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Laura Trentham

Where, oh where, did my little plot go?

Last cycle’s topic was plot bunnies and I ended up posting something else, but since this is an open slot, I thought I go for a re-do…

‘Where do you come up with your plots/characters?’ is a question I often hear. Mostly from non-writers, but I know some writers struggle coming up with plots as well. Sometimes it can feel like *everything* has been done so many times there’s no way to make it new and fresh. Keep in mind that two people can write similarly themed books, but they will end up completely different. A writer will always bring their own experiences into the story.

Personally, I get many of my ideas from music. I’ll be toodling down the road taking my kids to school or soccer or gymnastics and my mind will start to wander as it does when I’m driving the same route for the millionth time. A song will come on. And, if the storm is perfect, a story seed will be planted. For me, the characters and plot emerge simultaneously and are dependent on one another. I keep a notebook in the car (or your phone’s notes section works well too) and jot down the idea before I lose it. I have notebooks full of book ideas, some quite well developed, that I have no time to write. (Good problem!)

The other place chock full of ideas is the news or special interest stories. I’m going to scan the current headlines….brb… See, here’s a story about Beau Biden’s widow, who is now dating his brother, Hunter. Stepping back, the premise and conflict would make for a great romance, historical or contemporary.  One of my favorite recent clips is of two 5th graders, Zoe and Noah, on Ellen who have a love-hate relationship. I want someone to write their story all grown up! Childhood frenemies to lovers is a great trope. And don’t get me started on all the political stuff going on…a political thriller about a CNN journalist (*ahem* Jake Tapper) who uncovers a Russian conspiracy and has to go on the run from bad guys? Yes, please!

I also want to mention something authors don’t talk about too much…It’s called writing ‘On Spec.’ It’s where a publishing house has a concept in mind and they tap a writer to make it happen. My Cottonbloom series was supposed to be a spec project, except I couldn’t write the idea my editor suggested (for reasons I won’t go into here.) So my editor told me to brainstorm some new ideas. But, there were constraints. It had to be a “summer themed” series with an overarching plot to tie the books together. The release dates were set before the story had been conceived. I pitched what came to be the Cottonbloom series to my editor. She loved it and the rest is history.

I’m currently writing another spec project for my editor. This one was a little different in that my editor handed over a high-level synopsis of what she wanted. Now, some authors might consider this as constraining to their ‘muse.’ But, I thought the concept was interesting and am taking it and running with it. Plus, a good author/editor relationship means you can change things as the story develops. Which I already have. If the opportunity to write on spec presents itself to you, don’t dismiss it out of hand, you might find it interesting. (By the way, Entangled is always looking for spec writers. Check out their Wishlist page.)

If you’re still having a block coming up with something that excites you, go through #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) on Twitter. Editors and agents detail in general terms the kind of manuscripts they’re interested in. It might just get your creative juices flowing. The downside is that by the time you actually have written it, the agent/editor might have moved on, but that doesn’t matter if you’re excited about it!

Where do you get your plot/character ideas?

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The Big Ravenous Drooling Bear (aka Deadlines)

Deadlines. Those little bastards. Most writers probably keep a planner of some sort and have deadlines circled in ominous red or big lettering like BOOK DUE or a three-fire alarm will issue from your electronic calendar. Deadlines are something we as writers must live with lurking in our lives. Hopefully, you picked deadlines for yourself that were doable and maybe even comfortable. However, one thing we never build into our plans are things out of our control like…

Acts of God!! *cue ominous music*

In my case, it was Mother Nature roaring through my neighborhood in the form of a tornado. Which, by the way, are extremely rare where I live in the upstate of South Carolina much less in December! Curse you, Global Warming!

We’re fine, the house will be fine. We’re getting a new roof, new fence, new shed. All fixable. The point of this post is not to host a pity-party, but to emphasize that sometimes things happen that are totally and completely out of our control. It might be weather related or health related (ours, our parents, our kids) or election related or maybe a friend needs us to drop everything and help.

