Friday, August 14, 2009

Authonomy - is it for you?

In StirlingEditor's blog post, The Ultimate Survivor's Guide to Authonomy, she brings up some very valid points about the web site authonomy hosted by Harper Collins UK. Begun a little more than a year ago, its primary purpose was to serve as a cyber slush pile. The idea was that writers could post their stories there, then the other site members (predominantly writers) would sift through them, vote for their favorites by putting them on a virtual shelf, and at the end of each month the top five would land on the Editor's Desk, where they would be awarded a professional critique. There was also the obvious possibility of Harper Collins plucking something from the slush pile - a very attractive lure to any struggling writer. So far three manuscripts have been selected from further down for publication and a few others are currently under consideration.

Stirling Editor explores both the positives and negatives of the site, why writers flock there and how some of them use the site. It's worth saying here that every site member's experience there varies from fantastically beneficial, to horridly upsetting. I posted my work there originally to see what kind of reaction it would get - I needed to know if there was hope for me, or if I should reconsider my career path. What I learned was that some readers loved it and gushed profusely (which made me feel quite undeserving), while others just didn't 'get it' and spared no harsh words. After recovering my wounded pride from the latter, it always occured to me that even the most lauded writers and those who regularly hit the bestsellers' lists have their critics.

I now take criticism less personally. And praise with more humility. I learned by reading a variety of works to gage very quickly why certain writing did or didn't capture my attention - this was something I've since applied to my own writing. I've received valuable feedback that has improved my stories considerably - a favor which I try to pay forward when I'm able to. I've also learned the monumental task that agents and editors have sifting through their own slush piles - there is so much quality work out there, it's no wonder that achieving publication has as much to do with luck and persistence as it has to do with the talent of the writer.

The sum total of the experience has caused me to raise the level of my own writing. And to be more determined to get it out there to reach readers. I've met some phenomenal people and for that reason alone it has been worth the time.

For most, authonomy itself will not result in publication. For a few, it will. It can be about shooting up the rankings or just getting that one bit of advice or morsel of validaton that you need to carry on. It can be drama and competition, a huge time vaccuum, or a place to forge solid friendships. It is what you make it. Is it for you?

Until later,


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

And the award goes to...

My dear friend and crit group partner, Anita Davison, nominated my blog for a One Lovely Blog Award, with the stipulation that I pass it along to three more deserving people. So here are the recipients:

Julie Conner
, who is like my soul sister and who writes with such vivid imagery that I feel like I've stepped into a 3-D flick when I read it. Last year she was kind enough to read and comment on my whole ms. and offered me some truly valuable insights. She's just beginning her blogging career, so stop by and check it out.

Jack Ramsay, a Scot now living Down Under, who's been exceedingly generous with his time and advice to fellow writers. He's also a very funny guy! Together with Karen Bessey Pease, the two have started a blog devoted primarily to the topic of bullying (and Karen has a fantastic book called Grumble Bluff on that very subject).

And Gev Sweeney, a fellow Authonomite, who's been posting her lovely book, The Scattered Proud, chapter by chapter. I am in awe of her talent. Not to forget that she's exceedingly kind and always welcoming to new faces over at Authonomy.

Until later,

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Writing rituals

World crisis averted. This morning I realized what a creature of habit I am - and an addict. My coffee supply was low and I had a brief panic attack in which I broke out in a cold sweat and had heart palpitations, but thank goodness my husband was going to the village and could re-stock it. You see, after stumbling out of bed and letting the dogs out, the next thing I do is make myself a pot of coffee before jumping in the shower. My brain cells do not speak to each other unless I massage my scalp with vanilla- or green tea- scented shampoo and then pour some caffeine down my throat. Actually, it would be more effective if I just injected the latter, but it's the sensation of tasting my java that's the best part of my morning. Do not even try to carry on a civilized conversation with me before the coffee kicks in and I've rinsed away yesterday's grime. My husband can vouch that I'll likely just mutter at you in a tone that says, "Go away."

