Just Get to the Point, Already!!

pirate-treasure-map-23094030This series of posts about things we always screw up as writers was eerie to read. I’ve freaked out and messed up in all of those ways, and then some. So when it came time to write my own take on the subject, I wondered where in the world to start. Then it hit me–knowing where to start is my thing!

I am getting better at this, I swear. But it’s a struggle. I ramble. I enjoy setting the stage. I want to work in descriptions of the clothing, as well as a good dick joke or three. And oh, Lord, how I love my characters’ back stories! Actually getting my book distilled into an elevator pitch is about as traumatizing for me as being trapped in the elevator as it plummets from the penthouse. Here are a few highlights of my guilty past. At some point in my writing career, I have:

  1. Written a (supposedly steamy) rock star romance where the hero and heroine don’t meet until around page 100.
  2. Written a story so chronologically, it literally left nothing out. Including the character getting ready for bed, falling asleep, waking up, and having breakfast. Each day.
  3. Begun a story with the heroine packing her suitcases, and then driving to the destination where the story will actually take place, at some point in the near future. After she checks in to the hotel down there, of course.
  4. Wondered if a prologue might be a good place to sneak in another awesome flashback.
  5. Lamented the demise of the sweeping, 800 page sagas that I used to check out from the library in high school. Why can’t I write something that takes a good fifty years or so to really get going?

It hasn’t come easy, but I’ve learned. And am still learning. And when I forget and let my natural tendencies take over, I have my wonderful Bad Girlz to nudge me back on the path to find my story… or at least take a look at the freaking map :)

Happy writing,

 

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Please accept this Indecent Invitation

Wow, so it seems like I was posting for my last release just a few days ago! If you missed Caught Up in the Touch, you can read an excerpt here. And, it was RWA week, so I know most people did miss it! Lol.

For now, I’d like to jump back in time two hundred years or so…to England during the Napoleonic Wars. Although, my first published books are small town contemporaries, the first books I wrote were Regency historicals. They were (are) my crack. AN INDECENT INVITATION was the first book I wrote. I learned to write by rewriting (and rewriting and rewriting) this book. It got the attention of my agent and finaled in the Golden Heart in 2014. It’s always going to be special. Plus, it’s a seriously good time!

“Trentham is careful not to settle for easy answers or simple explanations, making for a tale full of unexpected twists and turns and emotional complications.” — RT Book Reviews, 4 stars.

“Danger, intrigue, and passionate love–what more could a Regency romance lover want? The first in Trentham’s “Spies and Lovers” series is a well-written, engaging, and very steamy delight.–J. Harris, Library Journal

“Witty, compelling, and sensuous, Laura Trentham’s is a fabulous new voice in historical romance.”Valerie Bowman, bestselling Regency author

How about an excerpt:

Gray smoothed back his damp hair, took a deep breath, and peeked around the doorjamb into the drawing room. His dip in the chilly pond had done wonders for his tattered self-control. Lily hadn’t noticed him yet. Her face was a study in concentration, brows drawn in and teeth worrying her lips, keeping them red. Combs held her hair in check, but part of the thick mass obscured the white slope of her neck and delicate collarbone.

She worked the picks in synchronicity. Her focus was the most difficult lock of the set. He glided into the room and kept the settee between them as if it offered some protection from her allure.

Christ, she was beautiful and brave and made him laugh…and she wanted to be his friend. One of the pathetic beaus orbiting her sphere would be the first to kiss her, the first to awaken her sensual nature, the first to bed her. She deserved to be a duchess and rule London. Logically, an arranged marriage made perfect sense.

But the completely illogical part of him, situated somewhere between his legs, scoffed. It was only a kiss, after all. She wanted a basis of comparison, she said so herself. Why not offer himself up as illustration?

She straightened from her task and blew a stray tendril off her forehead with a gust of air. “I give up. What’s the trick? Will you show me?”

Less than five minutes in the room together, and he was back where he started. He wanted to kiss her. Why deny it? Why not surrender, at least temporarily, to the madness she inspired? Turning back to the door, he closed it with a soft snick.

He moved faster now that the decision had been made. Standing behind her, he brushed her hair over one shoulder, leaving a side of her neck bare. “Let’s try it this way,” he whispered.

