Curses! Drat! Phooey! Or, if your name happens to be O’Connor—Blast! Saints almighty! Sweet saints above! Sweet mother of Job or Sweet chorus of angels!
Because let’s face it—when an author receives twenty pages of red-letter edits from her editor, it just ain’t pretty. But … if there’s one thing I have learned after writing six books, it’s that “Edit” is NOT a bad word!!
Oh, trust me, I thought so in the beginning. Well, not the early, early beginning because truth be told, I had almost no edits on Book 1, A Passion Most Pure (comparatively), and only a few more on Book 2, A Passion Redeemed, so naturally I thought—Hey, this edit stuff isn’t so bad! And, really, it can only get better from here, with fewer and fewer edits on each book, right?
Uh, yeah. Can you say, “blindsided”? My first two books set me up for the fall, and the pin that burst my bubble was called A Passion Denied, book 3 in The Daughters of Boston series. From that moment on, I was “denied” the comfort and cockiness of thinking I could ever write a decent book again. The edits for each book thereafter got progressively worse, convincing me that as an author, I was getting worse too, going backwards instead of forward. So much so, that I almost expected my publisher to yank their contract. Sigh … what a greenhorn!
Well, I’m happy to say that it may have taken me six books, but I have finally learned that edits—whether from your agent, your editor or your copy editor—only make the book better and better. Wow, Julie … what a concept!!
So, since my latest book A Heart Revealed releases in—drum roll, please—FIVE DAYS on CBD.com or TWENTY-ONE DAYS on Amazon.com and everywhere else including bookstores, I thought it might be a kick to show you some of the edits from my editor on this particular book while giving you a sneak peek at Sean and Emma’s story at the same time. And then, since “edit” is NOT a "bad" four-letter word, I thought it might also be fun to give you a look at an edit sheet I created for myself (at the end of this blog) with alternative words suggestions for Christian-approved four-letter words or exclamations. Mind you, these word suggestions are just my running worksheet of ones I use a lot and certainly not all that are available. In fact, anyone who leaves a comment with new Christian-approved exclamations, I will enter you twice in the contest to receive a signed copy of my new book, A Heart Revealed. Here’s my own version of the jacket blurb:
The ring on her hand belongs to one man …
but her heart belongs to another.
As a battered woman, Emma Malloy fled Dublin for Boston ten years ago, seeking shelter for a heart badly bruised by both her husband and guilt. But when she falls in love with Sean O’Connor, a man who wrestles with demons of his own, fear and shame almost destroy her … until she is finally set free by a heart revealed.
The heroine of A Heart Revealed, Emma Malloy, is a married woman whose abusive husband threw hot grease in her face back in Ireland, scarring her for life. Consequently, as a physically “imperfect” heroine, I really wanted to model her after Francine Rivers’ utterly incredible heroine from her Mark of the Lion trilogy, Hadassah, a Jewish slave girl who was disfigured in the lion arenas in 79 AD Rome. Like Emma, Hadassah was a scarred woman whose inner beauty was so strong (her love for God, her goodness, etc.), that by the end of the book, it made her almost physically beautiful to the hero and the reader despite her disfigurement.
Well …I’m no Francine Rivers, and apparently I went a little overboard on the “holy” aspect of Emma because I laughed out loud when my editor referred to Emma as “a Buddhist nun. Yep, I had some work to do, and to give you an idea of the challenge I faced in transforming Emma, here is the most telling comment from my editor:
“Emma is like a Buddhist nun. Sometimes Sean even compares her to his mother. She’s super-spiritual and totally non-sexual. Even the fact that we’re told she has gray eyes isn’t helping. On p. 37, for example, when she looks in the mirror: “the pity in gentle gray eyes…” This is your biggest challenge in this book – making her more dimensional and sensual and more like a true Julie Lessman character. Making her someone Sean falls in love with. Let’s face it, guys start w/a spark. Where’s hers? Sean’s playing w/bad girls while he puts Emma on a pedestal. Your fans are looking for passion. Emma seems passionless, and actually so does Sean when he’s around her until it’s kinda too late in the book. She’s completely too schoolmarm …”
YIKES! Or maybe I should say drat or oh, fudge!! But seriously, I owe my editor a HUGE thank you for her invaluable insight on Emma’s character because truly, her edits … along with those of my amazing agent, Natasha Kern, made the difference in this book!
