June 29, 2007

Inaugural CONTEST! The Measure of Success

Eleven months ago, I packed up my bags, and my fluffy cat, and moved to China. I vowed I would not come back without a book deal. Well, here I am, with no book deal, but lots of cute shoes and silk scarves. Now, while I never underestimate the power of shoes, I am disappointed that I wasn’t as productive as I wanted to be. But the good news is that during a little contest called FanLit I met a group of supremely talented and supportive people who share my passion for romance.

Was my journey a success? You can measure success in many ways. There are the small victories. Rejection letters mean you actually sent something out, so that is a kind of success if you have writer’s block. There are larger triumphs, like finaling in contests, or being asked to submit a rewrite. I know many talented writers who are celebrating those successes right now. There is the success of seeing your book in print for the first time, the moment you hit a bestseller list, the RITA nomination.

And then there is the thrill every time you write a passage you know is better than anything you’ve written before. That’s the success I’m celebrating right now.

I have a phobia about posting excerpts on my blog. I think it stems from the fear that I will read them next week and feel horribly ashamed. But I want to post a few excerpts now, to show you how far I’ve come, and what I have to celebrate.

My first attempt at writing romance featured a squeaky-clean missionary’s daughter who was dragged into 1890 Shanghai’s seamy underworld by a bad-boy opium trader. Unfortunately, the hero and heroine did not meet until page 50, and when they did, much head-hopping, leaden dialogue, and cliche-ridden situations ensued. I vomited out 400 pages, and then realized it was truly awful.

Here, for your amusement, is an excerpt from The Devil of Shanghai–completely unedited, in all its unbridled glory, rendered in purple, because purple it is:

So many layers of cloth between them, yet Mabel felt naked with longing. She had seen the beauty of this man’s naked chest, had lain beneath him in dreams and in reality. He was the inevitability of the pleasure and delight she could no longer deny herself. He was the reason she breathed. She was swept up in the dazzling passion of a boundless love. She could hear the Queen of the Night’s aria ringing in her ears. Even if he lost all respect for her, even if he only wanted her as a mistress, regardless of the consequences, she was his. Even though they were members of two different worlds. Wasn’t it ironic that her mother had found solace and love in the arms of a penniless American doctor and now she, a penniless American herself, was finding passion with an Earl?

I know you’re saying to yourself, “But what does this have to do with me winning something?” You’re right, I’ve been awfully slow getting to the contest part of the post.

Here are your choices:

1. You can submit an excerpt that make you terribly ashamed, or one that makes you darn right proud. It can be the thrilling tale you wrote about My Little Pony in the fifth grade, or something from your latest WIP. I don’t care. Just make me laugh, or sigh with envy, or both.


2. Tell me how you define success at this point in your writing career.

The winner will be randomly selected by a process that involves my cat and slips of paper soaked in a catnip solution, and announced on Friday, July 6th.

The prize is a silk scarf I bought in Suzhou, China from one of the most famous Chinese silk brands, Xiu Niang.

The scarf is HUGE, you could use it as a table cloth, or wear it to RWA National (if it arrives in time). It’s high-quality 100% pure silk that shimmers in the moonlight. The photos don’t do the vibrant colors justice.

And so begins my first contest. Thank you for reading, thank you for getting me through the dark times, and thank you for helping me celebrate the small successes in life.

p.s. Guest blogger Carrie Ryan is talking about a similar subject today over at the Manuscript Mavens blog.


19 thoughts on “Inaugural CONTEST! The Measure of Success”

  1. Hart allowed his lust to overtake his judgment once again. Her lips beneath his were at first tentative, shy. His urgent tongue sought the sweet haven of her mouth and soon was layered and parrying with her own. A sigh of surrender escaped her, encouraging his hands to sweep beneath her borrowed cape to the rim of her wet chemise. Her marbled nipples met his gloved fingers. He had to feel her, skin to skin. He wondered what she would do as he released his hold and stripped himself of his gloves, dropping them to the mud. But his lips still claimed her, and she pulled on his jacket to bring him closer. An arc of searing heat jolted from his chest to his groin. His hands returned to her breasts, freeing them from linen and lace. She was so cold.
    He lowered his mouth to suckle one pale breast. To bring her warmth. To bring the fire of his body to hers. She cried out as he scorched her with his kiss. Shivering from cold and desire, he felt her stumble beneath his hands, and realized in one more minute they’d be rutting in the road, oblivious to the weather or his conscience.

