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Shall We Dance? (Maiden Update #4)

So I finished the working draft for Maiden before Christmas and sent it out to a few beta-readers, including my wife.  When you hear one thing, you can dismiss it.  When you hear it again, there might be something.  But when multiple people give you the same exact feedback…you listen.

What was the feedback?
“For the love of all that’s holy we (the reader) need to know how Corwin and Jeanette feel about each other?  Don’t leave it so bottled up.  Give us SOMETHING towards the beginning of the book.”
Well, that’s not exactly what everybody said, but that’s the jist of it.  So as I have spent the last three weeks taking time to revise and edit and improve the book one of the ideas that came from all the suggestions was a dance scene.  It’s set in a mideival-ish time, they are having a festival, why wouldn’t they have a dance?  It’s perfect!  (Sidenote: Every movie I can think of off the top of my head that I have researched for this story has a dance scene…A Knight’s Tale being among my favorite).  Not sure why I didn’t think of it before, but that’s one of the blessings of a) letting others see your work and b) accepting the feedback they give you to help improve your story)
So today, I am glad to announce, that I finished the dance scene – and all the feedback the beta-readers gave me was correct (of course).  It has helped to build more interest in the characters, has helped to build some conflict, and has helped to solidify what direction the story needs to go.
So when in doubt…dance:-)
PS – a few weeks ago I asked on Facebook what the name of the song is that should be playing when Corwin and Jeanette dance for the first time.  I got a lot of responses and the current working title is ‘The Maiden’s Walk’.  It’s a slow dance, and the traditional dances back then were more of a group walk/turn/separate kind of interaction.

Beta-Reader Feedback in Hand – Final Revision Time! (Maiden Update #3)

The last three months have brought about so many wonderful things on the path to finishing this story.  

First, I had positive feedback from not one, but two agents, who I pitched at local conferences.  Talk about motivation to finish!!!
Second, I was fortunate and very humbled to be invited to become a member of a local writing group – Richmond Children’s Writers.  It has been exactly what I need to move forward in my writing career.  There are 10 other writers in the group and they have been so patient with me and my learning curve.  It’s an honor to be able to learn from them and hopefully give back.  I have learned a TON!
Last, but not least, I finished my 2nd revision of ‘Maiden‘.  I know I’m still not ‘done’ yet, but it was nice to have another box checked off.  I had four beta-readers total who were willing to go through the story and look for all the things that need to be fixed (I love you all!).   This week I finally got all the feedback.  Having another set of eye balls on it gave me so much perspective.  Things I knew needed to get fixed and didn’t know how, or ideas I never would have thought of that will make the story that much better.  
Some of the common themes I kept hearing from the beta-readers that I need to work on:
– Jeanette needs to have more purpose, more vision (interesting choice of words, given the relevance eye’s play in the book)
– I had too many point-of-view characters.  I need to keep out of so many people’s heads and keep it simple.  This has been great feedback for me and has really helped me keep the pace moving.
– The story is intended to be young adult and it is an adventure, that much I know.  The question has been about fantasy?  What entails fantasy?  At first, because there was a make believe land, it seemed fantasy was a good fit, but the book doesn’t have any dragons, wizards, or magic…typical fantasy flare.  But it does have some ‘elements’ of fantasy.  When readers went in thinking it was an adventure fantasy, they had a preconceived idea of what to expect, and when that’s not what it was, they were not happy.  So apparently I need to come up with something other than fantasy…’fantasy light’?
– There is a war that has been going on in the land, and is still waging.  I need to make it darker, more stark…have more affect in the everyday lives of the citizens.
That’s just a few things.  Great feedback that will really help bring the story to life.  
Very excited for this next phase of revising and to (sooner than later) have that final manuscript in hand and ready for submissions!

Title and Story Line (Maiden Update #2)

As I mentioned last week, my new novel is inspired by Joan of Arc and is going to be for my daughters, but that’s about all the information I gave.  Some of you were not so happy with me for not getting into details of the specific story line.

Well…let me do that!

Have I told you the (working) title of the book?  I didn’t!?  Jeesh, I need to get on the ball.

Maiden

Short, simple, leaves room for interpretation, but ultimately trying to convey a young woman on the verge of change.  Very much inspired by the Maid of Orleans.