So … let’s tackle my editors’s comment above about page 37. Here’s how I originally wrote it, and yes, Emma does sound pretty colorless here:
Emotion shifted in Emma’s throat as she stared at her image in the mirror, noting the pity in gentle gray eyes that had once held so much promise. Charity insisted she was “beautiful,” but mirrors didn’t lie …
What man would ever find me beautiful? The only beauty she possessed was her love for God, and Emma knew that the human eye was often blind to such beauty. She inhaled deeply, infusing her lungs with the peace of acceptance. Fortunately for her, it was more than enough.
And here’s the rewrite, giving Emma “green-gray” eyes that “men could get lost in” and showing men’s attraction to her before the scars.
Rory had thought her beautiful once, as did the men who often sought her attention before Rory had spoiled that beauty, and yet for all the bold stares and brazen compliments, Emma had never once believed it. Despite men fawning over her from an early age on, her father had made sure that such compliments never changed the low opinion she had of herself, insisting that “any whore can turn a man’s head.”
Emotion shifted in Emma’s throat as she stared at her image in the mirror, noting the pain in green-gray eyes that Rory had once claimed a man could get lost in. Eyes that had once held so much promise, now filled with tragedy due to a man’s admiring gaze. Charity insisted she was “beautiful,” but mirrors didn’t lie...
Next, I needed to have Sean notice Emma as a woman, so here’s an original excerpt that has no “attraction” factor at all:
She closed her eyes and inhaled, which helped chase the fatigue from her delicate features. “Oh, I love the clean smell of rain.”
“Me too,” he said, taking the opportunity to study the woman before him with whom he felt a kinship that seemed almost like blood. She was the reason his gloomy mood had lifted in the last week, the reason he’d enjoyed working at Dennehy’s so much despite the fact that her interaction with him had been painfully professional. He thought he had known her, this woman he loved, but she had surprised him more than anyone ever had, slipping out from the shadows of ambiguity to become a strong and steady force in a world where men reigned supreme. And yet through it all, she was Emma, a woman who preferred to fade into the background, and yet wielded a power that was serene, gentle, and strong.
The gray eyes opened, and he suddenly saw her as she must have been years ago—perfect features, hypnotic eyes and an innocence that produced an ache in his chest. He observed the faint scars on the right side of her face—the damaged brow, the wilted lip—and realized that for him, they had never hindered her beauty. “You’re different here,” he whispered, “secure, resolute, invincible.”
And here’s the rewrite, adding a hint more sizzle, particularly the bolded areas, with “trigger” words (i.e. more sensual) underlined:
“Oh, I love the smell of rain,” she whispered.
“Me too,” he said quietly, suddenly aware he’d been holding his breath. Easing back in his chair, his chest slowly contracted as the air left his lungs in one long, silent release. Eyes closed, she seemed content to rest, head cushioned on the padded back of a gold velour dining room chair that matched the furniture in her office. The scent and sound of the rain seemed to tranquilize her, dispelling some of the anxiety he’d sensed after Alli had left, affording him the opportunity to study this woman who aroused his curiosity like no other ever had. She was the reason his gloomy mood had lifted in the last week, the reason he’d enjoyed working at Dennehy’s so much despite the fact that her interaction with him had been painfully professional. He thought he had known her, but she had surprised him more than anyone ever had, slipping out from the shadows of ambiguity to become a strong and steady force in a world where men reigned supreme. And yet through it all, she was Emma, a woman who preferred to fade into the background, and yet wielded a power that was serene, gentle, and strong. His neck warmed. And somehow—in the intimacy of this setting—sensual.
The fawn-colored eyes opened, revealing a hint of pale green hue, and he suddenly saw her as she must have been years ago—perfect features, hypnotic eyes and a magnetic innocence so strong, it aroused both a strange longing within and an ache in his chest. He observed the faint scars on the right side of her face—and realized that for him, they had never hindered her beauty. “You’re different here,” he whispered, “secure, resolute, invincible.”
