Offer and Acceptance

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Apologies if that title was misleading. I’ll say it right up front: no one has offered a contract to publish my book, which makes it go without saying that I haven’t accepted any offers to publish my book.

I was, however, recently thinking about the business law class I took in college. We talked about contracts, and how when one party makes an offer, the second party must accept before the contract is binding. There are different ways a person or business can show acceptance without actually saying, “I accept your offer.”

I found the words “offer” and “acceptance” interesting, especially because you can find a deeper or double meaning in them aside from their legal definitions.

(Which reminds me–if you like that sort of thing, Jennifer Griffith has written a whole series taking legal phrases and putting a rom com twist on them: Asked & Answered, Attractive Nuisance, Mergers & Acquisitions, etc. I’ve read several and they are fun, light romances, and all have some plot point involving lawyers and the law. Her books always make me laugh. Check them out here if you’re interested.)

What was I talking about? Oh, right. Offer and acceptance.

As a writer, you come to a weird sort of balance between humility and big-headedness. On the one hand, you think, “Why would anyone want to read what I have to say? I’m nothing special.” And on the other, you think, “The way I say this is different from everyone else in the entire world, so I need to put it out there. The world needs to hear this!”

Except it’s a bit tempered from either of those extremes, at least for me. I think, yeah, I’m a tiny bit special in some ways, but also that the world will be perfectly fine if I never say anything.

There’s a lot of noise in today’s world. Between social media, television, and the Internet, a person has to make a conscious effort to find the quiet. Who am I to be adding to the noise?

I’m never going to be famous. I don’t think I even want to be famous. But I have words to say, and perhaps even stories to tell, so I’m going to work on telling them.

Which leads me back to offer and acceptance.

The reason I thought of the phrase in the first place is because I was thinking about writing while doing something else (like ya do) and wondered why it can be so paralyzing to get words on paper sometimes. I concluded it had to do with vulnerability. Sometimes, what we write leaves us bare. And when we put it out there, for other people to look at, and possibly mock, it can be frightening.

I’m working at overcoming certain fears in my life, and letting go of the idea that I can control things. Some people will like my writing (Hi, Dad!). And others–when taken statistically against the population of the earth, or the country, or even my city, I would say most others–won’t. It’s okay. I’m okay.

I’ll still offer my words. The readers can choose whether or not to accept them.

 

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Why Regency?

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My husband and I were talking the other day, and he asked me, “But why the Regency era? Out of all the other periods of history out there, what made you choose that one?” I thought about it a lot, actually. It made me remember an experience I had years ago.

My friend Tami and I had gone to a stage production put on by a traveling troupe of–get this–radio actors. The story? Pride and Prejudice. As we sat and waited for the curtain to go up, I overheard a couple of men talking behind us. One of them said, “You know, I’ve seen this movie like six times–both versions–and I still don’t get it.”

It made me laugh.

Their wives joined them at this point, so I didn’t get to hear any more of their discussion. But, having five brothers who groaned and moaned and mercilessly teased me about my taste in movies and books (“Are you watching ‘Anne of Stinky Stables’ again?”) I grew a thick skin. I liked what I liked and that was that.

Still, simply saying that you like something isn’t really a reason. Just ask my ten-year-old son, who has autism, and often uses, “Because I love it!” as an excuse for misbehaving. It doesn’t save him from the consequences.

So, while I do love the Regency era, why do I love it? Why have I dedicated hours upon hours in research and writing time to set a story in England and Scotland in 1813? I’ve come up with a few reasons.

  1. Different, but still the same. The Regency period is long enough ago to have some very distinct differences from the time we live in now–horses, strict social classes, very defined rules for behavior and manners–but short enough ago that the language is similar, and, thanks to Jane Austen, we know the psyche is similar as well. While there were still a lot of arranged marriages going on, the idea that you could wait and marry for love was kind of rebellious and romantic at the same time.
  2. The fashion. I don’t know what it is about cravats and morning dresses and riding habits and gloves, but it intrigues me to think about how much care was put into dressing. Perhaps it just shows that people are vain in any era. [Shrug.]
  3. Transportation. In writing, we talk about “world-building,” where the world of your book or story is a colorful, intricate backdrop for the action playing out center stage. When I read a well-written Regency novel, I can experience the thrill of being transported to a world with manners, social decorum, and balls.

There are other reasons, but I’ll stick with these big three as the main purposes for choosing to write a Regency novel.

What of you, dear readers? Why do you like Regency fiction?