As writers we have the flexibility to handle these crises as they happen, right? Maybe, maybe not…

One thing I learned after I accepted an offer of publication was that some publishers set their schedules months, sometimes up to a year, in advance. This is especially true if you are with a Big 5 publisher and got a print deal. Print requires a massive lead time, 4-6 months ideally. This means your book has to be fully edited (developmental, line, copy, page proofs, and a final proofread) before it heads to print.

For example, I have a book releasing in print August 1st, 2017. That book was due to my editor on November 1st, 2016. If I slip *my* due date, the entire process gets shifted and hardship falls to the publisher. Moving publishing dates that have been set for months is not good. (<–understatement) In other words, do not be late with your manuscript!

Not only do lead times figure into the equation, but if you are lucky enough to sign a three-book deal, you generally commit to due dates for all three books. This can commit your time for at least a year out! If you fall behind with the first book, what happens to your next two?

Back to my tornado…my plan was to hammer out the rough draft of my next book before the kids got out of school for Christmas break and before I receive edits on that book I turned in November 1st. My husband was actually scheduled to be out of the country for a week and I was going to work my butt off.

Obviously, that didn’t happen. My husband caught a flight home to help me deal with everything. We lost power for two days. People have been in and out of our house for the past week, driving me and the dog insane. Needless to say, that rough draft is not going to get finished before break.

However, that’s okay, because I have time built into my writing schedule. First off, let me get this out there…I am *not* a procrastinator when it comes to writing. In fact, I don’t understand people who do procrastinate. My anxiety would be off the charts.

Because I don’t procrastinate, I don’t bother to count days until my deadline and space out word count. Instead, I always write like my deadline is a ravenous bear chasing me even if that deadline is months away. I would rather build up a sizable lead on my bear instead of feeling him breathing down my neck. I ignore my deadline and try to get the book written as quickly as possible. This way if something happens that’s out of my control, like a tornado, or even something in my control, like I wrote myself into a corner, I’m not scrambling and panicking at the last minute. And guess what? I’ve always turned my books in early. That’s right, hate me if you want:)

This post is a cautionary tale about life and writing and things out of our control. If you are a procrastinator then…STOP IT! Don’t put off writing until that bear is huddled over your chair, drooling down your neck. You never know what might happen. And, no one wants to get eaten by a bear, right?

(**Sometimes though, really bad stuff happens. Stuff that’s more important than deadlines. That’s when you need to go to your agent and editor and have a ‘Come to Jesus’ talk about the future. That’s totally understandable**)

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Easy Deadline Dinners for Writers!

Like many writers, I’m working on sitting less and getting healthier. I’ve always cooked six days a week, but I’m trying to focus on healthier recipes. And, I need them to be fast to get me through deadlines on top of dealing with the kids’ afterschool activities. As an aside, one thing I do to stave off the munchies while saving time is pay for the convenience of precut vegetable plates. The best recipe website I’ve run across recently is called Skinny Taste. It’s all healthy and everything has been great.

The recipe I’m including here is modified from a Weight Watchers cookbook. Both my kids love it. I call it:

Pasta with Wine Sauce

1lb ground meat (can use beef, chicken, turkey, or pork)

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1/2 cup diced onion

1 tsp Italian seasoning

1 garlic clove, minced (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder)

1 32oz can of petite-diced tomatoes

1/4 cup red wine

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1 lb pasta (bow-ties, shells, etc)

While water is boiling for pasta, dice carrots and onion. Saute in a drizzle of olive oil until tender with seasoning and garlic. Add meat and brown. Cook pasta according to the box. Once meat is done, add can of tomatoes and wine, salt and pepper. Simmer while the pasta is cooking.

Serve topped with Parmesan cheese.

Now, speaking of deadlines…I’ve got one! Enjoy and happy cooking!

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Let’s Celebrate!

Are you in the mood for love? Well, the BadGirlz have you covered with not one, but two new releases!

First up is a new novella from the lovely, talented Brighton Walsh… And, it’s calling to me because it’s set during my formative years! Plus, y’all know I love me some football. msw_cover_ebook Check out the blurb below:

She’s the last thing he needs, but she’s the only thing he wants…as long as it’s behind closed doors.

It was supposed to be a one-time thing. No one would find out; no one would have to know. And then once turned into twice, and twice turned into several times a week, and now pierced, punk-loving, rebellious Tia Lanning is banging Mason Brooks, the big man on campus and Mr. All American.