He wrapped his fingers around hers, surprised not to see the sparks that made his fingers twitch. The full length of his body pressed against hers, and her sweet, rounded bottom notched into his pelvis.

“Like this?” She leaned over the desk, her voice trilling high. Somehow, their entwined fingers found the lock. His moved on instinct alone.

His body curved over hers. She would have no idea how tempting their position was. His erection had grown to undeniable proportions, and he canted his hips away. He didn’t want to send her screaming from the room.

Their fingers worked clumsily, but he didn’t care. His lips sought the warmth of her skin but stopped an inch away from her neck. Slow, deep breaths of rose-scented woman escalated his desire. Never letting his lips touch her, he skimmed them down her neck to her exposed collarbone and back up to her temple. Fine hairs along her nape stood at attention, aware of his sly machinations.

At some point, they gave up the pretense. Their hands dropped to the top of the davenport, their fingers still tangled. Finally, he allowed his lips to fall to her neck. The kiss he laid beneath her ear made her wriggle back into him. Her head notched into his shoulder, and her buttocks cradled his erection. She didn’t scream but let out a breathy moan.

He allowed his lips to follow his earlier path, this time dropping small kisses, licks or nips along her bare skin.

“G-Gray, is this a lesson?”

Perhaps it was. He spun her and lifted her to sit on the sloped top of the desk. Shoving her knees apart, he filled the void with his hips. She grasped the sides of the desk.

He needed to slow down, calm down. He wove his hands through her hair, thumbs framing her face. Her eyes were enormous pools of uncertainty, lips parted in shock. This was her first kiss. He should be tender, say something romantic and soothing.

“Lily,” he said, his voice like gritty sandpaper, “if I find you in a garden kissing one of those other fools, I’ll rip their bloody arms off. Do I make myself clear?”

A small sound of acknowledgement escaped her throat.

With effort, he didn’t allow his mouth to crash down on hers but tightened his hands in her hair with a desperation he didn’t understand. He wanted to plunge his tongue inside her mouth as a claiming. Instead, he forced his lips to settle over hers with insincere gentleness.

Soft and pliant, her lips tamed his frenzy until, instead of domination, he sought to give pleasure. Brushing his lips back and forth over hers, he drew her full lower lip between his and sucked. She slipped her hands under his arms, curling them around his shoulders.

In equal amounts of ardor and innocence, she returned his kiss. Her explorations gave him time to seize control over his urges. Mimicking his play, she sucked on his bottom lip. He darted his tongue over her top lip, foretelling his intentions. She opened her eyes, inhaled against his mouth and whispered his name.

He released his hold on her hair and cupped her face. “Close your eyes and open your mouth for me. Do you want a real kiss or not?” Simmering raw, elemental desire hid behind his teasing voice.

A trust he didn’t deserve radiated from her blue eyes before she obeyed, closing them and parting her lips. His tongue made gentle forays inside her mouth. Startled at the invasion, she pulled her tongue back, and he rumbled deep in his chest. Like with all her lessons, she was a quick study, and soon she stroked her tongue boldly against his. A low groan escaped his throat.

She ran her hands up his chest and wrapped them with a clutching intensity around his neck. Her body flowed against his like molten metal, and like metal, his cock responded in kind.

One hand left her face to press into her back, arching her even farther into his chest. The other slipped under her skirts to grasp a silk-covered calf. Smothering the echoes of his father’s warnings, he lifted the hem of her dress higher, needing to feel the tantalizing bare skin of her thigh. An inch would surely satisfy this compulsion.

Questing fingers brushed soft, naked skin. His lips craved the same, and he dropped kisses along her neck. Her head lolled back, thrusting her breasts upward.

He spread his fingers wide over her outer thigh. As soon as he brushed the lawn of her drawers, he would retreat. Except his fingers continued onward until they curled around her bare hip. His passion-fogged brain slowly processed the implications.

“Where are your goddamn drawers?”

—————————————————————————————————————————–

Keeping her safe is difficult, keeping a proper distance from her is downright impossible.

Warning: This book contains spies, scandals, naughty liaisons in houses of ill repute, men who think they know everything and women who know they do not.

Happy reading!

