Blog Archives

Anatomy of a Writer: April 19

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Being a writer is a process in insanity. Seriously. We mix creativity (which is a monster out of our control), our drive for expression, art, and understanding, with entrepreneurism. We are both introverts and extroverts. We create in the most intimate and vulnerable ways, then turn around and push it out into the world with our armor, shields, and swords.

Basically, never become a writer unless you’re also willing to have a smidge of a personality disorder.

Sometimes this hurts. Like, really, really hurts. The transition isn’t easy. If we have to force it, expect there to be some emotional backlash down the pipe. For example: you’ve just spent three solid weeks writing thousands of words a day. The real world has slipped away and you live more inside your fantasy world than the space you physically inhabit. You’ve stripped away all your defenses in order to feel as your character feels, hurt and hope and your character hurts and hopes.

It’s a raw place.

Not at time to be standing up on your rock proclaiming for all the world to criticize you.

And yet…the publishing schedule does not always allow for those precious moments to heal inside your cocoon and slowly reemerge into the harsh, bright world. Nope. Sometimes you’ve got work to do and that means tying those shoelaces tighter, cinching in your belt, and plummeting headfirst into the Colosseum of life without your Gladiator armor at the ready.

You can do it. You’ve done it before and you’ll do it again. BUT IT SUCKS! And in the end you are bruised, battered, and probably wondering if you’ll survive the night.

(Hint: You will.)

And despite all your best laid plans to have publishing and marketing time well insulated from your creative time, your schedule will fall apart again one day, and you will be forced to shift your creative gears, grinding as you seek out the right one.

If you are forced to switch from creative mode to entrepreneur mode in the blink of an eye remember that it’s okay to have a freak out afterward. In fact, the one thing you can plan for in a time of no planning, is that you will and should take some time afterward to have an OMFG WHAT DID I JUST DO moment. Take several days. Do not beat yourself up over being overloaded and do not feel less than because you became overwhelmed by the firestorm of the other half of your personality/job.

Having just done this myself, here are a few tips that have helped get me back on me feet faster than ever:

  • Admit you are overwhelmed and accept that this is normal
  • Talk to your friends. Not just once or twice, but many times. As much as you need to in order to stay tethered to that friendly connection. (And talk about more than the book.)
  • Have a person. Someone (a friend, lover, sister, cousin, fellow writer) who knows your personality and your deep doubts and fears. They will hear what worries you most even when you can’t put it into words. Let them reassure you. Accept that they are right and your doubts are wrong.
  • Get out of your routine. Go away for the weekend, have an outdoor adventure, visit someone you haven’t seen in a while…do something to put yourself outside of the microcosm of writing and publishing. It will get you away from the notifications, the routine, and help break you out of the little dark hole.
  • Speaking of notifications: TURN THEM OFF. There is a time to be on top of book sales, ad views, clicks, and ROI. And then there is the point where you’ve done what you can do and you need to let it go. Close your browser, hide your phone, turn off all the dings, alerts, and shortcuts that let you sneak a quick peek when no one is looking.
  • Don’t do social media for at least three days. Call someone. Have lunch or dinner with a friend. Hand write letters. Download Facebook’s group app if you use a lot of groups and want to stay informed but do not open Facebook! All the social medias will still be there in three days.
  • Sleep. If you have trouble with all the anxiety, then talk to your doctor about a sleep aide that might be beneficial to you in times of extreme stress. The most important thing is that you actually get some quality sleep.
  • Drink water and eat yummy food.
  • Have fun again. The best book and marketing ideas come from being out and enjoying your life. Go do something really fun.

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The Music of Never Let Go

I write to music. We’ve talked about this before (and here and here) but I don’t know if I’ve ever truly articulated what that means. More on that below. First, let’s tackle the meat of this post: the music of Never Let Go.