    Kind of hard to tell whether it’s purple or just lavender.But when marbled nipples meet gloved fingers, it can’t be a good thing.

    As for success? My positive feelings come in spurts. But I haven’t given up yet, so I guess that’s some measure of success. 🙂

    And Mabel? As my dad used to say, “Mabel, get off the table. The dollar’s for the beer.”

  2. Does this sound familiar?

    The orchestra played, diamonds glittered, skirts swished seductively, and Damien was bored to tears.

    He was the Earl of Coulter, a soldier, used to leading men in battle. So, how in the world had he ended up babysitting his brother at the Duchess of Alderman’s ball? He stifled a yawn and was glad that his injuries from the battlefield gave him an excuse not to dance. Then, looking around at the crowd, he wished his horse hadn’t fallen on him and that he was still on the battleground. . . not facing a roomful of strangers he had nothing in common with.

    “I don’t think she’s here yet. Have you seen her?”

    Damien’s gaze softened as he looked at his younger brother. Gregory had definitely gotten the lion’s share of the Breckenridge’s good looks. Where Damien’s hair was a little too red, Gregory’s was a deep auburn. Gregory also hadn’t inherited the sprinkling of freckles that swept across Damien’s nose. They had both inherited their mother’s eyes, light grey that looked silver in certain lights. Gregory’s eyes were shining with excitement right now. It was his first season and he was enjoying it immensely.

    “Who am I looking for?” Damien asked with a knowing smile.

    “The Countess. Who else?”

    “Ah, yes, the Countess.”

    “Well, it’s early yet.”

    “Early?” Damien shook his head with a wry smile. It was after midnight and his injuries were beginning to bother him, little nagging pains in his legs, shoulders, and ribs. He covered up a yawn with his hand. Hopefully they would be home before dawn.

    A low murmuring through the crowd caught his attention. He looked up. “That must be the Countess.”

    Gregory just nodded.

    The Countess Vanessa Fraser was lovely to look at. Her long golden hair was caught up in an artful mass of curls that looked casual but probably took hours to fix. Her gown was a blue gauzy confection with embroidered leaves and silk roses festooning the hem. The neckline was daring and Damien reflected that most men wouldn’t notice the blue of her gown exactly matched her eyes.

    Yep, my very first romance submission to Avon Fan Lit. It came in around 250 (or so)….should have been much lower. It was sooo ill-conceived. Just a plodding piece of description, I didn’t even know why dear brother Gregory was there!

    But. . .as the weeks went on, the nearly instantaneous feedback helped me hone what worked and what didn’t. And believe me, lots of it didn’t! 😉

    But, I’m hooked on romance now. . .it’s still gotta have an edge (serial killers, ghosties, shapeshifters, and lots of hot, hot sex).

    How do I measure success? By finishing and then submitting a piece, then writing another…

  3. Great excerpts!

    Maggie: I kept hearing songs while I read your piece. “Give to me your linen, take from me my lace.”… “Why don’t we do it in the road?” But I loved it! So visceral, so urgent, and cold and wet! *fans herself* How did they get so wet? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Ericka: Is that the most cringe-worthy piece of writing you could come up with? Puh-leeze. You write so beautifully that your “plodding piece of description” kept me riveted.

    Thanks, ladies!

  4. Well, it’s a not-so-secret that I never would have found FanLit or turned to writing romance (after many frustrated attempts at YA) if not for the Jane Austen fandom and my dabbles in writing P&P fanfic. Here’s a little bit of one of my early fanfic short stories:

    Lizzy stepped behind her husband’s desk and sank into the soft leather chair, admiring the order and efficiency displayed before her. Her eyes lingered on the full bottles of ink, the neat row of quills, the weighty sheaf of paper – all faithfully awaiting his direction, uncowed by the mountain of correspondence it would be their formidable duty to dispatch. She reached for the handle of the desk’s topmost drawer, and a small smile of anticipation warmed her face.

