Welcome to the Drawing Room

Hello! I assume you are here desiring an audience with Lord Heartless? He is out at the moment but I anticipate his return at any time. Until then, find a comfortable chair, settle in, and enjoy a spot of tea. Browse through the available reading material, learn what you can of the heartless duke, and decide if you really want to meet him. Please leave your calling card in the form of a comment.

It was lovely to see you! Please stop by again.

***Please BEWARE*** If you have yet to read Heartless, certain aspects of the story may be inadvertently spoiled for you here. Please take care while exploring.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Heartless Setback

Ever hear of someone losing all the progress they've made on a manuscript due to a technological malfunction? It's never happened to me. 

Until last night. 

I rebooted my laptop. When it came back to life, I opened my Heartless file only to discover nothing after January 12 was saved. Why it chose that date, I don't know, but I'm pretty sure it's the flash drive I use as a take-everywhere-with-me means of saving my book files. I try to back up my flash drive on my various hard drives (current hard drive count is three) but the last time I saved to a hard drive was Jan 7. 

Woe is me. 

I suppose I should have anticipated the flash drive crapping out at some point. It just figures it would be during a major MS overhaul. 

The only change it saved was the removal of the prologue. Hubby said God was trying to tell me that I was making too many changes. Nice thought but I don't believe God gets that involved with humans. This was just an unfortunate technological backfire. And like I said, it happens to everyone eventually. 

That being said, though I saved every 30 seconds or so, it made no difference. This was unavoidable. It sucks but I'll get past it. It will cause yet another delay in getting this book back into the hands of my readers. For that, I apologize. 

I'm gonna get back to work on it today, see if I can't dredge up the changes I'd made from the dank recesses of my mind. (Yeah, that sentence isn't structured properly but my mind's fried so cut me a break.) I hope I make it out alive. It's scary in there. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Trip to the Dump

I need to share my Heartless progress. OK, I don't really need to. It's not like I'll die if I don't. So, I want to share my Heartless progress. 

I've begun editing chapter five. Fabulous, right? I'm thrilled, believe me. But now, despite my joy in my characters, I've come up to another HUGE decision regarding this MS. 

In chapter five, we're with our heroine, learning how her days are spent since becoming a duchess. There are more room descriptions in this one chapter than in all my other books COMBINED. It's shocking, believe me. 

In the critical writing world, this is what's known as an information dump. The problem with info dumps is they're boring. The reader usually loses interest at that point and if the dump is long enough, the reader might even set the book aside. 

There are times an info dump works but those times are quite rare. It can be a challenge determining when and where to place one. The better, safer bet is to take that information (if it is, indeed, important) and lace it throughout the story itself. 

For example, in Heartless, where Leandra's lamenting the horror that is the Egyptian Salon, instead of devoting an entire paragraph to this in chapter five, I could mention her loathing for it later, when she instructs the butler to put Hart's mistress there. (Oops! Not a spoiler. Not really.) Or I could work it in some other way.  

So chapter five might find itself shorn down quite a bit, perhaps deleted entirely and rewritten from scratch. Not the type of major edit I'd envisioned when I started out on this path but, what else can I do? 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Progress...of a sort

I've finished editing... 

Chapter One

Why, when I'm determined to get something done, am I that much more likely to get distracted? Why, when I'm determined to get something done, do I get more cover orders than I can shake a stick at? And why, when I'm determined to get THIS interior edit/format done, do I want to work on the COVER?? 

There is no understanding me, even for me. 

I will go to my other computer now and endeavor to complete at least one more chapter before dinner. Can I do it?? Probably not. But I'll have fun trying. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Heartless Revamp Step 1 : Read Through ~ DONE ~

So I did it. I read Heartless cover-to-cover. And with no tears shed, though I think that had everything to do with my determination not to shed a tear. Funny how when you read a book objectively, emotion takes a backseat, and the whole reading experience is far less enjoyable.

Before you read further, please be assured that I value each and every one of my fans, followers, and readers. I love that you love this book and love the other things I write. Please do not take what I am about to say as an insult to you or your opinion. I am in no way denigrating your views on this work. As is often the case with authors, we are our own worst critics. This can be a good thing.  