It really boils down to three main songs, and then a handful of “soundtrack” songs. The most important of which is the inspiration song. This came on the radio and BAM! Two years of wondering if I’d ever write another Jake and Eve book was over. Yes, I was writing another book and this was what it was going to be about:

“Like I’m Gonna Lose You” by Meghan Trainor, featuring the amazing John Legend was the crux of Jake and Eve’s married life. They spent so many years apart that they are so very keenly aware of how lucky they are to be happy.

The scene hit me like a bolt of lighting (appropriate, I know!) Eve standing at a cold sink staring out the window thinking about how hard she holds onto Jake, loving him like she might lose him. He comes up behind her and whispers in her ear. I wrote the book from there.

But like every other book I’ve ever written, the inspiration song is just that: inspiration. I don’t actually write to the song. This is what I actually listened to while writing:

It’s this verse in particular

I’m a hold my cards close

I’m a wreck what I love most

I’m a first class letdown I’m a “shut up, sit down”

that screams “Jake” to me, but there are so many more lyrics in this song that make it his story through and through.

And what has happened with every single book I’ve ever written? (about halfway through writing) I hear a song that stops me dead in my tracks. THIS SONG is THE SONG!!! It is the story I’m writing and everything I feel when I making words! I fall in love and listen to it like a broken record until I finish writing. For Never Let Go, it was this song:

“This mess was yours, now this mess is mine,” is the heart of Jake and Eve’s story, more so in this book than the other two. “You’re the reason that I feel so strong, the reason that I’m holding on.” *dies* “Mess is Mine” is the song of Never Let Go. Period.

To listen to my entire Never Let Go soundtrack and hear all the music that inspired the book, visit my Spotify Playlist here.

So, at the beginning of this post I mentioned that I don’t just listen to music when I’m writing. I don’t simply find inspiration in songs. I swear I have this out of body experience when it comes to music. I always have. For as far back as I can remember. I see entire stories when I hear a song. The music may only last for three minutes, but in my head it is so much more. A few lines become entire backstories. Entire worlds. I can see hundreds of pages of context from that one song.

Before I could write, I would act out these stories by dressing up. I would force my poor sister to play along. Elaborate sessions of make-believe were all carried out to a soundtrack. Namely Olivia Newton-John, but there were others.

When I got older I realized I didn’t want to act out these stories I saw, I wanted to write them (I just didn’t have that tool when I was younger.) The first time I was taken away and wrote an entire book to a CD was the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves soundtrack. I would put on my headphones and listen for hours, making up books in my head.

It isn’t any different today, except that I actually do write entire books based on the stories I see in my head after listening to a single song.

These are the songs that transported me to the world of Jake and Eve in Never Let Go. I hope it helps transport you into their world as you get ready to read their final book. Let me know what you think of the songs and the book (out May 24th, 2016!)

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Fear of Failure

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I like to think we all have a healthy fear of failure, but I know some of us have a bigger fear than others. Mine is kind of huge and it prevented me from doing a lot of different things with my life. Over the last month I’ve had to force myself to look that fear in the face and do what I’ve been dreading…read The Storm Inside.

I haven’t read it since I wrote it. It was my first book. It was three years ago. And I haven’t cracked that baby open and looked at it with two since I hit publish. Excellent sales, wonderful reviews, and heartfelt fan letters could not convince me that the words I put down in that book were anything but embarrassing (and no, I’m not talking about the smokin’ hot sex scenes.)

I was paralyzed, so I ignored it. I didn’t market the book the way I should have and as a result I’ve stunted my potential as a working writer. Over the holidays I had to take a long hard look at who I wanted to be. You can either be a successful writer who is proud of your entire body of work, blemishes and all, or you can hide in the shadows of “one day.”

So I’ve done it. I’ve re-read the entire book (sometimes peeking through my fingers because WHAT THE HELL DID I WRITE? Someone start a cold shower, those sex scenes…Jake’s story…their love??? Holy hell, what a book!)

