Friday, April 18, 2008

Jackie's Gems (and, er, Little Lumps of Coal)

Maven Jackie BarbosaLike most of the Mavens, I've been writing off and on almost as long as I could write (with a long stretch of mostly off between roughly 1990 and 2006). My bookshelf could therefore either be excruciatingly huge or relatively small. Being the kind soul that I am, I've decided to spare you you all of stuff I wrote before 1990. (Although I do have fond memories of a Star Wars fanfic I wrote when I was about thirteen. I'm convinced it was much better that what George Lucas came up with in Return of the Jedi. In my version, Emperor Palpatine had a daughter, and she and Luke became an item. Ah, even back then, I had a natural inclination to make everything a romance!)

Because I've written (or am in the process of writing) a lot of short stories and novellas, this list will probably seem a lot more impressive than it actually is!

1) Living In Sin aka A Scandalous Liaison aka Unbridled: This book (or perhaps more accurately, its characters) will always have a special place in my heart because it's why I started writing against after a 15+ year hiatus. The hero and heroine popped into my head and demanded to have their story told. The only problem turned out to be that I had to keep writing it. Over. And over. And over.

It ran the unpubbed contest circuit in many interations (I think I wrote the beginning at least a dozen times) and finaled quite a bit, but I kept getting comments from judges that there wasn't enough conflict. Um, the heroine's a duke's daughter and the hero's an Irish racehorse trainer! How much conflict do you need? But eventually, I did see the point. I reworked the heroine's backstory and rewrote the beginning to make the conflict stronger. And the manuscript not only finaled in two of the three contests I entered it in, it actually won both and got requests from an agent and an editor.

Unfortunately, I'd made the conflict (and plot complications) SO good that, at thirty-five pages, I discovered I'd written myself into a corner and I still have no idea what logically happens next. And thus, the manuscript now graces the Magical Mulch Pile.

2) Lady Libertine: Originally conceived as the sequel to Unbridled, this book features my favorite heroine ever--the snarky, jaded, and promiscuous Amelia. Amelia originally appeared in Unbridled as an antagonist/villainess. I loved her voice when I wrote from her POV so much that I had to "redeem" her at the end so I could give her a book of her own. The plot for this one is sort of a modified Da Vinci Code idea, with the hero and heroine looking for pieces of a blueprint based on the clue they find at each location. Coming up with the clues and their interpretations was fun. My favorite is the one that uses Robert Burns' poem, Of a Mouse.

This one's still unfinished (25K of 90-100), but I suspect it'll be the next historical I complete and submit to Kensington.

3) Carnally Ever After: This is a short story (<15k, so I can't properly call it a novella) that I wrote on a dare of sorts from Ann Aguirre early last year. She was doing a short for an Ellora's Cave call for submissions, and challenged her blog readers to do the same. I didn't think I had any ideas, but suddenly, this story popped into my head and went on to essentially write itself.

This is the story that got me my first contract for publication, though it turned out to be from Cobblestone Press rather than Ellora's Cave.

4) Going Greek: A complete departure from anything I had done before, I got the idea for this contemporary, first-person women's fiction/romance after attending a meeting of the San Diego RWA Chapter at which Sally Van Haitsma, a local agent, was the featured speaker. It's sitting at about 16,000 words right now, and is definitely high on my priority list to finish since my agent thinks it has great commercial prospects. (She described it as an updated How Stella Got Her Groove Back, which would never have occurred to me, since I've neither read that book nor seen the movie.)

5) Beyond the Red Door: This is the title I brainstormed with Kevan for the anthology that includes Wickedly Ever After, Scandalously Ever After, and Sinfully Ever After. As you might have guessed from the titles, these are all sequels to that little story that got me my first contract for publication. Wickedly is the only one that's finished at the moment, and it's also the story that got me my offer for publication from John at Kensington and landed me my agent. I love the way Kevan described it in the deal announcement on Publisher's Marketplace yesterday (er, yeah, I had to get that in here, didn't I?): "an anthology of erotic, historical romance, with three short stories rich in historical detail and the lusty escapades of London's Ton society at the infamous Red Door Brothel." Works for me!

6) The Gospel of Love: This is a quartet (natch!) of contemporary, first person novellas. The idea for this one started as the title, and the first in the series, According to Luke, fell out of my head in a little under two weeks in November of last year. Cobblestone will release it in June of this year. I hope to finish Matthew, which is about a quarter of the way done, in time for it to be released by Cobbelstone in either August or September. Despite the title, there's no big, overarching religious theme here--just the stories of four brothers finding love in the most unexpected places and people.

Of course, this actually only scratches the surface of all the ideas rolling around in my head. If I told you ALL of them, we'd be here until next week! Ah, a writer's dilemma: so many stories, so little time!

Do you have more story ideas than you can live long enough to write? How do you pick between projects when you have a dozen and they all seem like great ideas? Do tell!


B.E. Sanderson said...

OMG, sometimes late at night when I'm trying to sleep, I wonder whether I'll be able to write all my stories before I die. And I keep coming up with more ideas. Ack. I have an ideas file in Word that's 6 pgs long. I guess this means I can never die.

When I'm ready for a new story and I don't already have one beating at the door, I look though the file and see what grabs me. Then I sit down and start writing. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't - which is why I have a bunch of partially written books on my hard drive. A couple times, the ideas turned into short stories. Maybe someday the partially writtens will get new life and becomes books (my third book sat unwritten for a while before a fresh slant struck me and I finished it).

Amie Stuart said...

Jackie my rule of thumb is if I can get past page 25 then it's viable. I have quite a few 25 page beginnings *ggg*

lacey kaye said...

I want to read them all! But especially Going Greek. I loved that story.

Writer & Cat said...

How do I pick what to work on next? Whatever I think is most likely to sell. Which isn't to say I write "to the market" but I pick from the ideas I already have that seem more marketable.

So far, I have not demonstrated satisfactory skill in picking highly marketable projects *heh*

La Belle Americaine said...

Your list of novels gives me hope that all the books I've brainstormed, or plotted, or couldn't finish, have a chance to be published. *G*

But yeah, I generally have more ideas that I can write, but this yeah I made it a priority to write books I can "see" from beginning to end, and books that have a very strong "hook." I forced myself to realize that I must balance the business aspect of the publishing industry with the artistic side of writing, which meant I couldn't write books that were so "unusual" that no amount of talent could sell it within the romance genre. So I now view every idea I have with the eye of a marketing team and it's kept me sane and cut down on the roadblocks I set up in the past.

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