked “Save for later” that you hopefully will remember you created when you realize that the scene actually DOES work, just not where you had it. Maybe it belongs in a different story entirely. Maybe it will never get used. Still, it’s there, waiting for that moment when you recognize its value.

Yet for every discomfort, for every pang you get as your “baby” grows, there is a moment of sheer joy, that feeling a mother gets when she holds her child for the first time. It’s that thrill you get when you laugh out loud when you’re writing a scene. The tear you get in your eye when everything seems hopeless for your characters’ happily ever after. The rush you get at the possibilities for your story’s success, because you know, you just KNOW, you got it right.

Here’s the thing. Writing is hard. It’s a solitary job with lots of rejection. Life often gets in the way. Hardly anybody writes their first book and sells a million copies of it. Practice makes perfect…or at least, perfect enough that an editor wants to buy it.

And here’s another truth…if you stop writing, you get rusty. I’m learning that firsthand these days. My writing has hit a dry patch. My baby has stopped growing, and there’s that fear of miscarriage, that the manuscript I’m working on will never reach its full potential. What I find, though, whenever I return to the story, is that it is just sleeping. Sometimes it takes a little while to wake it up, but eventually, it springs back to life.

I never, ever discard anything I write. That isn’t ego talking. It’s common sense, and yes, attachment. Just as I couldn’t discard one of my own children, so I couldn’t discard even a paragraph that isn’t working out the way I want it to. At every conference I’ve ever attended, one of the key speakers has referred to that first offending manuscript, the one that didn’t sell, that nobody wanted, that sits in a drawer at home as a reminder of how far the author has come. Because if you keep writing, you will get better at it. Your first book isn’t going to be as good as your fifth, or even your second.

I have a huge graveyard of unused writing, waiting to be resurrected when its usefulness is clear. It will be the Zombie Apocalypse of (Jaye Marie) Rome.

*********

How do you deal with wayward words?

 

Jaye

 

 

 

Publishing a Series Out of Order & Other Adventures in Publishing

UnderwoodKeyboardThe one thing all newer authors learn pretty quickly is that there is no blueprint, no “how to” guide, to publishing.

We kind of have to feel our way around, gleaning what information we can from conferences and loops while being careful not to ask our editors or agent too many questions for fear of being a pest or looking stupid (at least in my case).

I’m a new-ish author.  Even though I’ve published three books in the past year, I remain a novice in many ways and how I handled my first series certainly attests to that fact.

My debut novel, published in April 2013, was not the first manuscript I wrote; it wasn’t even the first book I sold. The first title I sold was Tempting Bella, the third book in the series. My fabulous agent went to bat for me right away, asking my editor to publish the second book in the series, Seducing Charlotte, first.

Why not the publish the first book in the series first? After all, that would make the most sense as reviewers have certainly pointed out.
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Writing is Personal

Have you ever read a book and wondered how much of it is actually an account of the author’s own life?

I had a discussion with my eighth grader tonight about To Kill A Mockingbird, and she talked about how certain aspects of Harper Lee’s novel came directly from the author’s life. Scout is believed to be based on Harper Lee herself, and Dill is based on her neighbor, the one and only Truman Capote.

Naturally, as writers, we put a lot of our personal experience or viewpoints into our work. How can we not? There is no way we can separate ourselves so completely, mentally and emotionally, from what we create. Any writing instructor, agent, or editor will tell you…write what you know.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking, however, that we are writing our own lives, unless, of course, we tell you it is so.

There are people who believe this to be the case. More than once, I’ve seen that “wink, wink, nudge,nudge” look in someone’s eye when I say I write romance. I’m telling you right now…it’s called fiction for a reason, people! And I have a really healthy imagination.

File:1876. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.djvu

(photo in the public domain)

Certainly, I am present in my writing. My viewpoints, the important themes in my life, my values, all have their place in what I write. I think I would find it hard to write something that was completely antithetical to my way of living. Could Hemingway have written For Whom the Bell Tolls without drawing on his experiences as a reporter during the Spanish Civil War? Would Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer have felt so authentic if the author didn’t draw from his childhood to write the book? The task of a writer is figuring out how, and when (or even if) to present that bit of themselves through the eyes of the characters in the novel.