My thoughts? Needs a little work. The issues:
  • I think the prologue gives too much away right up front, taking away from the natural question as to WHY the hero acts the way he does. 
  • I think the passive voice is a tad overdone. 
  • There are words and phrases that weren't used at the time. For example, Hart mentions he's "working with a deadline." The word DEADLINE didn't come into use until the American Civil War and it referred to the "do-not-cross" line in war prisons. Deadline in the sense of a "time limit" was newspaper jargon that came into use in the early 1920s. Then there's the use of handicapped in reference to people with disabilities. Yeah, the word existed then but not in that sense. There were a few more but I think I made my point. 
  • There is an excessive amount of characters. Servants, family members, friends, all named and given a few lines each. Sheesh.
I think these flaws are easily overlooked in the natural draw to the main characters. I totally agree that I CAN write characters. Dang.

Possible "fixes":
  • Prologue: Do I really want readers to forgive Hart for everything before they actually get to know him? I don't think I do. I think I want them to start out hating him a little, getting to know him as the story goes on, and then realizing he's severely warped for good reason. 
  • Passive voice: This is one of those "little changes" I mentioned in a previous post. Some sentences will get some restructuring to allow for more showing, rather than telling. 
  • Historical inaccuracies: Of course these will have to go. I mean, what was I thinking??
  • Excessive characters: I do believe that removal of names would go a LONG way in clearing up some confusion on this one. I'll try that and see what happens. 
So that about sums up my initial thoughts on the simple read-through I did. Next step, edit out the redundancies, inaccuracies, passivity, and prologue. 


Monday, January 9, 2012

To Prologue or Not to Prologue

That is the question. 

I vaguely recall reading somewhere that you should never start a book with a prologue. As far as writing tips go, it's one of the worst I've ever heard. Many stories really work with a prologue. Some don't, true, but many do.

Just as every writer is different, so is every story. Write what's best for that story, not what some blowhard thinks is best because they believe they're some kind of writing expert. (For the record, I don't remember who said it, and I honestly don't care.) 

OK, rant over. Sorry about that. 

As it stands, Heartless has a prologue. It takes place more than 20 years before the bulk of the story. It tells us why Hart's a jerk and lets the reader easily forgive most of his bad behavior while reading the rest of the book.

My problem? I'm not sure I really want to let the reader have that excuse so early on. Wouldn't it make for a better "mystery" (so to speak) if the reader doesn't know up front why Hart's such an a$$?

This is the only major change I'm considering. And it might end up that I leave it in. I'm not entirely sure. I do know that some readers do not care for the opening line. ("You lying b****!" is a bit of a slap in the face just starting out in a story. Though hubby's pronouncement was, "Best opening line EVER!" Men.)

Any thoughts, lovers of all things Heartless?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Heartless Duke makes an unscheduled appearance!

That's right! Hart was spotted in a recent installment of My Lady Coward. He behaved just as badly as anyone could expect (or hope). 

You'd think a lady would be safe driving in the park (the public park!!) with a gentleman. Unfortunately, Maria discounted the rumors surrounding the Duke of Derringer, somehow forgetting that rumors are often based in truth. 

This short story takes place several years before Derringer's marriage. Perhaps that's why he's such a... well. Won't you pop over and see how Maria handles herself with the heartless lord? The image here is linked to the story and there's another image at the top of this blog's right-hand sidebar. That will get you there as well. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Then and Now

In re-reading Heartless, I realize one very HUGE thing. 

I am not the same person I was when I wrote this. 

It's a strange realization. This is my most popular novel, by far my bestseller. It features an emotionally battered man, a man who believes he's just as terrible as rumor suggests. And in that opinion, he's almost correct. In Hart's characterization, I think he's the same he could ever be. He is what he is. 

The story execution is another matter entirely. There are things I would change, sentence structures that could be reworded to offer so much more impact, over usage of other words or types of words that make some scenes feel steeped in redundancy. I have learned so much since I first put this story out there. 

And more than one person pointed out the excessive characters. OK, I had a point in placing that many characters in this story. Ever feel completely alone in a crowded room? Welcome to Leandra's world. 

However, I think I realize WHY the extra characters feel so...cluttered...to some readers. 

The names. 