    It had become her custom to collect bits of nature in the course of her wanderings and stow them away in the top right-hand drawer of Darcy’s desk, where he would be certain to find them. In winter, she might have brought a tawny owl feather, the first brave crocus to breach the crusted snow, or a stone tumbled smooth by water and polished by centuries. Spring offered boughs bursting with apple or cherry blossoms; summer, sprigs of aromatic lavender and sage. Today, she pulled from her pocket a golden, fragrant pear. Its skin was taut with the effort of holding in its sweetness, and when she pressed it to her cheek, it felt cool as the autumn morning.

    The habit of collecting such items had been formed in Lizzy’s childhood, her father having been the original recipient of her treasures. Mr. Bennet still teased her regularly on the subject of her often ill-conceived gifts — the hapless frog who escaped the drawer in an impressive display of vigor, only to poach itself tragically in a steaming teacup; the erstwhile snowball which had melted an inky channel through his estate accounts ledger – and he claimed, to this day, to open that particular drawer with no small degree of trepidation.

    Darcy, as unlike his father-in-law in temperament as in stature, never spoke to Elizabeth of finding her small offerings. Likewise, if she happened to discover a bit of lace or a packet of sweets in the same drawer, she said nothing to him. A tacit agreement declared the exchange of words unnecessary to the exchange of these small gifts, whose message was so clearly understood without their benefit.

    *sigh* I just never get tired of Lizzy and Darcy. I’m sure you all get tired of me talking about them!

  5. …the hapless frog who escaped the drawer in an impressive display of vigor, only to poach itself tragically in a steaming teacup.

    ROFL! So sweet. I never get tired of Lizzie, either.

  6. When the unobtrusive throat-clearing at the library door began to sound like a raging case of consumption, Roman Alexander, Lord Montborne, accepted that the inevitable interruption could not be avoided indefinitely. He raised his chin from his hand and leaned back in his chair, abandoning the joy of woolgathering to regard his butler with a sleepy-eyed, roguish grin. “May I be of service, Gribbs? I would so hate for you to lose a lung.”

    The old retainer may have rolled his eyes—it was impossible to tell from this distance, but the gentle arching of his thin brows certainly implied something similarly irreverent had occurred. “It is just that you have a caller, my lord, and I rather thought you might like to know about it.”

    Roman flashed his butler a playful smile. “Why? Shall I hide? You know the drill, old man. Save your ancient bones for the important things, like laying out my eveningwear. I think the primrose superfine for tonight, with a simple Gordion knot.” When Gribbs did not scurry along as expected but actually entered the room, Roman waved a few long fingers in the air, flashing his sapphire signet ring in the weak sunlight trickling through the library window. “Very well, then. Tell him your master has died and you send your regrets. Perhaps his wife will deliver a casserole that will see us through dinner. Mayhap even breakfast, should we be that lucky.”

    “He is not a creditor, my lord,” Gribbs replied, sucking all the fun out of things, “and he does not have a wife. That said, I’m not sure hiding here wouldn’t be the best course of action.” He held out a small white calling card which Roman, being the sort who rarely found anything of interest in finicky details, ignored. Gribbs flicked the offending card up under his sleeve. “Baron Morelle has returned from the West Indies as promised. And I’m afraid it gets worse.”

    Roman set down his quill—a long, fine specimen on whose tip the ink had dried many daydreams ago—and assumed a grave expression. “That is very hard to imagine, Gribbs. Pray, keep me in suspense no longer.”

    The butler’s left eye twitched, assuring Roman the news must be poor indeed. Gribbs appeared enjoy his anticipation, the old codger, and rocked back on his heels. Roman waved him on. “Well?”

    “The baron has a young lady with him,” Gribbs announced, his clear enthusiasm ringing as a cryptic warning in Roman’s head. “They are in the India room.”