I’ve given the whole series new covers and blurbs, and stepped outside of my own fears of failure because no one finds joy in hiding. Meanwhile I’ve been reading a half-dozen “first novels” from authors I consider my contemporaries and I learned a few things.

  • It’s enjoyable to watch the transformation of a writer through their books. I don’t look down on those wonderful stories of love and triumph because of the typos or head hopping (it was only once.) I smiled because in the next book and the next book the writer grew stronger and my love of the author grew right along with it. I know I have readers who feel the same way. I love you guys.
  • Most people don’t notice the stray typo so I really, really, really need to stop acting like HRH Queen Gatekeeper of Novels is going to cast me out into the barrens of Never Writing Again and Laughed At in Infiniti. No really, every book has typos, even the #1 NYT Bestsellers. Some people read books and get their panties in a bunch over every little nuance, but most people just want a fucking good story. Write a good story. Hire good people. Do better when you know better. Keep moving forward.
  • I don’t take my own advice. I give pretty good advice, but I let my fear stop me from putting it in motion for myself. It’s been a good lesson to see several of these authors take my advice and succeed. It was a good smack in the face to realize if I’d done the same thing I wouldn’t have been cast out into the Barrens and might actually be pretty darn happy.
  • I’m good at what I do (and I don’t need anyone to tell me that.) I used to admire those people who could throw themselves onto the fire without thinking. How did they write a book, put it out there, tell everyone it was the best thing since sliced bread… and have people believe it? Sure, some of those books were awesome, but most of them? Average. Totally and completely average. But the author had brash confidence and took the audience along with her. It’s taken a bolt of lightning and seeing my writing critiqued for me to realize that no one needs to give me permission to say my stories are good. No one but me is in charge of being proud of my work. My success is entirely up to me. I’m write damn good stories.
  • “Fear is the Enemy” is not just a saying people throw around. Fear is the wall that stands between failure and success. Which side do you want to stand on? Do you want to live in the shadow of fear, or do you want to put that behind you and stand in the sun? (I live in Florida, I can tell you the sun is very enjoyable.)

Putting The Storm Inside out all over again has already transformed my life. It has sat in the iBooks Top 5 in UK for the last week and Reflected and Lightning have jumped up the paid charts…reminding me that the only one holding my books back is me. It was terrifying to re-read my book, but it’s turned into a lovely experience to re-edit the books. The new paperback proof is on the way to my mailbox right now. I’ll be sure to share the pictures with you all when it gets here!

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How To Write Serials: Strategy

How to Write Serials

When it comes to strategy with romance serials it’s all about the numbers.

Who is your target audience, how hot are you writing, what do you want to charge, and how many words are you willing to invest into your cause? The kinkier you write, the less words you have to write, and the higher you can charge (because erotica is considered a high demand genre with a thirst for very specific content.) 

But the hotter you write, the more you run into advertising and visibility issues because many places will not promote explicit content. If you’re like me, you write very hot and use certain four-letter words. So be conscious of what you’re writing and what opportunities that will afford you (and which doors that will close.) 

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In general, 15k words for $0.99 is a sweet spot. When you write shorter, readers b*tch about paying for your words (unless they are super hot addictive words. For instance, straight up erotica can go as short as 4k words as long as it’s kinky.) If you write too much longer than 15k words then you aren’t maximizing your cost/word ratio (unless you are charging 2.99.) While we all love to write, we also love to put food on our tables. Don’t spend a lot of time writing words you can’t charge for. The point is to put out a fun, exciting, sexy product, but to also maximize your earning potential.

Keep your first episode on the shorter end. It is your hook episode and the one you’ll want to make permafree (depending on sales strategy). With Tease I made each episode a couple thousand words longer hoping to unconsciously make readers feel more and more satisfied, and giving me the option to charge more for later editions. Readers definitely felt satisfied, but I found that I was reluctant to charge more for later editions, which made my extra work kind of pointless. And by extra effort, it was almost doubling my turnaround time by episode 5.

