The poor cat died in the box again.
Alas, such is the way with contests. Competition is stiff, and the chances to break out from the crowd are slim. Like last year, I may rally and enter Watermark in some individual RWA chapter contests, but that decision must wait for now since, ahem, I’m still unemployed after being laid-off last year (my day job was social work). Luckily, there’s chapter contests that are offered throughout the year, so there’s still an opportunity to become gainfully employed and afford to enter an additional contest or two this year. Although I did enter Watermark in the Carolyn Reader’s Choice Award as well, and finalists will be announced in early April, so who knows? As I always say, chin up, buttercup! Nobody likes a crybaby.
Now, as for the RITA finalists this year, here’s the list! I was so pleased to see several self-published books made the cut this year! I’ve already gone through and picked some books out that I’m eager to start reading, so don’t miss your opportunity to do the same. The RITA finalists are a great way to find new authors that might soon become some of your favorites. Enjoy!
This week is a big one for all us romance writers. The Romance Writers of America announce their finalists for the 2018 RITA award on Wednesday, March 21st, and those finalists move on to the last round of judging, which concludes in July. Very exciting, folks! It’s the highest award granted in romance and highlights the best of the best. Several genres of romance are covered: contemporary, historical, suspense, young adult, and so on. As you might already know, this is my second year entering, and so it’s always a very nail-biting morning when those calls and emails start pouring in to the winners. The competition is stiff with 2000 entries, and only about 4% of authors place, but it’s still thrilling to think “what if.” That being said, my next post will either be very ecstatic as I share great news or very philosophical (no, really!) as I share my time-honored tradition of envisioning Schrodinger’s Cat (read 2017 blog entry). Whichever outcome, I hope you’ll stop by next week to find out.
Also, in honor of spring, I did a little spring cleaning on my author website and spruced up the place a bit. I restructured the layout and got my hands on some really fetching fonts! I’m particularly excited about the individual “Watermark” and “Clingstone” web pages. I used my couples as the background for the blog reviews my books have received over the last couple of years, and I gotta say, it turned out great! Unfortunately, the full effect doesn’t translate as well on mobile devices—you can’t see my couples as well—so if you’ve got a free moment, check out my website updates on a laptop or tablet to see the new design. May you be dazzled and awestruck! Or something aptly in between is also fine. Happy spring!
It’s true that some parts of writing are effortless. Sometimes, a scene almost writes itself, and the little creative muses are working their magic overtime. Other times, the muses are nowhere to be seen, or worse, they’re laughing and giving you the bird.
For those who haven’t read Watermark yet, spoiler alerts ahead! For those who have, Corbin Sweeney, the myopic river pirate who is interrogated by Malcolm early in the book, was actually killed by Malcolm in the first draft. And yet, no matter how many times I rewrote the scene, there was no way I could pull off Corbin’s execution without Malcolm coming across as, er, well, a little bananas. Sure, he had excellent justification for executing him—he’d been sanctioned by the townspeople of Cassville to do so, and the story takes place in a time where lawmen were few and far between in that area of the country--but none of those rationalizations translated onto the page. The scene simply came across as too gruesome; as a result, my lovely hero came across as a tad homicidal. Yikes.
Thus began a research quest for deaths related to near-drownings, and hooray! The creative muses sat up and cheered. There’s a rare complication with secondary drownings which involves water entering the lungs and causing a condition called pulmonary edema. Secondary drownings mainly affect children, though, and can take up to 24 hours to fully manifest, but further research revealed that pulmonary edema can result from other conditions besides secondary drowning—pneumonia, heart failure, and as a major complication of trauma victims, to name a few.
According to emedicinehealth, “Non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema is less common and occurs because of damage to the lung tissue and subsequent inflammation of lung tissue. This can cause the tissue that lines the structures of the lung to swell and leak fluid into the alveoli and the surrounding lung tissue. Again, this increases the distance necessary for oxygen to travel to reach the bloodstream.” Symptoms are excessive sweating, shortness of breath, wheezing, and pink, foamy sputum.
Sound familiar? And so the details of Corbin Sweeney’s death fell into place. Although our main characters were never privy to the particulars, Corbin ultimately perished from a massive pulmonary edema triggered by a blunt-force chest injury that occurred during the fight on the keelboat. Mission accomplished! My rewrite allowed my hero to avoid appearing a tad homicidal, and I had fun looking up various morbid conditions that can lead to a speedy death. Win-win! Ah, the joys of writing…
While researching Watermark, there were several resources I mined in order to learn about what life would have been like living on the Mississippi River. One of my favorite and undeniably one of the most prolific resources I came across was a website called, “Steamboat Times, A Pictorial History of the Mississippi Steamboating Era.” I don’t believe the site has been updated for several years, but the site itself is still alive and well in that eternal ether called the internet.
I came across “Steamboat Times” early in my research and was amazed at the architect’s thoroughness. In terms of design, the website is easily navigable with pages broken down into specific vessels: keelboats, flatboats, rafts, steamboats, and so on. It’s also visually rich; as the website title says, it’s a pictorial history and not simply dry facts. There’s a remarkable compilation of daguerreotypes, drawings, watercolors, wood engravings, and maps that depict every vessel imaginable. In addition, the site is a wealth of information on dimensions, steamboat races, the life of boatmen, living conditions, and the dangers they faced on the river. Firsthand accounts of the era are depicted in letters, diary entries, and even court cases.
If you have any interest in what it was like to work and live on the river during the 19th century, or even if you just want to see an example of what Malcolm’s flatboat would have looked like, visit “Steamboat Times, A Pictorial History of the Mississippi Steamboating Era” by clicking here.