Now, the story line.  Here is the one-minute blurb I’ve been giving lately when I get the question, “What is your book about?”

The Kingdom of Amarin is at war, and seventeen year-old Jeanette wants to get away; away from her controlling father, crazy mother and stifled life on the outskirts of the kingdom.  

After the royal caravan arrives for the yearly festival, her desire to leave is fulfilled, but it is more of a nightmare than a dream come true when she is chosen as one of the possible brides for the reluctant heir to the throne.   

At first, it appears she is trading one caged life for another, but a series of visions and promptings compel Jeanette to abandon her best friend and set off to discovery her true purpose.   With only her gut and the guidance of a mysterious hermit, Jeanette wrestles with fate to track down and join forces with John, the one soldier that can lead a revolution and hopefully turn the tide of war.

That’s it in a nutshell.  I’m very excited for you to get to know Jeanette and all the other characters (more about them in future posts).

I would love to know your thoughts and comments – please leave them below.

What Have I Been Working On? (Maiden Update #1)

In 2008 I was working on a middle-grade adventure series.  I had been working on it for roughly three years.  It was very much different than my first two books, which are more serious in tone and for an adult audience.

But in the fall of 2008 I hit a road block.  We (I use that term very loosely) were pregnant with our fourth child, I had just received a promotion at work giving me more responsibility, and my writing was more work than it was fun.  When something you do on the side stops becoming fun, it doesn’t take long for it to fall by the wayside.

So from September until the end of November I don’t remember writing much.  Life was busy and I focused on family and work.  If anything, I had relinquished the ‘writing’ weight that was hanging around my neck. Writing was something I would get to…someday.

Then two things happened in December of 2008 that changed everything.  The first was that our daughter, Andrea (or Andi), was born.  The second was that, because of her birth and the feelings associated with it, I had the desire to write again.  But the big difference was that for the first time ever, I had the desire to be a “writer”, not just a guy who wanted to turn stories into books so I could make a lot of money (who wouldn’t want to do that, right?).  And there is a BIG difference between a ‘writer’ and ‘somebody who just wants to publish a book’.

You see, the reason I was working on a middle-grade adventure series for three years is because my two previous books didn’t make any money, nor spurn the fancy of any agents or editors to get a book deal.  So I desperately tried to force a story that I thought was sellable and tried to force myself to write it.  The end result…it didn’t work.

But after Andi was born, I received my ‘aha’ moment.  I finally got the idea to write a story…just to write it.  I didn’t need to worry about what other people thought and I didn’t need to worry about selling it to an agent.  I was going to write a story for my daughters that I want them to enjoy.  Period.  And a whole new world opened up because of it!

So what is this story for my daugthers?

Ultimately, the feelings associated with daughter’s birth (and how I feel about all my daughters) is that they are queens.  They are royalty in every sense of the word. They are born with the essence of greatness in them.  They have the potential to become anything and everything they desire and to have amazing joy in their life.  That’s what I want the story to convey.

I started by looking up great women in history.  As I studied, I kept coming back again and again to Joan of Arc and I was fascinated by her history.  A simple farm girl who changed the tide of war for her people.  But there is so much more, it is awesome (except for the part where they burn her at the stake at the end…that kind of sucks)!

So the idea for my story is very much inspired by Joan of Arc.  It is not a retelling and it is not historical fiction, but it is inspired.  I like to think of it as, “What if a Joan of Arc type character had to save the kingdom, but also had to deal with your typical teenage angst and boy troubles?”

It’s been fun, hard, but utlimately rewarding.  More than anything else, I look forward to sharing it with my daughters.  But I also look forward to sharing it with you.

Right now I foresee the story as a trilogy (one book for each of my daughters).  I am done with the first draft of the first book and will be done with the first edit/revision sometime in the next couple of weeks (that’s a lot of firsts):-)

If there is one thing I have learned…don’t give up.  For you, whatever you have been inspired to do, keep moving forward.

As I mentioned, my inspiration for this book is my daughters.  Is there something in your life you are working on (a story, a piece of artwork, a song, etc.) and if so, what is your inspiration?  I would love to know!  Leave a comment below.

As the weeks and months progress, each Monday I will share more about the story and be looking for your thoughts and insight.  Be sure to back next Monday as I give a small tease and share the first few paragraphs from the book!!!