I used an excessive amount of names to describe these people. One character in particular, having only two lines in a single scene, is described by her title, her relationship to the hero, and by her first name which, quite frankly, is totally unnecessary. Added to that, I kept referring to the heroine as Leandra, the duchess, her grace, and a few other things that almost made it sound like she was more than just one person. Sheesh.

Names are not always necessary, at least not in the final draft. In notes, sure. It helps the author keep track. The reader, however, doesn't need that info. So, I think I have a fix for the "excessive characters" problem. 

Unnecessary names will be removed. I don't think we need to know the first name as well as the title of a character who has one scene and only two lines in that scene. I think title and relationship to the hero/heroine will be sufficient...and sometimes not even that is necessary.

But what of the MAJOR issues? I know there are some. How could there not be? I self-published this title back in 2008 (I wrote it in 2004) and made the same mistake many other self-pubbed authors did. I jumped the gun. 

I considered making some major changes but fans have indicated their displeasure at the idea. Perhaps this is one of those only-make-the-changes-the-publisher-suggests situations. 

While I respect all the opinions I've received on this matter, my gut is telling me not to make any story altering changes, even if some of those changes would make more sense. I don't know. What do you think? 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

~Getting to Know the Duke~ The Proposal

Just because I'm feeling oh-so-generous tonight—oh, it's after midnight here, so...this morning then—here's an excerpt from Heartless. This is the ever-so-romantic marriage proposal Derringer bestows on Merri (Leandra). Enjoy!! 

“You sound like a gentlewoman,” he remarked lazily.

“I was raised in my father’s house. I was sent to Miss Forester’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies when the time came and given every benefit of a daughter of the house. Then papa died and his wife threw me out after the will was not found. Everything of papa’s went to his son, the new earl.” All this was said prosaically.

Her voice changed subtly as she continued. Derringer thought it would have gone unnoticed by anyone but him. “I was told he left nothing for me but I refuse to believe my father would not take care of me. We were very close and he assured me I would always be taken care of, that I need never fear poverty. Well,” she shrugged fatalistically.

“And you had no one else to turn to when you found yourself in straitened circumstances?”

She hesitated. “I first went into the village to see my beau, Mr. Hubbard,” she confessed reluctantly. “He had heard about the lack of will and let me know that he was no longer interested in marrying me. But he was more than willing to give me a much different position.” She shook her head and shrugged. “So now I am alone and apparently at your mercy, sir.”

“So you are,” he agreed with an assessing look, uncomfortably surprised at his sudden desire to tear Mr. Hubbard limb from limb. “Marry me.”

Leandra dropped her fork. It clattered onto her plate and her eyes flew up to stare at the crazy man sitting across from her. “Are you daft, sir?” she asked with her normal candor. “I mean, are you an escaped bedlamite?” She didn’t give him a chance to reply, adding quickly, “I thank you for the meal and the sympathetic ear, but you needn’t feel that such desperate means are called for in helping me. I’m sure you like to help people, but marriage? Is that not going much too far, my lord? I assume you are a lord of some sort based on the landlord's attitude but perhaps you are escaped from your keeper? I mean, even lords can lose their minds. The newspapers overflow with such stories...” Her voice drifted to silence.
How was that? Besides my overuse of words ending in —ly, that is. 

This scene made me laugh all over again and reminded me why I love this book so much. I'm having a blast re-reading it, even with the "errors" I see. And it's very, very true that writers are their own worst critics. Well, most are. 

The preceding is (c) copyright 2012 Laura J Miller. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Another Heartless Update

Ah, my faithful readers and diehard lovers of all things Derringer. I am here to let you know that I finally picked up my personal copy of Heartless and opened up to page 1. And while I cringe at my overuse of the word 'was' and the number of historically inaccurate words and phrases that slipped past my guard, I still laugh and sigh and fall in love with my heartless duke all over again. 


You will be pleased to learn that this book is #1 on my list of Writing Goals for 2012. Also, I have plans to finish Intrigue, a Regency that is part of my "series" (falls between Deception and Spellbound chronologically), in which my Lord Heartless stars, before wife and marriage settle him down. 

Intrigue is Gideon de Witt's story, a friend of Derringer's who made his debut in Deception. Derringer gets into all kinds of trouble, says all kinds of shocking things, and becomes the unwilling "hero" of a teenage boy. Lots of Regency fun!