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Around the Block

True confession time. I’m old enough to be the mother of most of our Rubies. But with age comes wisdom, and the knowledge that crooked paths can lead to publication.

I began with Romantic Suspense, switched to Historical Romance, and now write Romantic Historical Mysteries. My biggest revelation was I can’t write past chapter five without murdering someone. Second biggest? The tension created between a rigid society and a heroine who chafes against its restrictions is powerful. Cases in point? Philippa Gregory’s novels and the Hunger Games.

My critique partner, Hannah Meredith, is my equal in wisdom. She published Science Fiction and Fantasy as Meredith Simmons, but then decided to switch genres and now writes Historical Romance. Definitely a jump, but what wonderful Historical Romance she’s created. I’d guess the historical world building, with real history as the backdrop for her lovers, comes from her science fiction background. The heat comes from deep psychological insights born of years of experience and fabulous writing talent honed during years of practice.

And the help of her critique partner. ;-)

Hannah here, and while Kate is being very complimentary, the part about help from my critique partner is true. Kate has been an invaluable resource in improving my writing. I hope she can say the same. We are a rather odd pair of old broads, eh, wise women. Kate is a very spare writer and I tend toward wordiness. Kate is wonderful with action scenes and I love to wallow in the internal. Yet, somehow, this partnership has worked well.

Kate again. Our difference in writing style, and our similar dogged determination to tell good stories well, creates a dynamic that makes our critique experience improve us both as storytellers.  

Hannah just mastered the skills needed to self-publish her first novella, Kestrel. I’ve already bought it to see how her editors and formatters did, and I’m impressed at the quality. Hannah’s experience as a businesswoman has obviously taught her to hire good craftsmen.

Oh, I love the phrase, “mastered the skills.” Don’t I wish! But I’m learning a lot and have come to appreciate all the steps a publisher has to go through. There have been a number of bumps in the road—I’m probably one of the few indie writers who’s had her formatter fire her—and I’ve had ample opportunity to exercise my rather extensive vocabulary of naughty words, but having Kestrel available in both e-book and print is a heady experience.

I’d already read the story of a husband’s betrayal and redemption and a wife’s growth from subservient to being her own woman. Rereading Kestrel on my Nook? Thrilling.

I’m so excited for Hannah. There’s a satisfaction that comes from succeeding at writing after the years of child raising and corporate survival are done that makes publication so much sweeter.

Later this year, she’ll publish the full-length novels A Dangerous Indiscretion and Indentured Hearts. Even though I’ve read them already to critique them, they’re going into my Nook to enjoy again. They’re that good. Like some of the Rubies, New York didn’t tumble into the strength of her stories, and now they’ve lost out. But readers everywhere are the gainers.

Again, Kate is being kind. She didn’t mention that I never quite mastered the synopsis and pitch part of romance submission. I was too used to SF&F Short Fiction submissions where you send a cover letter listing previous sales and awards, attach the story, and that’s it. With the last synopsis I attempted, upon reading it, Kate quickly shot back an email that said DO NOT submit this until we do SOMETHING with it. Well, a good critique partner can only do so much…

I finally decided that what I wanted to do was simply tell stories, and I’ve taken the route to that goal that works best for me. Kate has taken the more traditional path. The first book of her Victorian Bookshop Mystery series, The Vanishing Thief, will be available from Berkley Prime Crime this December. And of course I’ve read it—and it’s really good.

So, both of us are having an exciting 2013. Made all the sweeter by being around A LOT of blocks on the way.

Thanks for stopping by, Hannah, and good luck with Kestrel. No wonder they call these the “golden years.” Maybe that’s just shorthand for “succeeding at what we were called to do.”

15 Responses to “Around the Block”

  1. June Love says:

    Loved this post, Kate. Thank you, Hannah, for stopping by. It sounds like the two of you have been through a lot together. Congratulations to the both of you for the paths you’ve taken. I wish you both much success.

    How did you become critique partners? (I won’t ask how long ago. :-) )

  2. Thanks, June. I’m delighted Kate asked me to visit today. We “found” each other through the critique partner program at Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, our local RWA chapter. Kate and I have similar work ethics and we just “clicked.” It’s been a very worthwhile partnership. We’ve been together through many versions of many novels—and I hope we’re together for many more.

    • Kate Parker says:

      Amen to that. Hannah and I just clicked. It could be we have similar senses of humor and determined writing efforts but dissimilar writing styles.

  3. Welcome, Hannah. I do love a good historical romance. I’ll be looking for yours. As a fellow indie, I welcome you to the ranks of the self-published. If you’ve got a good book, there’s lots of money to be made.

    And, Kate, there’s no way you’re old enough to be my mama. I’m OLD, too. :)

    • Kate Parker says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Laurie. And there’s no way anyone would call you old! You’re publishing circles around most of us.

      • Laurie, I’m glad you too like historical romance. It is, of course, my favorite. When I let my imagination out to play, it tends to put on costumes. And none of us are old. We’re mature, seasoned, experienced, wise… and we enjoy using euphemisms.

  4. Hi, Hannah & Kate! :)

    Golden Years = “succeeding at what we were called to do”

    Love that! So inspiring to see that persistence pays off…

    • Kate Parker says:

      Well, we’re either persistent or slow learners! Seriously, Anne Marie, we’re a persistent pair. If we weren’t, we’d never have arrived at this very special state of debut authors. That we did it together is even more special.

  5. Tamara Hogan says:

    The older I get, the less I care about what people think of me. There’s definitely lots of upside to the so-called golden years. ;-)

    Congrats on the releases!

    • Thanks. This week has been really exciting. And I definitely agree that maturity is liberating, especially since I no longer have to write around a day job. Writing IS my day job. That’s the best.

      • Kate Parker says:

        The freedom that comes with age trumps any difficulties age brings. And it is so nice to be free to write all day without having to convince my boss I’m sick (cough, cough)first.

  6. Elisa Beatty says:

    Welcome, Hannah! It’s so great hearing about the strength of your partnership. I do think opposites can attract in CP relationships (my CP is also a spare writer, and I tend to overwrite, and we really balance each other). But that only works if there’s some fundamental bond of respect, liking, and understanding that’s impossible to force. How wonderful that it’s worked so well for both of you wise women!!!

    • Kate Parker says:

      Wise women. I like that. And it sounds like you have a great critique relationship too, and both of you Golden Heart finalists!

      • You’re so right, Elisa. Having a great relationship with a CP who matches strengths to your weaknesses is invaluable. Sounds like you were lucky enough to find the perfect CP too.

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