Amazon | BN | Kobo | iBooks |Samhain

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Don’t Freak Out!

The list of things I (still) screw up is epic. Epic, I tell you! Some of it has already been posted by others. I spell things wrong on occasion–many occasions. I can’t, use a comma,,, correctly, to, save, my life.  (That was a joke, peeps). And no matter how many times I look it up in grammar reference sources, I still don’t completely understand the rules of when to use “who” or “whom” and “lay” or “lie” and some of the uber-confusing grammar rules in the English language. I’m dumb, you can say it…but at least I admit it.

Instead of things I screw up while writing, I’m going to talk about how I screw up by jumping to conclusions. Or–better said–not taking that extra minute to take a step back and CHILL OUT before getting worked up over nothing (or something).

keep-calm-and-dont-be-such-a-drama-queen-1Example 1:  I’ve told you the story of when I received my first critique. The one I polished for three years. The one where the critique person said it was the worst book they’ve ever read and I should scrap it and start over. I responded by: crying, swearing, dragging the manuscript to the trash and vowing to NEVER write again.

Drama Queen in the hizzouse.

About two weeks later–yes, it took me TWO WHOLE weeks to get over that–but I did. I dragged the manuscript back to my writing folder. Then I took a deep breath, opened up the e-mail again, read the comments in my manuscript and started over.

Example 2:  You submit your manuscript to an agent or editor. And wait. You ask a beta to read your newest soon-to-be-Bestselling novel. And wait. You ask a fellow author to blurb your book. And wait. And wait.

We all know, there’s a lot of waiting in the business. To this day I still freak out and think the wait is because I SUCK MONKEYS. But it’s not. People are busy. Very busy. I know I’ve forgotten to answer an e-mail or Facebook message. We all want instant gratification. But it’s not possible. And you have to prepare yourself for that.

giphySo before you jump to conclusion and set fire to your computer:

STEPS TO CHILL OUT:

Stop. Don’t fire off any crazy e-mails or empty the trash with your 80K manuscript in there. Seriously. Don’t.

Take a minute (or day…or days). Walk away. Cool off. Get a massage. See a movie. Enjoy life!

Think about it logically and rationally. Think about the why of something, don’t jump to conclusions. Ask a trusted friend for advice or for another way of thinking about the situation.

Come back to it. Take a look at the situation again, when you aren’t so amped up.

Make a decision after you’ve cooled off. It was probably nothing. But if you still think it’s something, act accordingly. In a professional, kind manner.

These Steps apply to “Real Life” too.

Example 3:  Just because my husband works with a woman doesn’t mean he’s cheating on me. Just because there’s lipstick on his collar, doesn’t mean–OH HELL NO! That is one I will jump to conclusions about.

That was a joke, too. I’m a jokester. Have you guys figured that out yet? 😉 Write on!

 

 

 

 

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The Power of Perseverance

Since I already did my post on what I constantly screw up for this month’s theme, I’m going to use this post to write about something that’s important for any writer: Perseverance.

If you want to make it in this business, you need it. There’s no denying that. You will constantly face obstacles and challenges—not to mention rejection—and it’s important you keep on keeping on.

This is the second year I’m a mentor for Pitch Wars, a writing contest where hopefuls submit their work to a limited number of potential mentors, vying for a slot as mentee. If chosen, there’s two intense months of rewrites and revisions under the guidance of a mentor, leading up to the agent round.

Right now, it’s selection period. The mentors have been researched (hopefully), their wishlists scrutinized. The submission window has closed, during which the hopefuls submitted their polished work, and now they’re all waiting with bated breath, hanging on the tweets of the mentors to see if their MS will be selected.

As I was trying to figure out what to write for this post, I put out a call on twitter (as one does) and asked what the Pitch Wars hopefuls would like to see. I got several tweets, but the one that stuck with me was, What should we do if we don’t get picked?

Well. I’m glad you asked. Grab your marshmallows, gather around the fire, and let Auntie Brighton tell you a little story…

August 2013, I submitted my query and the first 250 words of CAGED IN WINTER to a contest (I can’t remember which one…I thought it was Pitch Madness, but the timing doesn’t work, so just make one up) and then I waited. And I hoped. And hoped some more. I was so sure I’d get picked.