By the way, I *always* look like Jessica Alba in the bedroom. Always.

By the way, I *always* look like Jessica Alba in the bedroom. Always.

And when you think about it, going back to the TV strategy, every episode is the same length except for season finales or specials. So I now try to keep each episode in the 15-18k word range. Five episodes is a good format for two reasons: 1…it winds up being approximately the same length as a full novel which gives you more strategy options down the road. And 2…when you bundle them up at the end, it gives you the ability to charge a reasonable amount for your work. 

What do I mean by that? Well, if you write a three book serial and the first book is free, but you’re only charging $0.99 for each of the next two books then your entire series can be bought for $1.98. That doesn’t give you much power to price the box set at different levels unless you start playing around with prices.

Which brings us to pricing! Stop back for my next post where I’ll talk about pricing strategies and why they work. If you haven’t, please be sure to read my first post on How to Write Serials: Format. In that post I discuss the basics of the serial format and how to plan out your writing strategy. 


Have you checked out my latest serial? Tempt was just the featured excerpt of the week over at Cosmopolitan.com!

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It was amazing timing because you can read Tempt: Volume 1 for free from any retailer!

Amazon – Nook – iBooks – Kobo

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Serials: Part One

How to Write Serials

What? You thought I’d post this all at once? Did you not read the title? We’re talking about serials! Of course this is going to take several posts! (Yes, I know I’m the only one laughing…) This is the first in a series of posts here and on Wattpad, plus I’ll do a couple of videos because I want to. When I’m done I’ll bind it all up together and put it out there as a finished product, but I figured if I’m going to share with you all how I write serials, I should take you through it exactly as I do it. One step at a time. One finished product in the end.

I’m messy. I go part by part. I’m okay with unfinished and a little raw. And only in the end do I pull it all together. It’s kind of the fun of serials. I love that it’s a little messy. I think it might be the most authentic “me” when it comes to writing. I never quite feel myself when I’m writing a novel. Not because I have anything against novels or beautifully polished masterpieces (because I love those!!!) but because writing (to me) is an art form. And art is a process. And art is sharing your world with the people it’s supposed to affect. So I love serials because it allows me to share my art with my readers as I’m creating it. Volume by volume. They get to come along on the ride and, in some ways, become part of the art along the way.

So first things first. Ideas and structure.

You’ve got to have an idea that can be told serially. What is a serial? It’s one story with many moving parts and pieces. Think of modern television. Many shows are now told episodically. There is one overarching story being told over all or half of a season. Each episode tells its own story as part of the bigger picture. It’s a glimpse into one aspect of all the moving parts bringing us to the eventual conclusion at the end of the season. There are some stories that aren’t suited to this type of storytelling, but there are others, those with multiple plot elements and multifaceted characters, that are absolutely perfect.

So before we delve into each of these points, let’s look at a few case studies. By far my favorite example of serialized storytelling on television is the BBC2/Netflix series Peaky Blinders. Each season is six episodes. Those six episodes tell the story of the Peaky Blinders gang, their leader, played by the incredible Cillian Murphy (whose accent in this is like silk!), and their cat-and-mouse war with Chief Inspector Campbell, in the aftermath of World War 1. Each episode gives us a piece of the puzzle while still leaving us feeling like we’ve seen a satisfying story. Another reason this series is such a great example for serial writers to study, is because in season two the story takes on a different, continuing arc in the characters stories. Two seasons with examples of how to tell one larger story with six smaller pieces. Take a look at the trailer:

Another good example is another BBC show, Broadchurch. Over the first series we follow the story of the death of Daniel Lattimer, and eventually discover who killed him. It is one story told over several addictive parts. In series two another related story arc is followed over several episodes. It is a slightly different example of how to approach a second set of serials than the Peaky Blinders example above, but both employ similar technicques. Do not watch all of this recap video if you haven’t watched all of series one (and think you might want to). It will ruin the end of the series and trust me, it was a good ride!!!