    “Ah,” Roman muttered, searching for a scrap of joviality in the face of certain doom. There could be only one reason for the baron’s bringing a lady with him, and it did not bode well for his future

  7. Darn! Missed a period at the end. FYI I didn’t post the Horriblest Thing Ever because God forbid someone webcrawl over it and think that’s how I write. It’s AWFUL. Absolutely horrid. You’ll have to take my word for it, though, because it shall live on only in the visionless void of my jump drive 🙂

  8. Hee, hee, the poor wee froggie!

    Here is the beginning of a story I hope may someday exist, but is going to begin in some other way if it does:

    On her way home from work that Tuesday Bridget met with unanticipated disappointment. It ought not to have affected her so strongly, but she was very thirsty and very hungry and, as the morning’s promise of autumn had given way at some point to an unseasonable humidity, the wool dress she had on was scratching her intolerably. Her legs would no more than stroll down the Mellet Bureau’s alley toward the main road. When she came around the bend to the gate where hawkers congregated to feed hungry children just released from school, her eyes flitted from flag to flag, red and green and brown, triangle and square, bright and tattered, but none crisp, red and glistening. The dumpling-seller was not there, and hope abandoned her. She could have cried.
    The bright red flag was there near enough to always that Bridget had felt she could count on it. The flag itself was extraordinary, always clean and abnormally resilient–washed, starched and ironed every day? It seemed stubbornly resistant to the dirt of the charcoal burner and soot-caked implements that sat beneath it, and no other vendor’s pennant could compare. Nearly every corner had its dumpling vendor, but this one must have been from some obscure border province, for his dumplings were as exceptional as his flag. The filling combined tender meat with some rich sweet substance, entirely unique in Bridget’s experience, at least so far as its presence in dumplings went. She suspected it was raisins.
    The boy himself, too, was delicious, brown and wiry with strong, well-defined eyebrows and a slightly beaky nose. Young, perhaps, for her, but that need not trouble her. Of all the hundreds of people who liked his dumplings, he would hardly notice if one plump girl with brown hair looked at him a little long. She liked to watch from a distance until he’d sold the last of a batch and put a fresh stack on to steam, so that she could then walk up, be told that she’d have to wait a bit, and spend the interval savouring the look of him. Then when the treats were done she went, squashy bundle in hand and hot dumpling in mouth, on her way.

  9. Oh my that Roman is a dandy. Primrose superfine, indeed! Thanks for entering, Lacey. I loved your excerpt. I completely understand about not posting the worst. That’s why I opened it up to the best, as well. But I suspect your worst could hardly be all that bad…

    And Huar, sorry about the paragraph loss. I inserted them as I read.

    …but this one must have been from some obscure border province, for his dumplings were as exceptional as his flag. The filling combined tender meat with some rich sweet substance, entirely unique in Bridget’s experience, at least so far as its presence in dumplings went. She suspected it was raisins.

    Mmmm. I miss dumplings already. What a beautiful description. I love this, and hope it gets developed very, very soon.

  10. I went and dug up the old manuscript for PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS. It had some really cheesy parts, but nothing purple enough to be of interest.

    So I’ll go with this. I’d once re-novelized Attack of the Clones as entirely a love story. But that was still Uncle George’s story. This is how I would begin to tell the story of how a Dark Lord and the woman he loved/loved him.

    It had not been love. Nor did she consider it infatuation. Love implied a certain degree of tenderness, a reaching–however remote the possibility of success–for truth, for sublimation. Infatuation, on the other hand, always conveyed a note of callowness. She had been twenty-four then, less than worldly, a little naïve even, but not immature.

    Rather, she had been mesmerized, in that precise sense of near-hypnosis. She could not count the number of times she had been caught staring at him. And she had not even bothered to rationalize anything to herself. Instead, she had let the torrent of attraction sweep her along, tumbling, breathless.

    Years later, after his shocking betrayal of the Republic, after he had taken up the reins of power, puppeteer behind the hapless Emperor, she would search her memory for clues to explain his aboutface. Carefully, she would poke and prod the inner recesses of her mind, squeezing out the last detail of the twenty days she had spent with him.

    Nothing. One did not study history to be better acquainted with the present. Quite the opposite. The present informed one’s view of the past. It was because she knew of his later ruthlessness that she now read something sinister into his superb assurance. His intricate maneuvers that toppled the Republic made her see the ruses he had employed for her safekeeping in quite a different light.