But banging him isn’t the problem. Falling for him is. Especially when he’s content to let her remain his dirty little secret.

Set in the time of mix tapes, Pearl Jam, and babydoll tees, My Strongest Weakness is a steamy 25,000 word novella with a dirty talking hero, no cheating, a grand gesture that’ll make you swoon, and a guaranteed HEA.

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Now that things are cooling down, the holidays are calling. What could be better than a “sweet and steamy” Christmas novella about a reformed bad who finds love where he least expects it–in the back of a cop car! If you’ve read my Falcon Football series, you might recognize Jeremy aka Whitey. Well, he was a very bad boy then, but times have changed and so has he…if he can just convince himself he deserves to be happy. This is also a great introduction to my Cottonbloom series and only $1.99! Hope you enjoy!

A very Cottonbloom Christmas!

Jeremy Whitehurst has tried to leave his bad-boy behavior and tarnished image behind in Alabama for a fresh start in Cottonbloom, Louisiana. Unfortunately, trouble has dogged him across state lines. Stepping up and protecting a young woman from her abusive boyfriend earned him a beat-down and got him fired. Although the thanks in the girl’s dark eyes made it all worth it, he recognizes she’s just a different kind of trouble. A trouble he’s not sure he can stay away from.

One rebellious summer dented Kayla Redmond’s carefree innocence. Now her focus is on completing her associate’s degree for bookkeeping, and no one is going to derail her plans. Unfortunately, her job at Fournette Brothers Designs puts her in the path of the one man who has seen her at her worst, yet his blue eyes don’t judge her. He sees beyond the brokenness inside of her and rouses her wild side once more. But, that’s what got her in trouble in the first place.

Christmas is coming and Kayla’s ready to forgive herself and take a chance. But the holiday has only ever brought heartache to Jeremy. No Christmas miracle kept his mother clean or out of jail. Will one reckless night and some time spent in the back of a cop car be the best present Jeremy’s ever been given?

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Editing and Critiques…oh my!

I’m pulling a Carol Burnette and taking questions from the “crowd.” Does anyone else love her as much as me? Or even know who she is? Went With the Wind is my favorite skit ever….YouTube it, people!tumblr_mq5avosuov1qar83lo6_500

Over there in the back, what’s your question?

How do you know when you’re finished editing? It could go on forever!

Yes, yes it could. This is where deadlines help. Unless you not even near the finish line, you’re hitting send to your editor on the due date. That’s a nice, abrupt end to your edit! But, gearing this toward a newer author, I think what you really want to know is when to let go of that manuscript you’ve been working on for months (years)? You query and get a full request from an agent and suddenly you’re convinced your manuscript needs one more pass…and then another. Sending off requested pages or even entering contests can be daunting. Is it ready for prime-time?

I’m going to reference something I heard Eloisa James say, and I apologize that I’m going to have to paraphrase, but basically, she said write the best book you can RIGHT NOW and send it out into the world. This is not to say you shouldn’t study your craft and do your very best, but people (and women especially) aim for perfection and will beat themselves up and hem and haw over every single sentence. Basically, when you are tweaking individual words, you need to let it go.

Here’s the truth: what will get you signed by an agent or your book contracted by an editor is not which verb you picked to use in the last sentence on page seventy-five, it is your VOICE. Is it compelling? Does it draw the reader in and not let them go? Voice matters more than perfect grammar or even plot sometimes. Plot and grammar are fixable; voice is a more elusive creature. (As an aside, I didn’t understand what a dangling participle was until my first editor pointed them out…eek!)

How do you know whether your critique group is helping or hurting?

One thing I’ve learned in the years since I started writing is there is no right or wrong way to approach a manuscript. Some writers I know write 1-3 chapters and send them off to their critique partner or group and wait for feedback before moving on. Some writers have sworn off critique groups/partners.

I fall somewhere in between. I have one critique partner, and I usually “use” her to read projects where I’m stepping out of my usual genre. For most of my manuscripts, I write/edit/turn in without anyone else reading it before my editor, mainly because of those pesky deadlines I mentioned above. Honestly, I usually don’t have the time for someone else to read my manuscript.

