Who wants a happy ending?

Welcome back!

To this day, Forty Times Platinum has an identity crisis. Let me explain: Every book falls into a genre and while booksellers freely cross the streams to maximize sales, publishers are very strict that a book must fall into ONE genre.

I didn’t want Forty Times Platinum to be a romance novel. Plenty of them fill my bookshelves and I have nothing against them. But to me, FTP didn’t read that way.  Besides, there are very strict rules for a story to be classified a “romance.” For one, the main characters must get together at the end- the Happy Ending rule.  It’s debatable what really happens at the end of FTP. I’ve purposely left it open. And then on a webinar, I learned things like infidelity are not present in romance novels. True romance novels really thrive on giving the reader a fantasy to chew on and then swallow.

And so in Commercial Women’s Fiction—or as they say in the biz:  ‘Women’s’, the characters are more realistic. “The Sound of her Heart” version definitely had a lot of whimsical elements and so if I wanted to be on the shelves with writers such as Emily Giffin or Lauren Weisberger, the fantasy needed to be toned down.

Before, Jen and Michael were these incredibly famous people living fabulous lives. In order for this story to work in the Women’s market, I needed to anchor them into reality. In the original version, they were loosely associated with the record label Jamie had signed with. To better identity with Jen and Michael, I pushed them both out of their singing careers and stuck them in an office working for my fictional record label- Thompson Street Records.

The ‘exes working together’ factor was such a fun premise to write around.   This was another opportunity to present a strong Jen. She’s a tough business woman, who’s left her singing career behind to make other artists’ dreams come true.

That brings us to Cam Harris. In the original version he was an actor. I struggled with this one. It was an easy and satisfying decision to make Jen and Michael more realistic but it took some thought and internal struggles to reinvent Cam Harris. As one of Jen’s love interests, Cam had to be special enough for her.

But Jen was a different person now and an actor was too unstructured for the new premise and the backdrop of the music industry told from insiders. I had to put my thinking cap on for this one: Where could someone be famous, but also have a real job with a set schedule of days on and off?

I wasn’t totally convinced making Cam a New York Yankee fit the less-than-fabulous tone I was trying to present. In fact I had written a whole alternate section making Cam a lawyer for a rival music label. Yawn. No offense against lawyers.

Cam also had to be more age-appropriate for Jen (Jamie is a younger man).  I tossed the question out to some people and everyone liked the idea of a love story with a professional ball-player. So Cam became a New York Yankee.

Well . . . it took 9 long months after the pitch conference in September 2013, but I was able to completely re-write what is now titled: Forty Times Platinum.

To be continued.

What’s in a name… And would Jamie by any other name work?

13199704015_72aa535bd7Welcome Back!

After three years of living and breathing the story I had written, I had to make some serious changes. And the new novel was going to be vastly different from what I had been writing. The story I wanted to tell, wasn’t going to work. And if I was going to try to do anything realistic with this, I had to bend.

First, I had to remove 50,000 words! My goal was to get 135,000 down to 85- 87,000 tops.

Then I had to address the fact that my main characters didn’t have names.

By this time I had sailed into a third book. And it was here that I had decided (at the end) to name them. Even when I was pitching the first book, and trying to sell the “unnamed” concept, I knew my characters’ names. But I was keeping it a secret. And when I would edit the third book and get to the part where their names were revealed, I got a chill. I wanted the readers to have that same reaction.

But I had to compromise. I was able to give my music executive lady her name pretty easily. I admit I stole Jen’s cool last name from a character in another book.

I had also just watched Zero Dark Thirty. I re-created Jennifer Montgomery with Jessica Chastain’s performance and her brass, ‘I take no BS from anyone attitude’ voice in my head.  I was amazed at how much more I liked Jennifer. And so when I started re-writing, this new strong woman came front and center and stole the show.

Jen’s back story had originally been very different. Only after the pitch conference did I realize how I had tortured this poor woman with a tragic past and had her crying every other chapter.

In thirty days I had my first new chapter and then the rest of the story unfolded from there. Through creative editing, I was able to keep a significant amount from the original story and I had fun writing new chapters, for my new strong leading lady.