    Until then, until the dust had settled from the Republic’s collapse, until a clearer picturer had emerged of those responsible for that travesty, she had persisted in her hallowed opinion of him, for he had set not only the standard to which all other men must hopelessly aspire, but also the standard by which all her experiences in life would subsequently be judged. Could anything be as intense, as giddy, as lunatic, as thrilling, and as gloriously alive?

    He had been not so much a romantic experience as a religious one.

    And now she was to face him again, the Dark Lord, called so by his enemies and his allies alike.

    She was his enemy. But he did not know it. Not yet.

    Or so she hoped.

  11. Let’s see.

    Before I entered Avon’s Fan Lit, the only thing I’d written was a piece of (unfinished) Harry Potter fanfiction, which was supposed to be Book 7, entirely redone.

    The setup: Snape is good, but he has removed and/or altered all his own memories of being a member of the Order of the Phoenix in order to best fool Voldemort. So he is confused. Also, he is an expert in the use of death to work magic. Here, Snape has tea with Voldy and other Dark Lords.

    Meetings had changed since the Dark Lord returned to power. Snape–who prided himself on his organized mind–identified the differences in his head. First, the Dark Lord, was sitting in a comfortable chair drinking tea. Second, the Death Eaters were not meeting in a dank cave with bats swooping around their heads. Instead, they lounged about a fire on black leather armchairs, eating scones. Third–third–

    “More clotted cream, Severus?” inquired Lord Voldemort. The Dark Lord had never cared much for his appearance, and it was a good thing. His robes were clean, at least for now, but he never wore anything other than black. Death and dark magic had not been kind to his complexion, either; his skin scaled and cracked, and his eyes burned a deep red. At least Voldemort had the good sense to glove his long, scaly fingers.

    “No, thank you.”

    The truth was that nobody had been seduced into following the Dark Lord with promises of ruling a dungeon filled with bats and skeletons and chains. Power in and of itself was enough to motivate Lord Voldemort. (Snape had once asked, “What do you want all this power for?” The Dark Lord had found the question baffling. “More power,” he’d finally replied.) But regular wizards required additional incentives. Clean linen helped. As did promises of sumptuous dinners, gold, jewels, and sexual pleasure. Really, recruiting Death Eaters wasn’t so different from seducing women. Not that Snape knew anything about the latter.

    Every month the Dark Lord had organizational meetings, and the Death Eaters brainstormed plots. Last month, they had discussed plots to bust loyal followers of Lord Voldemort out of Azkaban, for instance. Successfully, Snape added, as he looked around the room. Previous discussions had included plots to bamboozle Harry Potter into falling into their clutches, for instance. And plots to kill, replace, or otherwise control high-ranking Ministry officials. In the first war, before the Dark Lord was forced into hiding, they had worn masks and concealing robes to these meetings. But at this point, everyone in the room had laid their shoulders bare, so to speak. The Mark burned Dark; there was no longer any question where their loyalties lay. And so the disguises were no longer deemed necessary. With the need for disguise went much of the discomfort. Or, Snape amended, the physical discomfort.

    Today, the usual Inner Circle was present: Lucius Malfoy, Bellatrix Lestrange, Antonin Dolohov, and of course, himself, Severus Snape. Vincent Crabbe, Senior, guarded the door. But there was one addition. Seated carefully on the edge of the leather sofa, as far as he could get from the other Death Eaters, was young Draco Malfoy. He half-heartedly picked at his scone; when he lifted his tea cup to his mouth, he barely wet his lips.

    “Our item for this month’s brainstorming–” whispered Lord Voldemort. The effect was electric. All discussion cut off abruptly. Even the soft sigh of chairs shifting underneath the Death Eaters’ weight vanished. When it was clear that Lord Voldemort had everyone’s attention (by Snape’s estimation, three milliseconds had elapsed), he continued. “Our item for this month’s brainstorming is the troubling matter of Harry Potter. We’ve finally figured out, thanks to Severus, that the reason we’ve been bumbling is not wholly due to your inept attempts to capture and kill a sixteen-year-old boy of no particular wizarding ability.”