My final example is actually an American show! Arrow isn’t neccessarily what I’d consider the strongest writing, but the serializing of the storyline over the course of each season is! Comics have been in the serial game for decades and there is a lot to learn from reading them, or watching shows like Arrow and The Flash which approach the story arcs a little differently than my first two examples. In Arrow you are much more likely to find tighter story arcs unique to each episode with only a sprinkling of the larger plot. One of my favorite devices from the series is the generous use of flashbacks to Oliver Queen’s mysterious past. In some ways there are two stories constantly being told throughout the series. One much bigger story going deep into the past, and one happening in the present. They are juxtaposed in really fun ways and the storytelling totally makes up for the writing!

All right butterflies! Study up on serials and we’ll meet back next week for more! Happy studying!


Do you like to be tempted and teased? Start my Tease serials absolutely free!

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Back in the Saddle: A Look Ahead at Tempt

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I’m back!! After several weeks of juggling a lot of personal life stuff, I’m finally back to writing. It wasn’t that I wasn’t writing, but it was very much secondary to all the other stuff happening. I prefer to write in big chunks of thousands of words, not a few hundred here and there.

That got me thinking about my writing process and my next project, Tempt.

When writing a sexy serial I need three things: music, a plan, and time with a clear head. Music is huge for me to maintain a consistent tone and keep me focused. A plan gives me clear goals for each day of writing and a prize (for lack of a better explanation) that I’m working toward overall. And a clear head is crucial. Adam, Elizabeth, Theo, and Allison are all really strong, emotional, deep characters. Writing first thing in the morning when I can let them run wild before the realities of real life creep in works best.

The first draft of Tease was written about three years ago. It was heavily music driven, had a bazillion story lines that needed weeding down, and a character (and author) that needed some confidence. The minute I finished writing Tease I had an idea for a story featuring the mysterious Allison, Elizabeth’s best friend. She’s an important character in Elizabeth’s life, but she never actually appears in the book. I’ve had a lot of time to stew over this story idea…

I listened to a lot of Alex Clare when writing Tease. There is something haunting and deep about The Lateness of the Hour, but there was one track in particular that never quite fit with Tease. I desperately wanted to write a story for it, though. Three years ago I decided it needed to be Allison’s story.

I’m finally getting ready to write it.

If you want an idea of what to expect out of Tempt, take a look at these lyrics from “Treading Water”:

Can you forgive the things I do, that I can’t amend?
Not the way I yearn for her,
I hope you can’t pretend.
Girl you’re a fire and you’ll find,
That I want to get burned.
No matter what you can teach me,
I’m sure I’ll never learn.
Hmmm treading water, I keep,
Treading water.

The things I loved about Tease I’m hoping to recapture in Tempt. Elizabeth was a hopeless and dark character, and so is Theo. Adam, by contrast, was a hopeful character willing to go to extremes for love. I like exploring the interaction of those two types of characters. Will they destroy themselves or each other? What is love really worth? Is solitude worth the cost of loneliness?

If you want first look access to Tempt as I write, make sure you are signed up for the Teasers Newsletter. I don’t have a firm release date yet, but expect Volume One toward the end of June–in time for hot summer reading!

In the meantime, take a look at my playlist to get a taste of what’s to come!

Treading Water – Alex Clare

Relax My Beloved – Alex Clare

Sail – AWOLNATION

I’m So Sorry – Imagine Dragons

Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene – Hozier

Cherry Wine – Hozier

Do I Wanna Know? – Arctic Monkeys

Paradise – Coldplay

And here’s Treading Water:

First Draught: Music as Muse

Our Music as Muse broadcast was full of laughing, silliness, music, songs, technical difficulties, and writing. In other words, it was incredibly entertaining! You should watch it.

Stay tuned for details on our next show! And if there are any topics you’d like us to tackle, please send us your ideas! Comment here or email me at: alexisannebooks (at) gmail (dot) com.