And then I didn’t get in. (Dun dun dunnnnnnnnn)

Did it suck? Hell, yeah, it did. Did I give up and never write again? (Spoiler alert: my sixth book released last month.) So, uh, no. I didn’t give up. I picked up my bruised ego and my dented pride, and I kept going. I continued on the path I’d intended. I was fortunate in that my path wasn’t much longer. Two weeks after that rejection from the contest, I received the first of four agent offers on CAGED IN WINTER.

So what does this tell us? A few things: one, everyone’s path is different. Some get in contests and land an agent immediately and their book sells at auction. Some get in and don’t get any requests. Some don’t make it in and get a dozen. Some don’t do contests at all and query for a week and get an offer. Some find an agent after years in the trenches. No two paths are the same–your path is your path for a reason.

Two, some manuscripts just aren’t made for contests. There’s not enough room for them to breathe. They can’t shine. From 140 characters to 50 or 250 words…or even one chapter, sometimes that’s not enough to get to the gold of your manuscript.

Three (and this goes for more than just contests, but for errrrrrr’thing in publishing), reading is subjective. Ridiculously so. Every person who reads your MS is bringing their life circumstances and their baggage with them, and that affects their reading experience–for better or worse.

Lastly, the power of positive thinking didn’t kill me. It hurt a little after my hopes got crushed when I didn’t make the cut, but the main reason I was able to wallow for an hour, then shrug it off and keep going is because I believed in my work.

I feel like I need to repeat this while putting it in all caps, bold, italic font, so I think I will: I BELIEVED IN MY WORK.

If you want to persevere in this business, you have got to have faith in what you write. Because if you don’t? Who’s going to?

During the 48 hours, give or take, since the submission window closed for Pitch Wars, there has been an influx of tweets on the hashtag, most mentees biding their time chatting while they wait to hear. Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of negative thinking hanging out over there, too. Many are certain they’re not going to get in. So certain of it, they’ve pretty much written it off. Meanwhile, I still have approximately 30% of my subs to even open, let alone read. They’ve thrown in the towel before we’ve even had a chance to read their name on a submission form.

I’ve always been a believer in the power of positive thinking. I get excited over things that may never happen, but I do it because it makes me happy. I like looking forward to something, thinking about all the good possibilities. Is it disappointing? Well, sure, sometimes. But, hey, life is disappointing sometimes. At least this way I got some genuine happiness from hoping.

Here’s the real truth: this industry is chock-full of disappointments and rejections and many, many no’s. That’s just a fact. You are going to face it every leg of this journey from finding agents to publishers to working with editors. The good news is it’s also full of lots of good news! But you’re going to sometimes have to wade through the bad to get to the good. One thing that helps is to remember you’re not the only one to go through this. Head on over to the good ol’ google and search for famous author rejections. There are a lot. Pages and pages of them, and many of them are classics or beloved books, ranging in category and genre. But what do they all have in common?

Not a single one of them gave up when they got that inevitable ‘no’. Will you?

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Never Stop Screwing Things Up

Confession: I don’t like copy edits.

Andy Dwyer gives up. Running is impossible.For those of you unfamiliar with the process, the average manuscript goes through several rounds of edits after it’s acquired. First, there are developmental edits, wherein you and your primary editor adjust the story, plot and characters. These edits are painful, but painful in the way that a really good, challenging run or an ass-kicker of a yoga class can be. They hurt while you’re doing them, but if all goes well, you feel amazing at the end of them. (If things do not go well, you pull a muscle and get laid up for weeks. I wish I were exaggerating.)

And then there are copy edits. This involves one or more strangers, with whom you will likely never have the chance to develop a real relationship, looking over your manuscript and pointing out the obnoxious little tiny details you missed the first thirty-seven times you read your book.

It basically feels like someone sitting there telling you over and over again:

community-chang-ugh-youre-the-worstTo continue the metaphor, copy edits are painful the way crunches are painful. Every damn time you sit down to do them, they hurt. At the end of the day, you still don’t have abs. And the worst part is that you never really seem to get any better at them.

So it is with some of those little details. There’s that thing with further and farther and how you were so convinced you’d gotten it right this time except, whoops, no, you’re still wrong. Mysterious commas that defy all logic yet still manage to adhere to some tiny exception to a rule. Hyphens added and hyphens removed. Rephrasings to help avoid echoes and clean up sentences that got too wordy.