Imbibing my cup of morning coffee is probably the most essential part of my writing routine. As I said, I'm not coherent without it and nothing quite stirs the senses like a steaming mug of Toasted Almond or Chocolate Raspberry. And it must come from the Emporium in quirky Yellow Springs, Ohio where they wrap the stop sign posts in rainbow crochet and if your car has a Reublican bumper sticker you're an endangered species. Ordinary, mass produced grocery store coffee is not an acceptable substitute. I've been known to open the bag of coffee beans and just inhale it.

Said coffee, for optimum writing output, must be in one of either two mugs: Henry "Hotspur" Percy or Edward, the Black Prince. These two mementos were purchased at touristy Warwick Castle on a trip to England. Somehow, drinking from them makes writing about medieval places more of a connection. Okay, so I'm a little weird that way, but the rule at our house is that no one but me is allowed to drink from those cups and they are reserved for writing days, not lazy weekends.

My husband calls me a 'coffee snob'. Hey, it's a cheap habit and if it helps me write, what's the harm? I'd have less withdrawal symptoms if I lost my cell phone and my laptop was attacked by a computer virus and the horrible blue screen of death popped up. Just, please, don't ever take my coffee away.

Until later,

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Capture of Elizabeth Bruce

Did you know that Robert the Bruce's wife, Elizabeth, was captured and held in custody by the English for 8 years?

Yesterday, while revising my second Robert the Bruce book, Worth Dying For, I came across this picture. It made me think of Longshanks (King Edward I of England). I suppose that bears explaining.

In 1306, Robert the Bruce and his ragged band were fleeing south through the Scottish Highlands after a devastating defeat by the Earl of Pembroke at the Battle of Methven. On the 11th of August, near the Pass of Dalry, they were ambushed by Argyll warriors led by John of Lorne. Before engaging with Lorne's forces, Robert sent his wife, Elizabeth, daughter Marjorie, and sisters Mary and Christina off with the Earl of Atholl and his brother Nigel (or Neil).

Nigel Bruce reached the Bruce stronghold of Kildrummy, but within the month the castle was besieged by the English. Unfortunately, the castle blacksmith, lured by promises of gold to whomever handed the fortress over, set fire to the stores of grain. Nigel was forced to surrender. He was hanged and beheaded in Berwick.

Elizabeth Bruce and the other women, however, were not at Kildrummy. They had been escorted further north with the Earl of Atholl, with the aim of reaching Orkney where they would take ship to Ireland to hopefully reunite with Robert. They made it as far as St. Duthac's shrine near Tain, when they were captured by the Earl of Ross, a supporter of the Comyns, Bruce's enemies. They were transported to the monastery of Lanercrost - straight into the hands of Longshanks.

The Earl of Atholl was conducted all the way to Westminster, where he met the same fate as Nigel Bruce. His head topped a pike on London Bridge. Marjorie Bruce was placed in a wooden cage, which was hung from the walls of the Tower of London (although she was later moved to a nunnery); Mary Bruce was sentenced to a similar fate at Roxburgh Castle; and Christina Bruce was treated more leniently, being consigned to a nunnery.

Queen Elizabeth was too valuable for Longshanks to risk her health. She was placed under house arrest at Burstwick-in-Holderness, where she spent the next eight years of her life.

Much happened to Robert the Bruce during this time. In June of 1314, the Scots triumphed at the Battle of Bannockburn over the English, led by King Edward II (Longshanks' son). While Edward fled to Berwick, the Scots also captured the English baggage train, which included the Great Seal of England and the Royal Shield. King Robert was able to use these to procure the release of his female kin (all but for Mary, who is presumed to have died).

After eight years apart, he and Elizabeth were finally reunited. Even though they did not have any children in the early years of their marriage, they had two daughters and two sons after Elizabeth's return.

Now that's a happy ending!

(More inspirational cat pictures at:

Until later,