Jamie Miller was another story. Writing the equivalent of three books at that time became so difficult that I would go weeks without touching it. In that time, other stories started to come to me. I was working on something else and had given the woman in the story the name Jennifer. Call it coincidence, call it lazy, call it whatever you want, I seem to write better and faster using that name. The male’s name in that other story, however, was Jonathan. So while struggling to put a name to my singer, who had been so personal to me, I tossed the name Jonathan around for him too. But it didn’t feel right. I still liked the idea of the two J’s and so I settled on Jamie.

But I not only had to get used to Jamie having a name (regardless of what it was), his entire identity had to change. In the end, I embraced the new Jamie and fell in love with him all over. When I write for him now (I’m still working on the sequels), physically he still resembles my singer, but he’s his own man.

I also collapsed a few characters into one. Jen had originally been married and divorced from someone else. Michael Bradley, who is also based on a real-life singer, was Jen’s best friend and one time (brief) lover in the original version. But it was too long of a back story and complicated. I still remember when I had the thought… what if Michael was Jen’s ex-husband?

And so Michael was completely transformed. He had to be. Originally, he was always in the shadows and would only come out when Jen needed her hand held. Writing for the new Michael was a lot of fun. Anyone who’s read the more recent version always commented how much they like Michael. He also anchored Jen into becoming a more realistic character.

Underneath the sexy, sarcastic banter, even I wasn’t sure. . . is there still something between them?

To be continued.

So what do you do with 135,000 words?

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Welcome back!

It was June 2013. I had been writing my novel (which had blossomed by then into 3 novels) since August 2010. And I was left with the feeling, what now?

Random clicks and links brought me to the Algonkian Writer’s Pitch Conference in New York, that September.

Sounded perfect. I signed up and worked diligently that summer to get the novel into shape. By that time, I had renamed it: The Sound of her Heart. As much as I liked the previous title (Designed to Last), I felt it didn’t connect to what the story was about. I reserve the right to use it for another story though.

So, I showed up at the conference with confidence, but I soon dissolved into a pool of nerves. By this time I had let several friends read the novel, but the idea of talking to strangers about it, had me sick to my stomach. I also learned very quickly I was terrible at pitching. Even reading from my own pitch, I could feel myself shaking. I had to lean over to the person next to me, and ask, “Could you hear the trembling in my voice?”

The person said no, but honestly I didn’t believe her.

The workshop group I was assigned to was filled with very nice people with extremely interesting stories. As an avid reader, there probably wasn’t a book idea there that I wouldn’t have wanted to read myself.  But I was the only “romance” in the group. All I could think was:  Who would want a romance with all these really interesting, hard-hitting and serious stories? That’s what I was up against.

The second day, I was scheduled to pitch to 2 editors. The first, (Publisher’s name withheld- honestly because I think my agent is pitching to the same woman right now!) looked at me like she smelled something bad as she criticized my premise. Even my workshop leader had doubts that my story would work as written. And my concept of only using pronouns for my lead characters was called an “unnecessary deceit”.

My poor pitch sound flat and boring compared to the others. I had a boring title, no names to grab anyone’s attention and I probably sounded like I was on the verge of a heart attack. AND I was told it was too long. 135,000 words needed to be closer to 85,000. Great.

After lunch, was the “romance” editor. This was my chance. No one else had a romance. She had to ask me for pages. How bad would it be if she didn’t?

But after the St. Martin’s Press woman, I was a wreck. I did what I usually did in the face of fear. I fled. I stepped on the elevator and hit the button to the lobby. A voice came over me, though. This is always what you do.  And so I jumped out of the elevator.

I made a feeble attempt to re-work my pitch during the lunch break. But I couldn’t make it work and I was a hot mess. I did end up leaving before the pitch, but I felt better about it. I would rather have done no pitch than have a romance editor out there with a bad impression of me.

Turned out, the workshop leader had emailed me that night and gave me the editor’s information and said I could send her my pitch and a small writing sample. I sent it but heard nothing for months. I followed up in January and was told she hadn’t read it yet. It was one page. Who doesn’t have time for one page? Several months later, I finally got this rejection. “Sounds fun! But it’s not right for our list.” So fun is bad? Okay.