All of it adds up to a cleaner, more readable manuscript. They’re necessary. You must not skip them. But that doesn’t make them any more fun.

My big problem is that seeing all my foibles messes with my game face. Transitioning from reviewing copy edits to drafting on another project is fraught with peril. It becomes almost impossible for the words to flow because I keep thinking about those damn compound adjectives and trying to remember how the hell they work.

But here’s the thing I’ve come to realize. There are some things I will always screw up. Intellectually, I may learn the difference between who and whom, but in the blur of pouring a story out onto the page, I will revert to my old, tragically grammatically incorrect ways. And that’s okay.

The key thing is to keep writing. To keep making those damn mistakes. To maybe aspire to get a liiiittle bit better at them as time goes on. But to basically accept them and soldier on.

Ruthless sticklers for detail that they are, copy editors are there to have your back. Embrace their changes, and then forget about them. Keep writing your story.

And try to forget that it’s going to be ab day at the gym again tomorrow.

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They’re Their, Suite Hart, It’ll Bee All Write – Commonly Misused Homophones

I thought long and hard about what to write for this topic – things we screw up all the time.  It’s hard to admit you’re not perfect, especially when you’re still trying to snag an agent or an editor. But since we intended this blog site to be a place to share in our trials and tribulations — and maybe help a writer out here and there — I put on my big girl panties and dug down deep.

While there were many things I could’ve chosen, I wanted to pick something precise and tangible that can be easily fixed.  It’s hard to tell someone how to slow down their pace or remove a plot thread (both of which I’ve been known to get comments from critique partners on – thanks JG).  Depending on what you write, the answers to both of these may be different or infinite.  So I wanted to pick something that applies to every single one of us…

HOMOPHONES

homophones

Since most of us haven’t done grammar since grade school, let me refresh your memories.  Homophones are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings.  And there are A LOT of them.  The title of this blog post has 14 words, and 6 of them are homophones.  Because apparently, somewhere along the way, the developers of the English language ran out of creativity.  Or perhaps they just wanted to trip us up, like they did with the whole who/whom debacle.

Most of us have the proper meanings sorted out in our heads and use them correctly without even thinking about it.  But occasionally these little boogers can stomp even the best of us.  And if you’re like me, even if you do know the correct word to use, sometimes your fingers just move faster than your brain can reach back to fifth grade grammar, and you simply mistype it.  I’ll admit it…this happens to me A LOT.

So, I put together a little list of homophones that I’ve come across in critiquing, and that others have nailed me on when I’ve been critiqued.

Peak/Peek/Pique                              Pedal/Peddle                                    By/Buy/Bye

Waist/Waste                                      Bare/Bear                                          Hire/Higher

Waive/Wave                                      To/Too/Two                                       Plane/Plain

Your/You’re                                       Their/There/They’re                         Weak/Week

Vain/Vein                                            Pray/Prey                                         Peace/Piece

Hear/Here                                          Presence/Presents                          Which/Witch

Affect/Effect                                       Passed/Past                                     It’s/Its

These are just a few.  Do a web search for homophones and you can find PAGES of them.  I thought about putting their proper meanings/uses beside each one of these, but I figure most of you know them already.  Looking at them side by side, I can tell you the differences between all of them, but still I get little flags in my manuscript from time to time.  Sometimes Word picks them up with a little squiggly green line, sometimes not.  But take it from me, it can be rather embarrassing when your critique partner says…I’m pretty sure you mean, “He put his hand on her waist.”

Well, yeah!  The other would be just gross!

What homophones trip you up?  Let’s add to the list!

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Wordle_-_Create

Just Come Back Here

Oh, man. A month blog topic dedicated to stuff we screw up. This is like a playground for writers. We, as a whole, are pretty good at picking apart what we suck at, I think. Things we fumble time and time again. There are countless things–not trusting myself to tell the story; not being able to write an elevator pitch to save my life; never being able to write a short and concise synopsis (which is actually pretty hilarious considering I’m a very concise writer in my drafts). While I definitely do all those things, what I do without fail is fall to crutch words. Those pesky words I can’t let go of. They’ve been with me since my first manuscript, and if manuscript #9 is any indication, they’ll be with me for a long time to come. My favorites? Just and back. (FYI: I deleted an instance of just that didn’t need to be in this paragraph…I can’t run, and I can’t escape.)