My rule of thumb comes from entering somewhere around a million unpublished contests…if the critique makes you feel like crap and question whether or not you should even be a writer, then it has turned toxic. I’ll be honest, some people are toxic by nature. Maybe they’re jealous, maybe they’ve had a bad day, maybe someone kicked their dog when they were eight and they have a vendetta against the world. Who knows?! If the feedback resonates and fires new, better ideas, go for it. But, all feedback is not good feedback. Do a gut check. Basically, if you’re excited about the feedback you get and can’t wait to make your manuscript better, then you have a helpful critique relationship. If the feedback makes you want to cry and instills more doubts than optimism, then move on!

Don’t let your critique group/partner become a crutch, and don’t change something just because someone else thinks you should, even a more experienced writer, which leads into my next point…

It’s important to TRUST your stories and your voice. I queried and signed with an agent and sold two manuscripts without having any critique partners, so I’m proof it’s not necessary for success. I learned early on to trust my method and my voice because I had no choice (aka ignorance is bliss:) There will be many, many times after you get published that you won’t have the chance/time for someone else to pat your head and tell you everything looks good before you hit send. And once your’re published, you have to trust yourself enough to weather rejections and bad reviews, because if you don’t believe in what you’re writing, all those flung arrows from outside sources will eventually kill your joy. Don’t let it!

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A New Beginning…

This blog cycle we are supposed to be dispensing wisdom about staying physically and emotionally healthy as writers… *twiddles thumbs* <– which makes my carpal tunnel flare so I’m going to stop now.

I wrote a post awhile back on my treadmill desk which has done more than anything to get me healthier and more focused on my writing. I still read my reviews (slaps hand) and hate release days (pass the wine.) My “wisdom” is rather lacking.

Instead I’d thought I’d pull a Monty Python…a now for something completely different!!

I’m going to discuss beginnings. Like literally the beginning of your manuscript. I really don’t consider myself an expert on anything writing related. I’m always looking to learn from someone farther along on the journey. So I was surprised after my editor read my latest manuscript when she said, You should teach a class on how to write first chapters.

I scoffed and replied back that there was no method to my madness, but it got me thinking… I’ve never changed the first chapter of any of my books. From the time I drafted the first chapter through all my own edits and my editors’ developmental edits. That would be nine that have gone through professional editing, so maybe I’m doing *something* kind of right. Also, I regularly judge unpublished contests in both historical and contemporary categories which honestly helps my writing as much as the contestants. I read my own work with a more critical eye.

It’s no surprise the biggest issue with first chapters is managing backstory. Two big problems I see:

  1. The “Coming Into Town” beginning. This can be in a car or carriage and usually involves the hero or heroine ruminating on what is bringing them back to their hometown or why they’re moving into a new town. It’s usually a big fat stinky info dump. Doesn’t matter if the heroine is describing the scenery in-between introspection about her family drama or getting fired from her job. Unless something active happens, like she gets pulled over by the cops or gets beset by a highwayman or rammed in the bumper by the hero, just skip it. Sorry, but it’s boring.
  2. The “As You Know” conversation. For a new author (or even experienced one) this can be a deceptive backstory dump. I typically see this conversation taking place between a main and secondary character. For example, maybe it’s the heroine giving the lowdown to her best friend. Except, it’s really a sneaky way of imparting backstory to the reader. If you can add in the phrase “As you know” before dialogue, you have a problem.

As you know  “I had to come home because my grandmother is sick.”

“Your brother should be helping,” her best friend said.

As you know  “He is a wastrel and at the clubs until all hours, the scapegrace!”

If the two characters are close, then it’s a conversation they would have already had. Plus, it’s usually mostly telling with no showing. Better to start with the brother coming in drunk and the sister confronting him in the wee hours. That would impart the needed knowledge plus the ability to weave in a gamut of emotions from frustration to love.

The best piece of advice I read about backstory came from a Margie Lawson class (I think she got it from someone else, though). Write all the tidbits of backstory for your characters on a piece of glass. Then, shatter that glass. Pick up only the most important facts. Facts that the reader *must know.* Sliver them in throughout the first third of the book. Discard the rest.

