Jennifer's Journal


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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