Wordle_-_CreateWhen I Wordle my novel pre-edits, those two are nearly as large as the characters’ names on my word cloud. But like with most crutch words, they generally aren’t needed. Or at least they aren’t needed nearly as often as I would lead you do believe in my first draft.

I’ve managed to train my brain to automatically delete any unnecessary thats–while reading and writing–but I can’t quite get there with these others. Maybe it’s because when I draft, I tend to do so pretty quickly, where I don’t really think about the words I’m writing. I just (<—see??? I’ll never give it up!) write them. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown comfortable with certain ways to say certain things, and that’s how they come out on the page–as my crutch. Whatever the reason, I’m just glad I have Wordle (as well as an editing checklist I work off of) and copy-editors to delete these pesky things pre-publication, because they can weigh down the sentences and keep your MS from being punchy.

A few other crutch words to be on the lookout for are: really, very, totally, so, that, and then, just, well, good/great, quite, little…and probably a dozen others I’m not thinking of.

How about you? What are your crutch words? And do you have a special process or checklist you work from to eliminate them?

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So Screwed Up

This round of blog posts centers on what we always screw up as writers. I’m supposed to pick one thing I consistently fumble. One thing.Chris Evans shirtless laughing

After a lot of whittling down, and deleting the draft of a post of other stuff I screw up (but not as much I screw this up), I have chosen the one thing I screw up the most: Not believing in my ability to put a story into written words or finish it.

I think I’ve written about five novel-length stories at this point. Two of which are published, two more will be at some point. Yet, without fail, I get to a point in every story when I’m convinced I won’t be able to do this whole writing thing. Usually it’s points, plural.

When I get past the meet cute and the first internal debates or conflict arise, I doubt my ability to convey legitimate reasons the hero and heroine shouldn’t be ‘happily ever after’ right then. When I get to the saggy middle, and page after page feels like, “he said, she said, blah, blah, blah,” I doubt my plot and its pace. When the shite hits the fan in the BBM, I doubt my skill of showing the emotion. Multiple times throughout each story, I’m fairly certain it’s a complete and total POS and I need give up writing and climb the corporate ladder instead.

writing is hard

But then, I reach the end. I reach the end of my very rough first draft and I have about 2/3rds of a story and a good map. I reach the end of my second draft, and I have a cohesive manuscript. I reach the end of my third draft and then the critiqued draft, and I feel pretty damn good about my story and myself.

The takeaway here is, you CAN do it. It’s normal to doubt you’re ability to finish. I know authors who are writing book fifty-something and they still freak out somewhere around the mid-point of each book and swear they suck and will never be able to tell a story again. OH HAPPY DAY! Our neurosis is normal! But we have to power through the doubts and b.s. and keep writing. Even when it feels icky, even when your story jumped the tracks three chapters ago and you have no clue why the characters are discussing spoon bread, keep at it. Write or re-write, drop back and punt the plot, go for a walk and realize spoon bread is not that important. But whatever you do, DO NOT stop and NEVER give up. Quit worrying about screwing up and “tell the damn story.” (TM EMichels)

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What I Screw Up: The Evolution of Conflict

Today’s theme for this post is “things I always screw up as a writer.” While mulling this, I realized it’s changed a lot from when I first started writing romance ::mumblemumble:: years ago. I distinctly remember one of my first critique partners telling me that there wasn’t enough conflict between my characters. Well, that made total sense to me. I hate conflict! In real life, that is. But that personal preference was bleeding over into my fiction, where in order for the story to be interesting there needed to be some good, solid conflict for the characters to work their way past on the way to their happily ever after.

pair-707505_1280Some time goes by. I go to workshops, conferences, read articles, and write, write, write. I’m putting in conflict galore! Or at least I thought I was. What I was actually doing was making my characters bicker a lot. It’s not true conflict if a single, level-headed conversation can alleviate it. Bickering is not conflict. Okay, got it. More workshops, reading and writing ensue.