I also want to touch on prologues. I’ll admit, I love the damn things, but the overall consensus is to avoid them. My way around this? CALL THEM CHAPTER 1! All three of my Cottonbloom books start with an incident between my hero and heroine that took place many years in the past. That scene was needed to frame their present. But, make sure it’s absolutely necessary. Don’t use a prologue as a means to impart backstory. It must reveal something vitally important about your hero or heroine or their relationship with each other (not necessarily romantic.) If you can lose the prologue and still understand the story, then…lose the prologue.

I would posit that the advice “Start your book with action!” should really be “Start your book with the inciting incident!” The inciting incident is what upsets the balance of your characters’ lives and sets the story in motion. This “incident/action” doesn’t have to be a fight or a car crash, it can be something much more subtle.

For example, the book I’m working on now is Book 4 in the Cottonbloom series (and incidentally has no prologue, because it didn’t *need* one.) In Chapter 1, the heroine wants to surprise her fiancé with work on his classic Camaro and is dropping it off at a restoration garage. Except, she finds her best friend’s panties under the seat. The hero is the mechanic witnessing this incident.

Another piece of often heard advice is that your hero and heroine should meet in Chapter 1. I do agree you should get them on the page as soon as possible, but sometimes the inciting incident only involves the hero (for example) and it snowballs to include the heroine. I have at least two books where the hero and heroine don’t meet until Chapter 2 or very late in Chapter 1. On the other hand, the hero meeting the heroine can be the inciting incident. This is often the case for a romance. For example, maybe the highwayman who stops our heroine’s carriage *is* the hero.

What about you? Agree or disagree? Do you have any advice for beginnings?

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What’s in a name?

I have many weaknesses in my writing. Some I’ve identified and am working on, and some I’ve not yet discovered. But, that’s true for all us! No matter how long we’ve been writing there’s something else to learn. Which is awesome, and also why I’m afraid to go back and read any of my books. I’d probably nit-pick them to death with what I’ve learned since.

One of my weakness is picking names. Not that I pick *bad* names per se, but I tend to get hyper-focused on one or two letters in the alphabet. For example, my character list for Slow and Steady Rush:

Darcy (heroine)

Robbie Dalton (hero-often called Dalt)

Reed (cousin and hero of Book 2)

Dave (football player)

Rick aka Rick the Dick (policeman)

Dylan (football player)

Ada (grandmother, not technically a ‘D’, but strong ‘D’ sound)

I realized my issue when I was editing a scene with Robbie and Reed. What stinks is when you become attached to names, or the names have already imprinted onto your character. There was no way I was changing my hero or heroine, but I caved and changed Reed to Logan. I had already written his book, so this was heart-wrenching. I had to keep Rick the Dick (for obvious reasons, amiright?), so I changed Dave to Tyler and Dylan to Jamal.

Another of my weakness is keeping (or not keeping) a series bible. This has bitten me on the butt more than a few times, yet I feel like I’m too busy to go back and reconstruct a detailed one. So while I recognize this as a weakness, I still didn’t do one at the start of my new series. But I was introduced to a copy-editor trick that helps me avoid name repetition and also helps me keep track of main character highlights, like hair and eye color and any distinguishing characteristics or titles. It’s the Cliff Notes version of a series bible.

Pardon my handwriting and lack-of-OCD straight lines…this could be set up in Excel, no doubt, but I like keeping it next to me while I’m starting a book so I can jot things down or scratch things out. To me that’s easier than the screen. Plus, I use a spiral bound notebook for each manuscript to long-hand scenes and jot down ideas, so this works for me. I’ve found it super simple, and extremely useful…

You can divvy up grid2your quadrants however you like, and if you do it on the computer, you could expand into as many as you want. But, the point is to write every name (first, last, nicknames) and proper nouns on the grid. From a glance you can tell where you have too many names of the same letter.

 

 

It also helps narrow the search for new names. In my case, I’d probably go to the ‘H’s or ‘P’s in my big book of baby names for a first name and the ‘A’s or ‘Y’s in my telephone directory for last names. (Don’t throw those antiquated books away… They are very handy for surnames!)