But I did get something valuable out of that conference. Even though my friends who had read it, liked the story, I recognized my novel had some massive flaws.

A week after the conference, I began re-writing.

To be continued.

The night “Forty Times Platinum” was born

13199704015_72aa535bd7Welcome back!

I want to tell the story of how “Forty Times Platinum” became a novel. Like all the other works I had written that went nowhere, FTP started out as some random thoughts I spilled out on to the computer.  It was August 2010 and I had been driving home to Long Island from Central Pennsylvania, where my mother was living at the time. It was late, it was dark, and my dogs were sleeping in the back seat. I was on that long 440 South stretch through Staten Island when a song came on the radio.

I listened to the voice. I knew who the singer was. (I have no intention of ever revealing who this was- just use your imagination.) Something captivated me that night about him. It seemed at the time he was everywhere, but I wasn’t paying attention. His face was in my head the rest of the night. I couldn’t get him out of my mind.

I’ll stop here and tell you where I was (emotionally) at the time. I had just undergone fertility treatments, all of which were unsuccessful. My husband was still working nights at the time and I was only working part time. Trying to have a baby was my full time job. So, alone at my computer, I Googled my singer and started immersing myself into his life, like a junkie. I sifted through picture after picture and then I came across one of him and a beautiful older woman. I recognized her. She was a song writer and a producer.

And I thought… what if?

I began writing that night.

I started at what is now Chapter Four. That was the first scene I wrote. And at the time, I couldn’t even give my singer a name. It was too personal. And as the story grew, I still couldn’t name him. No name would do him justice. Being a Jose Saramago fan, I decided to keep her name just in pronouns as well. So in the 135,000 words of the original manuscript, then titled “Designed to Last”, I had no first names for my lead characters.

I’ll stop here to say that, what was actually the first book was closer to 300,000 words. I remember being in Virginia Beach at my nephew’s birthday party telling Uncle Jack (he was the only person at the time, I confided that I was writing a book) that I knew I had to split the book up. With all that I didn’t know, I knew that was too long.

The problem was, the place I wanted Book 1 to stop would either make it too short, and Book 2 too long. So I went back to the drawing board.

I spent the next 6 months splitting “Designed to Last” into two books. The sequel was called “Built to Last.” And then another story took shape and so the third book was called “The Love that Lasts”

With “Designed to Last” written and self-edited, and weighing in at a hefty 135,000 words, I then wondered: what the heck do I do now?

To be continued

History?

American Pharoah

Six months ago, Uncle Jack and I started talking about the possibility of going to the Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont. After reviewing what it would cost just for the Derby, he said, “let’s just do the Belmont this year.”

I guess that was a good call!

AND we have seats!

I won’t be home until Sunday apparently. But that’s okay.

And the story begins………

cropped-13199704015_72aa535bd71.jpgI was told it would be impossible, but I have signed with a literary agent for my novel, “Forty Times Platinum.”

While my agent (I can say that now ‘my agent’) is shopping my novel to publishers, I want to tell the story of how this project began and take you on the journey that lead up to the final version of the manuscript I had submitted.

And of course tell you about all the bumps along the way. At one point, I said to myself: “Now I know why writers drink”.

I’ll start with the writer’s cliché: I’ve been writing my whole life. Well almost, the earliest I remember is writing a time travel story (on a typewriter!) when I was in high school. Many other stories followed, most were short stories, mostly because I couldn’t finish anything.

It was when I started writing screenplays, that I found the success of actually completing something. The first one, was a “Freaky-Friday” based screenplay. I had even gone so far as to take a screenwriting class at SVA (School of Visual Arts) with the goal to polish it. After, I had submitted it to Greenlight and of course never heard back. I had written a few scripts for televisions shows, such as Seinfeld. But I never knew what to do with them? There really wasn’t the internet as we know it today.

Still, I kept on writing.  I have a blue Rubbermaid tub filled with writings; and one old laptop (that hasn’t been fired up in years) filled with snippets of other stories, beginnings, middles and endings.

My  laptop now (which is also ready to be retired- come on BIG ADVANCE 🙂 with the beginnings of other stories I had started  writing, while I was working on “Forty Times Platinum.”

So why was “Forty Times Platinum” different?

To be continued