Writing and Music: First Draught is On TONIGHT!

Music and writing go together like peanut butter and jelly. Two totally different substances with completely different tastes and yet, put them together and what do get? Genius, that’s what.

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I have lots of theories on why this is: from the roots of the written word in storytelling, to the relationship between the mind and creativity. You can hear my babbling tonight (live) at 8:15 pm est. The ladies of First Draught are welcoming back special guests Tracie Puckett and Lashell Collins (because we love them!) to talk about what music inspires us, if we listen to it while we write, and what our favorite tunes are.

Plus we’re just fun to watch. RSVP now! We’ll be monitoring the event page, Twitter, and Facebook while we are on air, so hit us up with your questions and comments. #FirstDraught

So what do you have to look forward to from me (besides my deeply insightful commentary on the history of writing)? The artists and lyrics that make my imaginations run wild. Here are some of my favorites:

Snow Patrol

The Lightning Strike (my all time favorite!):

“What if this storm ends?
And I don’t see you
As you are now
Ever again”

“What if this storm ends?
And leaves us nothing
Except a memory
A distant echo

I want pinned down
I want unsettled
Rattle cage after cage
Until my blood boils

I want to see you
As you are now
Every single day
That I am living”

I listen to this song on repeat when I need to get my creative juices flowing. Check it out here.

Alex Clare

Treading Water:

“If my concentration,
Seems spread too thin.
And when you speak, my eyes glaze over.
I’m sorry girl, it’s not you, it’s her.

And you’re another chance,
To mock myself again.
Maybe you’re another chance,
I’m sure I’ll fuck things up in the same way.
Maybe it’s another chance.”

Love You:

“Though I left you there sleeping
No I dare not say a word
Silently weeping
Knowing what I heard
What can I say
I was never good with words
My tongue always got it wrong
Hoping that you knew all along
I love you, I love you.”

Alex Clare is amazingly talented. Check out this video of him singing Hummingbird!

I’d put Mumford and Sons on this list, but if you guys know me at all, you know that would be is every single song with every single lyric, so I’ll save you the fangirling… for now. (Whoops… how did those pictures get there….)

Gentleman of the Road Tour St. Augustine

Gentleman of the Road Tour
St. Augustine

Gentleman of the Road Tour St. Augustine

Gentleman of the Road Tour
St. Augustine

So anyway, those are just some of the lyrics that get my mind running down plot ideas, character arcs, and scenes. You can visit my YouTube channel and peruse my playlists for more insight (should you care!). We’ll be talking about it all tonight, it is sure to be a blast! Here is the link to our event page on Google! 

 


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The Writing Process Blog Hop of 2014

I’ve been tagged by the amazing Alexandra Haughton, writing fiend and blogger extraordinaire (you should follow her blog), to tell you about my writing process. It is a blog hop and many ladies have already come before me, it is kind of an adult version of a chain letter. There are four questions, I answer them. It is pretty simple and yet not…because talking about yourself is never as fun as it sounds!

So, for better or worse, here I go!

What am I working on right now?

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Meow. Hehehehe. Ok, sometimes I am drunk college kid at heart.

Right now I’ve got the final words going into the first draft of my new action/adventure series, The Unspoken Game (see below). It will be a double release in May as a short story (The Mummy Maneuver) and short full-length novel (Art of Deception). (There may possibly be a spin-off super steamy romance serial from this as well).

I’m about to tackle the second draft on a fun, sexy short story set in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It is part of a four-author anthology out this November with the lovely and brilliant Audra North, Julia Kelly, and Alexandra Haughton. It’s fun because the stories all inter-connect. All the ladies are members of the same writing group on a retreat. All the guys (for the most part) are former frat brothers on a ski trip. There are sexy times and overlapping situations. I love it!

