Jennifer's Journal


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fair Incognito

Writers make mistakes.  Distracted by life events—deaths, births, weddings, divorces, family accidents and illnesses— we sometimes let small story problems slip past us.  Normally these are caught by our editors or noticed and corrected during the reading of line edits or page proofs.  Now and then, one makes it into print.  Very few have actually gotten that far in my sixty-something books and novellas, but a fairly obvious one showed up in my 2007 novel, ROGUE'S SALUTE.  This involved the love scene between Nicholas and the "Fair Incognito" at Tivoli Gardens.


That I failed to resolve this small mystery truly bothered me when it was brought to my attention after the book was published, yet it seemed nothing could be done about it.  The books had been printed and shipped; I had others to write and little time to consider old errors.  Then a couple of weeks ago, I received an email asking in plaintive tones, "Is Juliette going to spend for the rest of her life thinking Nicholas betrayed her with the "Fair Incognito"?"


Two things became immediately clear.  First, readers sometimes become so involved in a story that the personal problems of the characters linger in mind long after the book ends.  Second, it wasn't strictly true that the question couldn't be resolved.  Though books four and five in the series had already been written, there was a sixth and final book in the making.  Surely I could find a place in it somewhere to include a solution for this issue?


That's the point of this message then, to promise that the "Fair Incognito" question will be settled between Nicholas and Juliette in the final book of the series, TRIUMPH IN ARMS (working title.)  And for those who can't wait that long – January of 2010! – I'm including here a small interruption of the scene on page 499 of ROGUE'S SALUTE, where Nicholas explains the actions of his former enemy and new brother-in-law by marriage, Daspit.  These few additional words will, I hope, provide some sense of completion for all those who would rather not wait over two years to see what I might write!


Addition to the summation in Rogue's Salute, written in Juliette's point of view, Nicholas speaking after the two of them are finally alone in their bedchamber.  He's stretched out on the bed while she sits at her dressing table:


"…When I weathered the small storm of Cables's death, primarily because no one cared what became of a Gallatin Street whoremaster – forgive me, but I know other term which fits – then Daspit thought he would surely have to meet me on the dueling field at some point.  Or meet me again since he thought I had taken him to task for his mistreatment of his placée, to demonstrate how I could threaten his health and his pretensions.  He had us waylaid at Tivoli Gardens with the idea of making this future match more even."

            Juliette looked up abruptly, her heartbeat stuttering in her chest.  "Us?"

            "Us," Nicholas said with precision.  "You and I, my Fair Incognito."

            Fair Incognito…

            "You knew.  All this time, you've known it was I who left the masked ball with you, walked with you into the dark garden, shared…"

            "Of course I knew,' he answered in rough certainty.  "How could I not?  I had held you, breathed your sweet scent, tasted your lips.  Who else could so destroy my concentration that I allowed a pair of ruffians to surprise me, almost overpower me?"

            He had known.  A great weight seemed to rise from her shoulders, taking with it every doubt she'd ever harbored.  "You might have said so."

            "What, and spoil your pleasure?"  He shook his head while soft remembrance rose in his eyes.  "And mine."


            "No, no, discovering the passionate lady behind the nun was far too intriguing."

            "You were intrigued?  Truly?"  A slow smile tilted her mouth as she held his dark eyes.  "I'm…glad."

            "Don't," he said in vibrant command.


            "Don't look like that or it will be the end of both my recital and my better intentions."

            "No, not yet," she said softly, lowering her gaze to the hairbrush in her hands.  "Go on, if you please."

            "It isn't what I please at all—"

            He stopped, drew a deep breath.  After a moment, he continued, though the words had a random sound.  "At any rate, in Daspit's mind the garden attack was imminently fair since he considered that I had set upon him unfairly in the earlier midnight duel, one actually perpetrated by Croquere while masked.  It was only this morning that Daspit recognized, finally, that I had never sought to harm him."


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Sunday, August 05, 2007


A recent TV program talked about Irish story tellers of the past, men similar to troubadours who traveled from town to town telling their tales.  They often put up at a neighborhood home where they were given a bed and food in return for the entertainment they provided.  Naturally, the more fascinating stories they could tell, the longer they could enjoy the comfort of staying in one place.  The canny story-teller, then, told rousing tales designed to captivate his audience.  He also stopped his narrative with a cliffhanger each night to heighten anticipation and give himself another, and yet another, evening of bed and board. 
All writers are story-tellers.  Our livelihoods depend on how well we keep our audience entertained.  We must aim to please using the Irish story-teller's techniques, then, writing great yarns that appeal to the minds and emotions of our audience -- and shoving them chock-full of cliffhangers to keep readers coming back for more.      