I hope this helps some writer out there avoid my missteps. I would be very interested in how you guys keep track of names or other shortcuts you use to keep track of your series…

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Congratulations!! You Got a Book Deal…What Now?

With the Golden Heart® announcements taking place last week, it got me thinking of my own “class” of finalists in 2014. The Golden Heart® can be a huge stepping stone to publication. A majority of my class has gone on to ink publishing deals or get agents or self-publish or are *so* close it’s not even funny… I’m amazed by them every day. I’m sure the 2016 class (including our own BadGirl Sydney Carroll—woo-woo!) will be no different.

Yay, you got a deal! Celebrate and high-five and announce it over social media…but your job is nowhere near done. What actually happens after you accept an offer? Some of it depends on the house/editor and what kind of deal, but this skeleton of what happens is similar from house to house.

**A word on contracts…Don’t be surprised at how slooooow things move. If you have an agent, then negotiating the contracts can take months. I was through most of my edits before I signed the contracts on my Falcon Football series with St. Martin’s Press. As a new author, this made me nervous, as I worried things could fall apart at any moment. The reality is that accepting the offer is a virtual handshake. The contracts are red tape that your agent has to deal with. As a new author, trust in your agent, put your head down, and concentrate on releasing the best debut book ever.

The first thing you’ll get from your editor is your First Pass Edit notes. This can range from an email with bullet points to a Word document of several pages. It can also be very stress inducing. An author who enjoys receiving those initial edits is like a unicorn—I’ve never met one. Just remember that your editor offered on your book because they loved it and convinced an acquisitions board of its merit. Take a deep breath and tackle the issues. You’ll come out the other side with a better book. Once you receive edits, you’ll have ~1-4 weeks to complete.

Once you turn in your first pass edits, don’t twiddle your thumbs. If you signed a multi-book deal, get writing on the second book. Not only will you be chasing your contract deadline, but most likely, your editor will ask you for the first chapter or two fairly soon (before it goes to copy-edits) in order to include as a teaser in the back of the first book. If you didn’t sign a multi-book deal, start on your next project! You always want something in the pipeline!!

**Insert fun stuff** Typically somewhere in the editing process, you’ll get a peek at your cover! Hopefully, you’ll fall in love and plaster it everywhere. (I made a phone case out of KISS ME THAT WAYJ) Enjoy the high…now get back to work!

Depending on your editor’s schedule, (remember you are not her only author) you’ll receive Second Pass Edits. These are usually much lighter than first pass, and usually consists of detailed line edits rather than the big-picture edits. I’ve also had manuscripts that have skipped this step altogether and gone straight to copy-edits. In my experience, it’s depended on how light or heavy first pass edits were. You’ll have ~1 week to complete.

Once your editor accepts the second pass edits, the manuscript will be sent to a copy-editor. Their job is to get nit-picky about commas, hyphens, and awkward wording. They’ll also check for consistency of your time-line, character descriptions, and naming conventions. I’ve always received digital copy-edits, while some houses still send a printed out manuscript with markings. This can take several weeks. Remember, the copy-editing department services all the authors for your house. While you’re waiting on copy-edits to arrive, guess what? Get back to work!!

I *always* recommend reading through your manuscript one last time from start to finish after completing copyedits. At this point, you’ll be sick of reading it. Do it anyway. I promise you’ll catch a handful of mistakes. I’ve generally been given ~3 weeks for copy-edits, but I can usually complete these in a few days.

After you turn in the copy-edits, a few things can happen. For one set of digital books, copy-edits was my last review. For another set of digital books, I did a last review of a “book” formatted PDF version. For my print books, I get galley copies. This is a print formatted paper copy. I make any changes with a pen and scan the pages with changes back to my editor. The final step in all the processes is for a publishing house proof-reader to give the book one last read, catching any (hopefully) very small mistakes. Galleys take me ~3 days for a very slow, through read.

At this point, it’s all in your publishing house’s hands and the next step is your release. It can happen anywhere from four to eight months after you last touched your manuscript. In this time, expect to field constant questions from family and friends…when the heck is your book coming out anyway?

Guess what you should be doing with your time? WRITING! If you have other books due, it’s absolutely necessary to keep writing. Be professional; don’t miss your deadlines. If you aren’t under contract, you want other books published, right? They must be written to be published.