 

 

Erasing the “Romance Writer” Stigma

When you hear the phrase “romance writer,” what do you think of?

Yeah, I think we need to update that picture. Too many people formed their romance writer consciousness by authors in the ’80s and ’90s. Big hair, floral wallpaper, feather quill pens, and a fainting couch.

Smelling salts, perfumed paper, and titles like Cornered Tigress or The Musk of a Gentleman.

In a boudoir. (Shudder).

The truth is, all the writers I know–romance or no–don’t put on those types of airs. This is my writing space:

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Of course, calling it My Writing Space may be a bit too generous, as its true title is The Homework Table and it shares the spot with a typewriter, a box of clutter, and art projects in various stages of completion.

Nary a fainting couch in sight . . .

I guess my point is this: occasionally we stereotype people. Used car salesmen, kindergarten teachers, romance writers.

One of my favorite lines in a remake of Pride and Prejudice happens when Darcy, a book publisher, is having a business lunch with Elizabeth, an author. He’s basically making an offer for his publishing house to buy her book, but she is so prejudiced against him due to their previous encounters she barely gives him the time of day. He’s saying something about her book and calls it “a romance.”

Elizabeth cuts in. “It’s not a romance.”

Darcy says (in his suave British accent with slightly raised eyebrows), “It’s not a put-down, Miss Bennett; it’s a category.”

So, while I have struggled with the stereotypes in my mind, I have reached the point where I can embrace it. I love the Regency period. I love sweet romances.

And I’ll continue to write them, despite not writing with feather quill pens.

Some stereotypes are just begging to be broken.

Did you hear the great news?

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It’s kind of hard to see in this picture (and, let’s be honest, everyone would rather look at the cake, anyway), but that finger is pointing to “THE END” in my notebook.

That’s right–I finished my book!

Of course, when I say “finished my book,” what I’m really saying is, “I finished my rough draft.” This was near the beginning of this month, and as I’ve begun edits I’m realizing there’s still a L-O-N-G way to go to get this thing to the point that eyes other than mine can look at it.

However, if that’s not a reason for celebrating with chocolate cake, I don’t know what is.

Feel free to make your own chocolate cake and celebrate with me. 🙂

Scotland Chat #2.5–More Food!

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I can’t believe I didn’t post anything in October.

(Actually, I can believe it. October was crazy–but good-crazy. My mom came for a visit, and then later in the month, my friend Tami came to visit. I love visitors!)

Anyway, in our last Scotland Chat, Tami and I talked about the food in Scotland and how it’s different than the US. Here’s the other half of that conversation–and, yes, curry is mentioned.

Tami: I think, as we are here longer, we will learn more about how Scottish people eat. We eat our way still. I want to learn more about their habits and meals.

Wendy: Where do you buy your food? Mostly one store?

Tami: Big things Costco. Then either Asda, which is an offshoot of WalMart, or Tesco. And the little towns right by me have little versions of those kinds of stores, so I pick up small things there when I don’t need a lot. I can ride my bike, walk or catch a bus easily.

Wendy: Cute! I can see it in my mind’s eye. (Although I guess if I had a bike, I could go pick up stuff at the 7-11, but it just doesn’t look the same in my head . . .)

Tami: I know, right? Something about biking through the countryside to get your milk. Stores close early here, but Asda is open late. Tesco is open later than most. But still, shopping doesn’t happen after 7 or 8.

Wendy: That could be nice. It could also be annoying, especially when it’s light later at night and you lose track of time.

Tami: That is true. Now we are rapidly approaching the time of year when it will be darker earlier.

[Editor’s note: That time has now arrived (we had this chat in September).]

Wendy: So tell me about eating at restaurants. Where do you like to go best?

Tami: We have been trying a variety. As a family McDonald’s is good. Different food to some extent. Smaller portions. We get Domino’s pizza, which is fairly comparable. But we need to go back to homemade pizza.

Wendy: Are people less fat in Scotland, then? In a noticeable way?

Tami: Yes, I think so. Rare to see morbidly obese here. Not that there aren’t some, but not as many. The ideal size here is shown in the media as a bit bigger than the US, so more realistic. And I think middle age and older folks are still pleasantly plump, but not obese. I think they walk more, I think they eat smaller portions. They love sweets but I see more moderation in serving size.

Wendy: Nice. And interesting, I mean that their ideal size is better. I like that.

Tami: No Mexican take out here.

Wendy: 😦 But lots of Indian? (I learned that from Monarch of the Glen, so it may or may not be true.)

Tami: Yes. And they like curries and tandoori. I want to try more of that and learn to cook some of it.