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

August Newsletter

Greetings all:


It's the Dog Days of summer here in Louisiana, the time of year when we go into our air conditioned houses and close the door until fall.  Not really, of course, but close.  With temps in the high 90s for days on end, it's only comfortable outside in early morning and late evening.  This means more time to write – which is either good or bad, depending on how you look at it.  Sometimes I see it one way, sometimes another!


A nice honor came my way at the end of July.  During the awards banquet for the national conference of Romance Writers of America in Dallas, I was recognized as one of the earliest recipients of the RITA for Lifetime Achievement, an award presented to me twenty years ago, in 1987.  This makes me, just possibly, the earliest recipient who is still regularly published.  And on this subject, I will be in Philadelphia in April 2008 for the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention.  RT is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the magazine by gathering together as many as possible of the "Pioneers" of the Romance genre.  It seems strange, in a way, that I'm counted among them, but so it is – since I published my first historical romance, a New York Times Best Seller, in 1977.  This promises to be a-major event showcasing dozens of famous authors.  Join us, if you can!  FMI:


I was saddened at the loss to cancer in July of a true pioneer of the genre and another RITA honoree, Kathleen Woodiwiss.  Though we never met, I followed her career from its beginning, when she lived in Alexandria, LA just 70 miles south of my home.  Kathleen has been credited with starting the romance industry in its modern, sensual incarnation with the phenomenal success of her first book, THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER.  A lovely and gallant lady, she was a source of inspiration for all those who followed in her footsteps.


This past month, I read and corrected the copy-edited version of GUARDED HEART, sword master Gavin Blackford's story, due out in February 2008.  A couple of weeks later, I read and corrected the author's proof pages for the book.  From this point, the book will go immediately to print in order to have ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) available in the fall for reviewers and booksellers.  The process of publication marches on.


In the meantime, I've started the chapter and character charts for TRIUMPH IN ARMS (working title), the sixth and final Masters at Arms book – or at least the final one under contract.  The character charts provide a quick reference for hair and eye color and any special features such as scars or dimples, etc.  They also help me get to know these people as I answer questions about their goals, their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes.  The Chapter Chart is a way of organizing the various events in the story so they make a natural, logical progression.  I take the basic premise of the story and its crises, as established in the proposal sent to my editor, and divide the scenes which will illustrate them among the number of chapters projected for the book, usually 20 to 30.  With these before me, I can then see where I need to add interest with additional events, additional crises.


I used to divide my books into 20 chapters of about 20-25 manuscript pages per chapter since that gave me the 400 – 500 pages required to reach 100 – 120,000 words.  Sometimes, I'd need to change the point of view and would include what's known as a space transition in the middle of a chapter to accomplish it.  Lately, I've begun to use shorter chapters, with every change of viewpoint becoming a new chapter.  The theory here is that readers prefer more frequent breaks in the story to suit their busy lifestyles and, possibly, shorter attention spans created by TV and video games.  The last book I read by James Patterson had more than a hundred.  Yikes.  Oddly enough, I like this new method myself, since I often take a break from polishing and revising at the end of a chapter.  Shorter chapters mean more breaks for me!


On a personal note, my youngest daughter recently had a mole removed which was diagnosed via biopsy as a melanoma.  This, as you may know, is a form of skin cancer which can rapidly spread to other parts of the body.  The good news is that her melanoma is in Stage 1.  Though she's still undergoing tests to make absolutely certain the cancer hasn't spread, we expect a complete cure.  But the problem is not rare.  If you have many moles, you are more likely to have a melanoma.  If anyone in your close family has ever been diagnosed with melanoma, you are more likely to have one as well.  If a mole on your body looks odd in any way, particularly if it has what appears to be irregular margins rather like a lace edging, make an appointment with a dermatologist today.  It's that important.  My appointment has already been made.


The winner of this month's autographed book is:  If this is your email address, please send a message from it with your name and a snail mail address to  Your book will be shipped ASAP.


Stay cool, stay well, stay happy.  Remember that reading makes the hottest day seem better!




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