Harkening back to one of my previous posts on Debut Anxiety, the continued writing will also keep you (relatively) sane approaching your release. I’ve made no bones about the fact, I do not enjoy the pocket of time right before/after my books release. So, I’m like Dorie…I try to forget about the release and just keep writing…just keep writing…and (hopefully) repeat all the above over and over and over.

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Debut Anxiety

I almost named this Performance Anxiety (heehee), but I digress…

It seems like a good time to reflect on my last twelve months…one word comes to mind cRaZy. I will never have another year like 2015. Last January, I had one book on preorder. Now have eight(!) books listed on Amazon and by the end of the month will have five books released into the wild. Looking in, I’m sure it seems like I’m ‘livin’ the dream.’

And I am! Being a published author *is* a dream come true. I just didn’t realize how stressful the dream is. As in I cracked a tooth this year stressful. As in I’ve put on 10-15 lbs stressful. I haven’t written a post on this before or really talked about outside of trusted author loops, because I don’t want to come off whiney or ungrateful.

Believe me, I’m neither. (Not that some of you who are still in the trenches won’t want to punch my cracked tooth out anyway. Lol:) When I was receiving rejection after rejection during the submission process of my first manuscript, I remember reading a quote from a big-time author (whose name I can’t recall to give credit too, unfortunately).

She said, “Getting published isn’t the hard part. The hard part is *staying* published.” I scoffed. I harrumphed. I might have even flipped a virtual bird. Because there’s no two ways about it, getting published is damn hard!!

Here’s the rub: SHE WAS RIGHT. I apologize profusely to this wise woman for the virtual bird flipping.

At the beginning, it’s all exciting, fun times. Signing the contract. Getting your first advance check (if you’re lucky). Seeing your cover for the first time. Finding your book on pre-order at Amazon. You think, I’ll never come off the high. The warm fuzzies can’t be controlled!!

For me, the anxiety started when my book went out to reviewers. I knew it went out to reviewers because I was stalking my Goodreads page and noticed a bunch of bloggy-type readers were adding my book. The nail-biting commenced. The first review rolled in. A five-star. Yay! I was riding high again. The second one came soon after…a three-star. I plummeted. It wasn’t a bad review. She liked the book even. But, why didn’t she *love* it? It made me sick to my stomach. Now my obsessive checking of Goodreads filled me with anxiety instead of excitement. The crazy thing is I generally received great reviews. It didn’t seem to matter to my psyche.

From the time my book went on review, I had a difficult time writing. Which was very bad considering I was under contract to write four full length books in eleven months. To make matters worse, somewhere between the reviews and release day, I realized that there were Expectations—with a giant E.

I’m ambitious. I have goals. Even when I was seeking an agent or on submission, I put expectations on myself. But this felt different. Before, if I fell short, it was only me who was disappointed. Now I had an agent and editor who had taken a chance on me. And a publishing house that wanted to make money.

The expectations weren’t explicit, but the reality is that this is a business. If your book doesn’t perform…well, they aren’t going to give you another contract because they like you. Release day rolled around. I got a lovely email from my editor. My agent spread the word. Yet…I was not filled with joy. People congratulated me, and I grimaced out something resembling a smile. I drank copious amounts of wine while obsessively checking Amazon. My book spiked low and then after a week drifted higher and higher in the rankings. Higher is not good.

I read happy, joyous tweets or Facebook posts from other authors releasing books and wondered what the hell was wrong with me? Why wasn’t my first book release the greatest time of my life??

Anxiety stole my words.

At this point, you’re probably waiting for me to drop some words of wisdom. I wish I had some. After an author on one of my loops confessed her anxiety, a floodgate opened and *so many* authors chimed in with their own struggles. Most of us suffered through the same roller-coaster of emotions with our first release. If you can relax and enjoy the ride, then good for you!

If you can’t, I can tell you this from my experience…Bad reviews still have the power to sting me but have stopped paralyzing me. (And, yes, I know I shouldn’t read them, but I do and nothing seems to be able to stop me!) Approaching my fifth release, I can also tell you that I still do not enjoy release days. I’m not sure I ever will. But they don’t turn into week-long sessions of me curling up in the corner in a ball refreshing Amazon either. (And, yes, I know I should stay off Amazon too, but…yadda, yadda, yadda).