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Hemingway’s Tips for Writers

A Moveable Feast Not long ago, I read The Paris Wife, Paula McLain’s bestselling novel about the first of Ernest Hemingway’s four wives.

The novel covers a remarkable period of time—Paris in the 1920s—when the Hemingways socialized with accomplished literary figures such as F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound, a group that came to be known as the “Lost Generation.”

I was so riveted by the interactions among these fascinating characters that I immediately downloaded A Moveable Feast, Hemingway’s own account of his time in Paris as a struggling, unknown writer.

There were many things about the book that resonated with me, including Hemingway’s self-described habits for fruitful writing and I thought they might be of interest to other authors as well.

So here are a few tips that might help you get your “Hemingway” on…starting with a technique Ernest used to make sure the words kept flowing:

I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day…I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.

During this period, Hemingway worked in a small room on the  top floor of a hotel, a space he described as “warm and pleasant.” He would bring mandarin oranges and chestnuts to roast on the fire when he was hungry. And when he hit a stumbling block…

Ernest Hemingway (wearing a beret) sits by a fireplace in his apartment in Paris, France. (Papers of Ernest Hemingway. Photograph Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)

Ernest Hemingway (wearing a beret) sits by a fireplace in his apartment in Paris, France. (Papers of Ernest Hemingway. Photograph Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)


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Journey after the edits

You’ve prepped and polished your manuscript. You’ve gone through the nail-biting experience of pitching to an editor or agent. You’ve been rejected up the wazoo. After much blood, sweat, and tears, you’ve gotten “the call” and have been offered a contract. Congratulations, you’re getting published! The hard work is over, right?

Wrong!

The moment you sign that contract your life has changed. You will never again be that naïve unpublished writer in search of someone who will believe in your story as much as you do. Rather, you’ll be the naïve soon-to-be-published author with a lot to prove and in search of finding ways to reach your readers.

Discoverability. Friend or foe? Art or Science? Whether a writer or a reader, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with this word. So what’s the secret of being discovered? Actors and actresses seek it. As do authors. Below are a few tips I’ve found helpful on this leg of my publishing journey.

Marketing Plan – If you’re traditionally published, you may know your book’s release date months in advance. That’s not always the case if you’re published with a small press. I knew an approximate timeframe when my book would be available worldwide and backed into when I expected my Amazon KDP pre-release to be. It ended up being a month earlier. Unfortunately, I kept putting off preparing and had two weeks to put some type of marketing plan in place.
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Dirty Talk, Regency Style

CompromisingWillaThis week’s release of Compromising Willa, my third Regency romance, got me thinking about language and how we use it.

Working on edits for Compromising Willa probably triggered my current preoccupation with words because I was also writing my first contemporary romance at the same time. This meant I had to jump back and forth between historical and modern-day dialogue, making sure my 19th Century duke hero didn’t end up saying things like “dude” and “cool.”

Compromising Willa was the first book I ever wrote and I certainly made mistakes regarding historical accuracy along the way. In a critical scene where the hero meets the heroine for the first time, I had him strike a match to light his cheroot. It was a great scene except that the story takes place during the Regency period, well before matches were invented. Oops.

Since then, I have done my best to get the research right. Sometimes an author takes a little license to move the story forward, but in general I’ve tried to be as historically accurate as possible.  These days, when researching the proper language for historicals, I often turn to the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

Some of the crass terms crack me up, so  I thought I’d share a few:

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Songwriters, Timeless Storytellers

o4cZKFu[2]I love songwriters. I envy their ability to create a lyric that tells a complete story from beginning to end, in roughly three minutes, set to music. If the same person wrote the music too…oh man, am I hooked. There is something about that connection between the lyrics and music I find incredibly sexy and inspiring…as in GENIUS inspiring.

Songs, sometimes complete albums by a specific artist, have been the inspiration behind a story or an idea of a story that goes into the idea file. In today’s digital age, it’s easy to purchase and download only the current hits. I’m still of the old school of buying the complete album, listening to every track and reading every word in the liner notes. I love to glimpse inside the songwriter’s world and try to understand a bit of their mindset while creating a complete volume of work.

Most songs are relatively clear and don’t require much in the way of translation or interpretation. However there are times when a song really moves me, captures my attention with a gripping melody and lyrics that keep me guessing. When this happens I study the lyrics and then search the true inspiration behind the song.  
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