In these next four examples, changing/adding one or two simple lines (or a word) can help (I hope!) to “rev” the attraction factor up considerably.
A wash of color ebbed in her cheeks as she rose to her feet. “Well, if I can’t convince you to go home, then at least I can share my supper with you.” A sparkle lit the soft gray of her eyes. “It’s not Bert’s home-made meatloaf by a long shot, but it should be enough to tame your hunger pangs for a while.”
A wash of color ebbed in her cheeks and she quickly rose to her feet, avoiding his eyes. “Well, if I can’t convince you to go home, then the least I can give you half of my supper.” She peeked up, her manner tentative despite a shy smile that quickened his pulse. “It’s not Bert’s meatloaf by a long shot, but it should be enough to tame your hunger pangs for a while.”
He grinned and speared some beef with his fork. “This looks incredible. When do you have time to cook like this?”
He quickly reached for his fork and speared the beef, grinning like a little boy with a big crush on a little girl. “This looks incredible. When do you have time to cook like this?”
She was Mrs. Emma Malloy, the only one he’d ever allowed a glimpse of his soul, and the one he respected more than any woman alive, outside of his family. The woman he loved … and the only woman who offered no threat.
She was Mrs. Emma Malloy, the only one he’d ever allowed a glimpse of his soul, and the one he respected more than any woman alive, outside of his family. He glanced up, and suddenly those mesmerizing green-gray eyes—the hue of pale jade or onyx—tripped his pulse, an unsettling awareness that hers, for whatever reason, was the opinion that mattered the most.
His face relaxed into a smile. “Yeah, that did sour my mood. But I only have you to blame. Your brownies are even better than my mothers, and that’s saying something.”
She smiled, savoring the compliment. “Thank you, but let’s keep that a secret, shall we?”
His face relaxed into a smile. “Yeah, that did sour my mood. But I only have you to blame. Your brownies are downright sinful.”
She grinned. “Goodness, I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or not.”
I had the perfect opportunity to show Sean’s attraction in a scene where she teaches him to dance, but I blew it the first time around (the first paragraph below), not taking advantage of racing his pulse over Emma Malloy. But … hopefully I succeeded in the rewrite that follows (the 2nd paragraph below):
“I promise this will be fun,” she said in a rush, hurrying to the cherry-wood buffet against the wall where an RCA Victor phonograph stood ready and waiting. His mouth went flat. Further evidence of her plot to goad him into making Rose happy. He shook his head and watched her while she turned the phonograph on, lifting the needle carefully into place with a scratchy sound before it glided into the record’s groove. The mellow sounds of Duke Ellington’s Three Little Words suddenly floated through the air and oddly enough, his muscles begin to relax. He closed his eyes to enjoy the magic of one of his favorite songs, by an artist Emma knew he loved.
“I promise this will be fun,” she said in a rush, hurrying to the cherry-wood buffet against the wall where an RCA Victor phonograph stood ready and waiting. His mouth went flat. Further evidence of her plot to goad him into making Rose happy. He shook his head and watched her while she bent over the phonograph, his gaze traveling the length of her before he realized what he was doing. Heat ringed his collar and his pulse notched up a degree when he suddenly realized Emma Malloy had a beautiful body. How had he never noticed before—those long, willowy legs that slid up to gentle hips and a small waist? Fire scorched his cheeks as he admired generous breasts all the more obvious in a new pale yellow sweater that brought out a touch of green in her eyes. He cleared his throat and looked away while she carefully lifted the needle into place with a scratchy sound before it glided into the record’s groove. The mellow sounds of Duke Ellington’s Three Little Words suddenly floated through the air and oddly enough, his muscles begin to relax. He closed his eyes to enjoy the magic of one of his favorite songs, by an artist Emma knew he loved.