    The Dark Lord paused. Perhaps he was waiting for someone to dispute his description? No. Inept they might all be. But nobody in the room was foolish.

    “It turns out,” Voldemort continued, slightly disappointed, “Lily Potter, when she died, cast some kind of protection spell.” An airy wave of the Dark Lord’s gloved hand accompanied this last. Voldemort found white magic wholly uninteresting. “So long as Harry Potter is a child, and so long as he spends some time every year around his mother’s kin, the protection continues. This is suboptimal. Ideas?”

    A brief pause.

    “Erm, maybe this is too simple,” said Bellatrix. “But you said the protection continued so long as Potter’s a child. But he’ll be seventeen in a little more than three weeks. Why don’t we wait until he becomes an adult, swoop in, and have you kill him by your own hand?”

    “No, Bell,” said Antonin Dolohov. “We already decided against pitched battles. They’re expecting us to attack when he hits majority, you know. Aurors will be covering Harry like fleas on a dog. We hadn’t expected our last confrontation to take so many of our number, but it did.”

    “That’s true,” added Lucius. “We’d have to attack on their ground, spring their traps, fight all their people, protect our, uh”–here he nodded at Voldemort–“Great Lord and Master, make it to Harry Potter, and then perform a ceremony. Too risky. Too many variables.”

    Lord Voldemort sat silent.

    “What about if we cast a protective spell around you?” suggested Lucius, looking at Lord Voldemort. “You know–Harry’s mum died for him. We’d all be willing to die for you. So let’s have–uh, let’s have Vincent Crabbe die for your benefit. Then your spell counteracts Harry’s, and it’s just your wizardry against his. We know who’d win there.”

    Crabbe, Senior, standing guard at the door, looked mutinous. “If you’ll excuse my saying so, I always thought, sir, as how Gregory Goyle was superior at dying. Sir. More practice, as they say.”

    More silence.

    “Severus, is this sort of spell even possible?” Voldemort asked.

    “Well, yes. But the problem is that protective spells only act as shields, not swords. If you have a protective spell around you, it’ll protect you if others attack, but it won’t help you if you go on the offensive. Protective spells are white magic. They only work in one direction.”

    “Argh,” muttered Voldemort, rubbing his temples. Flakes of something that looked like chalk crumbled where his fingers rasped against his forehead. “This is why I detest white magic. So limited.”

    “But isn’t,” asked Dolohov, “there some kind of equivalent Dark Magic soul spell that we can use for aggression? You know, kill someone, make a big weapon? If Potter’s got the equivalent of a counter-curse stuck to him, like a birthmark, we just need a counter-counter-curse.”

    Snape pondered. There was, he thought, a piece of soul’s magic that would give the Dark Lord the appropriate counter-curse, the sword that would cut through Harry’s magical protection. All he had to do was open his mouth and explain it. And didn’t he want Harry dead? Didn’t he want the Dark Lord to succeed? Yes, he answered. I do. I want Harry to die, which means that I need to figure out how to counteract Lily’s last gift. But the idea didn’t appeal to him. He’d be working the soul’s magic, and he found himself displeased with the idea. “If you had ever worked with the subtleties of soul’s magic,” Snape found himself replying silkily, “you’d know better. Soul’s magic just doesn’t work like that.” It was a lie. He’d just lied to the Dark Lord. Why had he done that?

    “I know. More death; less magic,” suggested Lucius. “We waltz in, Avada Kedavra the Muggle family, thus cutting off Potter’s protection. Then we make off with the boy.”

    “We’ve tried that already,” sighed Bellatrix, “and it didn’t work. I suspect that the stupid protection spell protects all Lily’s blood. Not just Harry. All of them.”

    The Death Eaters looked to Snape. Snape shrugged, and nodded. There was a long pause while all the Death Eaters attempted to look as if they were thinking.