My editor will still have me work on conflict from time to time. In fact, I have a book I have to tweak a couple of scenes for this week. And yep, it has to do with my conflict. I think I’ve come a long way in developing my characters’ conflicts since those early days, but it’s always a work in progress.

5077f6363a9021b88616d6be39a51721Now for something on a smaller scale. I think most if not all writers have a pet word, one they use all the time without even thinking about it. Often it’s one they use in everyday speech. My pet word — just. I just use it all the time. When I finish a book, during proofreading I have to have my “just deletion” tool activated in my mind. I should really do a search and see how many instances of just are in a finished book before I revise. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s a lot.

So what about you? What’s the thing you struggle with or always get wrong in your writing? Do you have a pet word that you want to hug, pet, squeeze and call George (totally dating myself there)?

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Why So Series-ous?

First, you’ll have to forgive the horrible pun–I’m still braindead from my recent trip to New York City and susceptible to bad judgement calls. Puns, the temptation to cut my own bangs, watching Sharknado 3 last night…

But I didn’t actually want to discuss the series of increasingly outrageous shark movies. I wanted to talk about book miniseries. I have a new book coming out! FALLING FOR THE SHERIFF will be available for download as an e-book starting August 1 and should be hitting bookstore shelves by mid-month. It’s the first book in my new small town series Cupid’s Bow, Texas.

It’s funny because for the first dozen books of my career, I only wrote “standalones.” It never occurred to me to keep writing about familiar characters or settings even though some of my favorite authors do just that. Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark hot paranormals? I am a HUGE fan girl. (Seriously. I have no dignity at all when I talk to her.) And, after discovering the first two, I read every Harry Potter book the day it was released, saw every movie and may or may not have attended the screening of Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 dressed as Luna Lovegood. (You don’t have the photo. You can’t prove anything.)

But it wasn’t until an RWA conference like the one I just attended that I heard Eloisa James give a workshop on writing your own miniseries that I had a lightbulb moment.Aha

I love fictional communities. I love picking up a JD Robb “In Death” book and seeing how the characters’ lives are progressing, whether it’s Eve & Roarke’s marriage, Peabody making detective, or Eve’s best friend having a baby. And let’s not even talk about the four zillion “Sweet Valley High” books I read when I was twelve. My favorite television shows are usually ones with a tight-knit community of characters, whether they’re the quirky employees of Pawnee, Indiana’s Parks & Recreation Department or a vampire slayer, her best friends and her Watcher. So why wasn’t I building my own community, book after book?

I have now done a few miniseries, such as the Colorado Cades trilogy and Four Seasons in Mistletoe, but those were finite. I knew before I started them that it would only be a certain number. Then I had to start all over, reinventing the wheel–coming up with a new place and all new people. My editors and I have left the Cupid’s Bow series open-ended and I hope to be writing them for a long time to come.

But if you’re going to write a series, there are a few things to keep in mind.

1) The sooner you start a record of all the characters, the better. Details will trip you up. Decide early when a character’s birthday is and what color his eyes are. Mistakes later will jar readers from your story. A record of overlapping plot timelines is also critical.

2) You’re stuck with the facts you create. If you have a secondary character who has five kids and you want to write her book later but five kids is too many to keep track of on page, you can’t suddenly pretend that one of them didn’t exist. Perhaps the child can go stay with Grandma, but you have to acknowledge the absence. Similarly, if you have an anti-hero type who would make an interesting protagonist down the road, make sure you don’t have them do anything in an earlier book that you can’t redeem.

3) If you don’t subtly create expectations, readers will develop their own. Sometimes I give a minor character a few great lines of dialogue and readers will attach to that character, sending me emails like “Will the cranky old postman have his own book?” It would be very difficult for me to convince my editors to buy a book where the cranky postman is the hot hero. So while I like all of my characters to be interesting and have some great exchanges, I’m working harder to make it clear with each book who the hero and/or heroine of the next book will be. That gives readers something specific to look forward and hopefully they’ll be invested enough to pre-order the next book!

Currently, I’m working on Book 2 in the Cupid’s Bow series (Falling for the Rancher) but when I’m done, I plan to go on a massive reading binge. What are some of YOUR favorite book series that I should check out?

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