Also on the burners: drafting the plot for book three of the Storm Inside series—Greg Hamilton falls in love. It is messy and fun. Our smart-mouthed, rough around the edges, yet lovable Greg falls hard and it has been so much fun writing the woman who brings him down!

I’m writing my kids some children’s books.

And I’m writing flash fiction for a First Kiss blog hop happening in just a couple of weeks! So stay tuned for that. There are a lot of authors participating and it should be a blast to read all these stories!

There is also my sort-of writerly side jobs of First Draft and RAWWcon. You can read about them here. We also do silly things on video chat from time to time.

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How does my work differ from others in the genre?

I’ve been told my sex scenes make the reader feel like they’re actually having the sex. I’ve also been told I write emotion-driven characters. What this means to me is that my work is a little different from others in any genre I’m writing in because I don’t focus on the action or the description, I don’t even focus on the narration. I focus on the character. What are they feeling and why are they feeling it? My attempt in every book is to make the reader feel like they are becoming the character I write because to me, that is the very definition of being swept away by a story.

Do I actually accomplish this? I have no idea. I do know this: I’m not a rule follower. I use anatomically correct language, I hate euphemisms (I have a whole detailed philosophy on how this is part of female oppression), I swear a lot, and I write the plot in whatever way feels correct for telling my characters stories. Now, let me qualify this by also saying I’m a firm believer in knowing the rules before you break them. I don’t break the rules because I’m a sullen teenager or because I don’t know them. I break them carefully with conscious thought to what I am doing. I’m sure sometimes I will fail miserably (and that’s ok). Sometimes I’m a good little writer and follow all the rules. But I really, really like pushing myself and seeing what happens when I bend and break the norms.

Also, I write heroes who respect women—even the alpha dominant “all that is man” types respect their women. I honestly believe the truest show of strength in a man is that he is never, ever intimated by anyone—especially a sexy, confident, brilliant woman who knocks his socks off and brings him to his knees. And by that token, my women are dynamic, educated, flawed, confident, and often surprised by the love that happens into their lives.

Why do I write what I do?

That’s an interesting question because I’m not writing what I expected to, and I hear that from a lot of other writers. I’m not a huge romance fan. Now, don’t get me wrong—I love romance. I read the shit out of it, but I’m not a voracious romance reader. If someone were to ask me what I read, you’d probably hear romance third or fifth down on the list. Partially because I am super picky reader (in general, any genre) and I DNF any book that starts off with flat characters, too many cliches, or weak, mindless females. There are amazing, amazing books in romance, but there are a lot of bad romances and I was a victim, for a long time, of only finding the bad ones.

Let me back this up for a minute and explain how I got here. I am an anthropologist with a specialty in historic archaeology and an emphasis in GIS mapping. I’m a tech geek with a love of history and an unhealthy fascination with culture and how people work. I ate up every single aspect of my career of choice from cultural studies, to the human body and osteology, to linguistics, to digging in the dirt. It’s my shit.

But life happens.

I got married and had kids. I went from digs on tropical islands with plans to go spelunking and wreck diving, to sitting in front of a computer and changing diapers. I, quite literally, looked up one day and wondered how I got there.

Seriously—not just where was I, but who was I? It felt like my own skin didn’t fit right. The house with the big yard in suburbia was nice…but it wasn’t me.

So I hit the bit 3-0, had my second (and last baby) a week later, and decided if I didn’t grab my life by the horns I was going to miss it. I realized that while I loved my career, what I really wanted to do was finally take all those notebooks, Word files, and notes hidden away all over my house and be the writer I always expected I’d be one day. It was now or never.

I started writing a wildly complex utopian sci-fi that to this day is unfinished (it is called The Butterfly Rebellion and you will hear about it a lot if you follow me). It was too much to start out with, so I dropped back and wanted write about people. Something fun. I picked a romance, gave myself a three-week deadline to finish a first draft, and tried to write the crap out of it.

