I had such a great weekend. That's a big change from 'Oh, God, it's Monday. Why, why?', right? Well, let me tell you about it.
First, I got to see Warm Bodies. Most of the time we pick movies we're bound to love. Or I sucker my husband into going to a movie I'm bound to love. Few and far between are the times we go to a movie theater and see something we hate. If Warm Bodies was on DVD, I would be watching it right now. I would not have stopped watching it all weekend. I loved it that much. Oh, it's a predictable old love story (Romeo and Juliet. Anyone heard of that?). But it's fresh because . . . zombies. And absolutely hilarious, perfect dialogue. Rob Corddry gets my vote for the very best lines in the movie.
Secondly, we had an ORA meeting Saturday. I'm nothing if not bold *snort* and so I took the first chapter of The Siren's Sentinel to critique. It got a lot of good feedback, including an editor who said she didn't like steampunk, but she liked the chapter. Sweet. The one thing about it that disappointed me about critique was the negative response to the heroine's name. I totally stepped off base during this novel, edging away from Native American myth and embracing Irish and Norse myth instead. The thing about most of the characters from the series that wasn't supposed to be is this: The next character in line for a book appeared in the previous book in a minor roll and probably had a stupid name. I often pick names based on meaning, but sometimes I'm just in a hurry and I draw on what pops in.
For example, I was busy and trying to write The Treasure Hunter's Lady as fast as I could, so I named the airship captain Alwin. I didn't like the name, and frankly I was being a little bit mean because in Germanic it means elf friend. By the time I finished THL, I had no intentions of writing a second book, no intentions of renaming any characters (I did end up renaming the villain), but Mister Fancy Dutch Airship Captain was already sowing seeds for another novel. And by then his name had grown on me. Okay, great. That brought a cameo of the hero from the 4th book, Ransom Shaw into the picture. After I finished the rough draft of The Sky Pirate's Wife, I was working on back story for Ransom and I was so intrigued by his boss, Basil Tenpenny, I ended up writing a book about him instead. Wait, you say. His last name isn't Tenpenny. You're right, it isn't. It's Tinwhistle. Because I freakin' forgot what his last name was and said, close enough. Later on I found the document with Tenpenny in it. Oops. Tinwhistle stuck.
Point is, I wasn't crazy about the name Basil, but at the time I was writing these books with mostly British characters and trying to give them names that made them sound like they were from the UK. Romy's the only one who ended up staying British. So I had an Alwin, a Basil, and I needed a heroine for Ransom. It occurred to me while writing The Turncoat's Temptress that Basil was watching a supernatural creature and one day it hit me that Emer Irving was the heroine of the next novel.
I keep getting a lot of feedback that when people see Emer, they think Elmer. If you're not familiar with Irish legend, Emer was the wife of Cúchulainn (that's pronounced Coo-hull-in or Coo-hoo-lin because Hooked on Phonics ain't working here). Cúchulainn was a bad mother of a warrior who had lots of lovers, but Emer was known for six virtues: beauty, voice, speech, needlework, wisdom and chastity. A little of my Emer's back story comes to light during The Turncoat's Temptress and the reader finds out she was in line to be queen of her selkie clan, but gave it up for love. In The Siren's Sentinel, she recounts the virtues to Ransom, who isn't supposed to know that she's a selkie, and he comments that her mother must have hoped she'd live up to her queenly name. So you can see where I'm in trouble here.
There are other spellings of Emer, although they're more modern or Scottish, or as Wikipedia states, erroneous. Gah. *headdesk* I was tempted at one point to switch her name with one of her sister's names. Now I'm not sure what I'm tempted to do. Nothing, is my first inclination.
On the good news home front, after ORA, I went to the Jano post-writing party. I subbed the first page of The Siren's Sentinel for judging, along with the title and blurb. The blurb was awful. It was cut down from the one here posted under WIP. One hundred words is hard to do when so much goes on in a novel. The title, not my best work, but like the rest of the L&L series, it describes both characters. The first line, dialogue. I heart me some dialogue, which never fails to pull you into a scene (you know, with exceptions). So imagine my utter surprise when I got Best First Sentence. Like, shut the *bleep* up, nuh-uh! By six votes. This is the line, because I can't leave you with out it.
"You must think I'm out of my damned mind, Tinwhistle."
A very wonderful improvement from the first line of the first draft, I assure you. Dinner, I ought to mention, was delicious and there was cheesecake too. That alone would have made it a great party. I'm not saying I'd kick puppies for cheesecake, but I love it. Actually, I'd end up sharing the cheesecake with the puppies, then making up a great big lie about how hard I kicked them, when I really smuggled them into my car and brought them home and delighted in cheesecake/puppy breath-y kisses.
But cheesecake and Best First Line wasn't the extent of awesome for the night. Kelly, the Jano coordinator, was entertaining us with the top 5 entries for the Best First Page. I heard one, I think it was either three or four, that I would have given my left butt cheek to read the rest of the novel. Your second place Best First Page? None other than the fabulous and soon-to-be-published Harlequin author, Lisa Medley. You could have whacked me over the head with a hammer and I wouldn't have been more shocked (although I would have been more than a little pissed) when Kelly had Lisa read my first page.
This for the pathetic little author who thought she wouldn't even be able to finish The Siren's Sentinel? Who debated chucking it after the first drafted failed to work? I almost cried. Because I'm a crier. It was like winning a Nobel Peace Prize. I couldn't have been happier. I had one of those moments (just in my head because I try not to reveal my true dorkiness in real life) where I do that stereotypical thing like a bimbo and wave my hands and cry and say, "Oh, my God." I do that all the time when I'm watching The Bachelor in mock sympathy for the girls. But it was a real shocker and my brain stopped working for a few seconds and went into bimbo mode.
Then, if that's not enough good news for you, I finished, after 3 loooooong years, writing The Convict & the Cattleman. Because you've likely forgotten (and didn't click on WIP above), it's a historical romance about an Irish woman who gets transported to New South Wales because she attempted to steal from someone. The hero is a slightly cranky grazier (which is like a rancher) who needs a nursemaid to watch his niece because her mother died and he doesn't know what to do with a baby. That was the first book I attempted to write after that long five year break. The novel I figured would never see the light of day again, but I was desperate for a project to keep me from diving right into L&L book 5. I'm going to clean it up (it desperately needs it) and sub it to a few places. Back on that subbing horse again. Geez, here I thought I'd finished with querying.