Finally, I couldn’t end this blog without a love scene, and since I can’t have a love scene between Emma and Sean because Emma is married, I have what I think is wonderful substory about Katie and Luke. Here is an excerpt from their honeymoon night, and I never thought I would say this, but my editor actually asked me to make it MORE passionate because after all, the readers have been waiting for this wedding and honeymoon for a whole year now, so it should be good! So I did—I added two paragraphs that I have bolded below. To set the scene up, Katie is in the bathroom of their hotel on the first night of their honeymoon, wondering how she was going to tell Luke she intended to go back to law school and graduate before she has children.
She released a cleansing breath and opened her eyes, suddenly feeling considerably calmer. Luke loved her and would understand, she was sure of it. After all, hadn’t he agreed to let her continue working at the BCAS three days a week while Lizzie watched Kit? And going to law school five days a week wasn’t much more than that, she reasoned. All it would take was for Luke to agree to refrain from lovemaking at inopportune times. Was that so difficult?
And if he refuses? Katie blinked in the mirror as her jaw pressed tight. Well, then, she’d just have to be the strong one, the one with the will power. When the time wasn’t right, she would just tell Luke McGee no, case closed. After all, how hard could it be?
With her mind firmly made up, she opened the bathroom door.
A gasp quivered from her lips when Luke met her with a possessive grip and a dangerous gleam in his eyes. “Sweet saints, Katie, if you’re trying to build anticipation, you win, because I’m about ready to crawl out of my skin.”
He cupped her face in his hands and pressed her to the wall, taking her mouth with such gentle force that a moan escaped her lips. When he pulled away, the blood in her cheeks warmed at the sight of his bare, muscled chest tapering into low-slung pajama bottoms. The heady scent of Bay Rum from his clean-shaven jaw merged with the smell of soap from blond hair still wet from his shower. She looked up and swallowed hard, completely disarmed by the glow of love in his eyes.
“Heaven, help me, Katie, you’re beautiful,” he whispered, his gaze scanning her negligee as if he wanted to swallow her whole. The blue eyes recaptured hers once again, and her heart tripped at the desire she saw in his face. His generous mouth tipped up in a smoldering tease as he leaned in to nuzzle her neck. “Pinch me, Katie Rose, because I can hardly believe I get to make love to you for the rest of my life.”
In a sudden sweep of his arms, he cradled her to his chest and carried her to their bed with the utmost care, setting her down on the smooth, cool sheets as if she were the most fragile of gifts. He eased in beside her and drew her close, his voice husky with emotion as he stared into her eyes. “I love you, Katie,” he said, fingers sifting into her hair while his palms caressed her face. “So much that sometimes I ache inside.” He kissed her then, slow and languid as he laid her back on the bed, the chaotic rhythm of her breathing as ragged as his.
Hungry hands grazed warm against the smooth silk of her gown, and a breathless sigh shuddered from her lips. “I love you too,” she whispered, skin tingling while his mouth fondled hers slow and easy before wandering to the hollow of her throat.
Her body quivered as gentle palms slowly slipped the straps of her gown from her shoulders, his words hoarse and hot against her skin. “And you have my word, Sass—I will do everything in my power to make you the happiest woman alive.” With a catch of her breath, his lips trailed down, sending shudders of warmth rippling through her body.
The happiest woman alive. Her eyelids fluttered close. Sweet angels in heaven--there was no doubt about that.
As promised, here is my list below. Anybody who gives me an example that I can add to my list will be entered twice in a contest to win a signed copy of A Heart Revealed. Good luck!
JULIE’S EXCLAMATION/WORD SUGGESTIONS
DEROGATORY NAMES FOR BAD MEN:
Bloodsucking lowlife abuser
Load of human pus
Mangy, flea-infested dog
Two-bit grease ball
Worthless sack of dung
Dash it all
Drawers of the Devil
For Heaven’s Sake
For mercy’s sake
For pity’s sake.
For the love of Job
For the sake of the heavenly host
Go to thunder
Great balls of fire!
I’ll be jiggered
Oh, for crying out loud.
Oh, for the love of all that is good and decent
St. Peter’s Gate
St. Peter’s nightgown
Sweet mother of Job
Sweet mother of pearl
Sweet suffering saints
Upon my word
What the blazes