Wendy: Phew. I was concerned it might be leading me astray on Scottish living.

Tami: Haha! Nope, seems good so far. I feel more like cooking here, could be that it’s not convenient to eat out.

Wendy: That’s good, I guess. I like cooking. I just don’t like cleaning up so much.

Tami: Chinese food we’ve eaten tastes fresher and less Amercanized.

Wendy: Cool.

Tami: There are no drive thru places. Not banks, not pharmacies. Not food. Thomas said he saw a McDonald’s drive thru but I haven’t seen it yet.

Wendy: I wonder if that shows our fast-paced, go-go-go culture. Along with stores being open later.

Tami: Yes. It does. It is very much less that way here. Slow down, take a breath. Let the person coming down the road turn in front of you. Be home with your family in the evening.

Wendy: I like that. Although I’m the first to admit, especially when I had tiny kids, it was a blessing to drive thru at the bank instead of keep them all corralled.

Tami: I know! I agree. I like the changes and I like what it is motivating me to change. But sometimes I do miss the easier way of doing things.

Wendy: I can definitely see that.

Tami: I love exploring new foods though, so it’s fun. And when you think about my list of what I miss, it’s not a big list. Things aren’t so foreign that we can’t find our own family groove here.

Wendy: “Things that I miss: Root beer, Crisco, Drive Thrus, Wendy” 😉

Tami: Yup! But maybe put Wendy above Root beer.

Wendy: Haha!

Tami: 😉

Wendy: Well, I enjoyed the chat very much. Food is one of my favorite subjects, and to have it with one of my favorite people, well, that’s just icing.

Tami: Haha! Thank you! And over time I will actually know more about Scottish food.

***
The Carsons are getting ready to experience their first Thanksgiving in Scotland. Since they don’t actually celebrate it there, they’re getting together with some American friends on Saturday and holding their own. So Happy Scottish Thanksgiving, Carson Family! Hope the food is delicious!
That wish goes double for all of my American friends: Happy Thanksgiving! Eat a piece of pie for me!

Scenes to Write–

I was able to go to a writers’ retreat a couple of weeks ago. Picture a beautiful (if frigid) setting, with the forest behind and the ocean in front.

Yes, it was just as incredible as you are imagining, but just to add some reality to the experience, here are a couple of pictures:

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I got to see dear friends from my writing group, the American Night Writers Association (ANWA), as well as meet new writers. We caught up, ate, and laughed together.

The best part is that I got a lot of writing done. I’m within spitting distance of “the end.” Like, ten scenes. Of course, that will simply finish my first draft, so there are going to be rewrites and editing after that, but having never finished anything novel-length before, I’m excited about it.

And to all you who are participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)–good for you! (Even if it has taken me three years to get to this point, I don’t resent you pounding it out in a month. Much.)

Life/Writing Balance

The other day, I was looking for some dental floss. I’m not what you’d call an “avid flosser,” but I try to do it two or three times per week. I’d recently finished off a box of floss, but I was sure another one was lurking in that jumbly mess-of-a-top-bathroom-drawer. Instead of floss, I found this:

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That’s right. Toothpaste.

Tube after tube after tube of toothpaste.

It was like a clown car. They just kept coming.

And guess what–no floss was hiding in that drawer.

How is it possible I had fifteen (15!) tubes of toothpaste and not one measly box of dental floss?

It seems as though I write often about trying to fit writing into my life. I know some writers who say they do it because they can’t not write. That’s very fine for them, but I’ve discovered that’s not the way it happens for me. Yes, I can tell when I’ve spent time away from my writing, and yes, I miss it when I do. But I find it all too easy to be swallowed up in everything else in my life, so that my writing slips through the cracks.

I’m a mother and I love it. I’ve got these four incredible and exasperating children I’m in charge of. If I’m not careful, their needs can completely overwhelm me to the point of doing nothing else.

I brush my teeth every day. Without fail. Brushing is my first dental-health priority.

I try to floss two or three times a week. Some weeks I’m better at consistently flossing than others. I feel good about my dental health; it would be worse if I didn’t floss at all, right?

As a mother, I take care of my kids every day. Without fail. Motherhood is my first priority.

I only write two or three times a week, like flossing. It’s recommended daily, but it would be worse if I didn’t do it at all, surely. Yet I still manage to beat myself up over what I’m not doing.

Henceforth, I’m going to look at my life more like my dental health: do what you can, and don’t beat yourself up when you fall short of the ideal.

Now I’ve got to go and buy some floss.