I finished it on my self-imposed deadline, but something else happened along the way. That ‘light, quick romance’ became so much more. It became a story of two people finding themselves, realizing their dreams, and falling in love—not to save each other, but because that is what happens when the right two people meet.

I was hooked.

That project went in the drawer, but a friend (LeElla!) was screaming at me to keep writing. She sent me JR Ward’s The Black Dagger Brotherhood, An Insiders Guide with a chapter on helping writers get started. Ward suggested taking a peek at Harlequin because they acquire a lot a of writers quickly and it was a good way to get started in the industry with a few pennies in your pocket. I checked the website and at the top was a banner with SYTYCW 2012. I entered on a whim and finaled (to my complete shock). I was convinced everyone would laugh at me. I knew everyone would think the idea I could be a writer was a joke.

Except that wasn’t what happened. Nope. Instead of laughing or crickets, I got encouragement. From everyone. I cried. A lot. And I kept writing. I took my first romance out of the drawer and rewrote it from the ground up. It became The Storm Inside (my first full-length novel). I’m currently rewriting that SYTYCW piece—that’s The Unspoken Game.

I love writing romance because I finally realized it isn’t just about two silly people falling in love. Romance is a love story, but it is really about life. It is about women—something I am passionate about—and their amazing journey through childhood, motherhood, friends, lovers, and life. I so get this.

But I’m also back to my roots writing action/adventure, sci-fi, and suspense. I love that we aren’t locked into any one thing—we can write what we want.

How does my writing process work?

When I was younger (and especially in college) I tended to stay up all night writing. This all changed when I was writing my thesis in grad school. I started getting up at 5am, sitting down at my desk with the same five songs on repeat (Eye of the Tiger—you’re up!) and writing for two hours before I had to get to the lab for work. That was when I started drinking coffee. I still pretty much do this.

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I wake up, pull my laptop off my nightstand, and get at it.

But I’m a mom now…so there is a lot of wiggle room in my process (read: I write what I can, when I can.) Some mornings I write two thousand words before I’m invaded (and I have to start in on the lunches and cereals). Other mornings I’m lucky if I get through my Twitter feed.

While the kids are in school I write like my pants are on fire (this is a problem sometimes since I put too much pressure on myself to perform). I learn my characters, plot and plan. I like to know the full arc and major turning points before I put a word down. The most important thing for me is the first line. For example:

“Jake slammed my back into the wall of the shack, the boards of the wall bending and flexing from the impact.”

If I don’t have a first line that pulls me right into my own story, I can’t start the book. This line from The Storm Inside still makes my brain go in a million different directions.

I write a fast first draft, then edit and revise forever–usually until the point someone named Julia Kelly needs to talk me out of lighting my manuscript on fire over an emergency late night video chat and virtual hair stroking.

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So… that was probably more than you were expecting. I think I over-wrote this baby by a few hundred words. I hope the pictures helped 🙂 I’m tagging the wonderfully talented AL Parks and Elizabeth Barone to pick up the reins next. If anyone else wants a tag, email me or comment below! I’ll update the post with links to the other hoppers as I find them.

Check out some of the other hoppers:

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First Draught: Music and Inspiration!

So last month First Draught got back in the saddle with Plotters vs Pansters (above). It was an awesome chat and we had a great time talking about the writing process. Our next chat is April 1st! Yes! April Fools Day! Except this isn’t a prank, this is straight up fun. This time around we are discussing music and how we use (or don’t use) it. We’ll be talking inspiration for characters and scenes, playlists, whether we write to music or silence and so much more!

There may even be silly hats digitally superimposed on our heads.

Maybe.

Music as Muse

If you missed our last chat, don’t worry! It is on YouTube along with all our other videos (and posted above). Our new channel has launched and we are in the process of pulling the videos over. Be sure to +1 our page so you can stay up to date on all our chats.

I’ll be posting pictures, songs, and playlists as we lead up to April 1st, feel free to join in on the conversation:

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