    “Poisoned peppermints?” suggested Lucius, when the silence had grown too long. Nobody bothered to dignify this with an answer. “Peppermint Portkey?” Still no response. “Dragon, transfigured to look like a peppermint?” No answer. “They don’t need to be peppermints. Every Flavor Beans, now–“

    Why, Snape wondered, do I feel that I shouldn’t contribute? Am I not a loyal Death Eater? He supported–he remembered supporting–Lord Voldemort. Didn’t he? If you support him, Snape challenged himself, then prove it. And in that instant, Snape saw the answer to the problem. Before his strange doubts could intervene, he spoke up. “The protection that Potter’s mother gave him is magical. And so it protects Potter against magic.”

    “Brilliant.” Lucius snarled, sarcastically.

    Lord Voldemort motioned with his finger.

    “We’ve tried to get to Harry Potter with magic. And it didn’t work, because the magic always backfires. What if we try to get them with Muggle devices? I’m sure Muggles have some primitive way to kill each other.”

    Bellatrix looked as if she had accidentally licked Voldemort’s flaking forehead. “You want us to act like Muggles?”

    “Really, Severus,” said Antonin Dolohov, “I have no idea if Muggles can kill effectively, but we can’t possibly waste our time learning their”–here, he hooked his thumbs together and flapped his hands like wings–“ineffectual attempts to duplicate the Killing Curse? We’ve got so much else to do.”

    “Plus,” added Lucius, “They’re Muggles.”

    “We could pay Muggles who already know how to kill,” replied Snape calmly.

    “They’re still Muggles.”

    “All the better!” interrupted Lord Voldemort. “Kill them afterwards. There’s a nice symmetry–use the Muggles to kill Harry Potter so nobody can threaten me. Then rule over the Muggles with a fist of iron. It could work.”

    Snape was pleased. He was pleased, he told himself firmly. He promised himself that he was pleased. He had figured out a way to destroy Harry Potter without risking loyal Death Eaters. This was a Good Thing. Or was it? No, no, and a thousand times no. He refused to answer his doubts. It must have been the weather. Or the scones. Or something.

  12. Sherry: Welcome! I just have to tell you again that the cover of Private Arrangements is stunningly beautiful. You must be so thrilled.

    …for he had set not only the standard to which all other men must hopelessly aspire, but also the standard by which all her experiences in life would subsequently be judged. Could anything be as intense, as giddy, as lunatic, as thrilling, and as gloriously alive?

    He had been not so much a romantic experience as a religious one.

    Wow. I want to see this movie. Give me space opera from a female POV and I’m in heaven.

    CM: You never fail to slay me.

    But regular wizards required additional incentives. Clean linen helped. As did promises of sumptuous dinners, gold, jewels, and sexual pleasure. Really, recruiting Death Eaters wasn’t so different from seducing women.

    Once you rule the romance world, you should set your domination death ray on the fantasy realm. Thanks so much for posting, and for making me snort crumpet through my nose. Yes, I really was eating a honey-drenched crumpet and drinking tea when I read this. Does that make me a Death Eater?

  13. Great idea for a contest! I’ll go with the how do I define success now question: Easy. I write. If I don’t write, I am not successful. Period. Don’t get me wrong — I want to be published, but I know that will happen eventually. If I write. So for me, my “career success” isn’t defined so much by whether I have an agent or a publishing contract, as by if I’m doing what I love. Does that make sense? *:?)

    There you have it. And now I finally, after a year, get to say… SEE YOU SOON!!! Drinks are on me, babe, so just name the day!

  14. Hi Kerry, good answer! It makes total sense. And you touched on something I’ve been thinking about a lot. Sometimes the revision blues or synopsis mean reds take the joy away. But it’s always waiting, right around the next paragraph. If you truly love writing, you’ll take the lows with the highs, and never give up.

  15. Hmmm… the purplest of my prose is packed away at the moment (you have just taken it to Portland, bless you very much) but I second Kerry’s comment: when you are productive, that’s success. Great contest, m’love, and I can’t wait to see who takes the scarf!

  16. An excellent post, and a gorgeous scarf.

    Success is such a personal thing, thank heavens! Imagine the misery if it were externally defined. I’d say you are the picture of success right now, living the life you want and spreading the word about those dear children in China.

    Oh, and I finally put together a simple blog site:
    come by and say Hi when you have a second 🙂

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