After all the release day anxiety/excitement fades, I hope every single one of you remembers why you started that very first manuscript years ago…for the love of storytelling. So that’s what you do. You sit back down and write another book. Maybe a better book. *That’s* where the joy is. In the work, not the release. Published or unpublished, debut or fiftieth release. The work will carry you through the insanity to the other side.

And if that doesn’t work, there’s always alcohol…

 

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“Home Is Where The Heart Is” or “Travel The World To Find Yourself”?

Yet again, we have two Bad Girlz with release days this week, and yet again, the themes of their book could not be more different. The third book in Laura Trentham’s Falconers Football series, MELTING INTO YOU, is all about coming home, while the first book in Jeanette Grey’s new series, SEVEN NIGHTS TO SURRENDER, is about traveling the world and finding love in far-off destinations.

Home Is Where the Heart Is…

In MELTING INTO YOU, two lost souls reconnect back in their home town of Falcon, Alabama. Lilliana left home for art school in NYC but returns after her father dies and she inherits the decrepit family home. Alec was a football star at the University of Alabama and a professional quarterback in Philly until a dirty hit ends his career. (Did I mention he is hot and tattooed? I didn’t? Well…check out my excerpt below) Will they be able to put their pasts behind them for a future together?

“…marvelously funny, engaging, and memorable romance in a place where everyone knows your name.” – RT Book Reviews on Falcon Football Series

“Absolutely perfect!!! I loved this book from start to finish.” – Laura H, Goodreads (<–not meJ, although, it is pretty perfect, imo)

“I’m highly recommending you read the Falcon Football series and I’m giving Melting Into You five-plus stars!”—Bookaholics-not-so-anonymous

Read an excerpt from MELTING INTO YOU

Melting-Into-You-by-Laura-Trentham-300Alec grabbed at both her wrists, but the movement only flipped his shirt apart, exposing the bottom half of his chest. Something dark edged from the checked cotton. He froze, his hands loosening. Lilliana finished working his buttons open and spread the shirt to expose his entire chest.

“Oh. My. God.” Her words compressed out of lungs that held no air.

She wasn’t in shock from the defined muscles of his chest. That she’d expected. It wasn’t even the sexy dusting of hair trailing into the waistband of his pants. What hypnotized and held her rapt was the enormous tattoo that covered one side of his torso.

The vibe was difficult to nail down. Tribal with some Picasso cubism thrown in. Script played peekaboo along his side, obscured by the shirt hanging on the curve of his shoulders. What words would a man like him pick to inscribe on his body? One thing was certain—his tattoo was a work of art. Now she was less interested in his warm, man-scented skin than what was drawn on it. Impatiently, she pushed his shirt off his shoulders to hang at his elbows.

The tattoo extended to his shoulder and over his upper arm, stopping at mid-biceps like a permanent sleeve. In all the football practices she’d attended, he’d never revealed his ink. Unlike the boys or other coaches, he wore long-sleeved workout gear and used a towel tucked into his shorts to wipe away sweat, but she’d chalked his habits up to being a quarterback and needing a protected throwing arm and dry hands.

Never in a million years would she have guessed what preppy, uptight Alec Grayson had up his sleeve. Literally.

“It’s old. From when I was young and stupid. Most of my teammates in Philly had tats and I thought I was the sh—” He muttered to cover the curse word and ran a hand through the top of his hair, mussing the regimented style. “I’m planning to get it lasered off.”

“Don’t you dare!”

Clarity struck like a shot of adrenaline to her heart. He was ashamed or at least embarrassed by the tattoo. With trembling fingertips, she skimmed the outer line of a dark black swirl of ink tracing the muscle of his pectoral. At first contact, the muscle jumped, and he flinched away as if in physical pain.

“Don’t you dare,” she repeated in a whisper leaning in to follow the line with her lips.

Get your copy today:
Amz: http://amzn.to/1KN5RMR
BN: http://bit.ly/1K6kaM5
Kobo: http://bit.ly/1Md3tzS
iBooks: http://apple.co/1Ov0N7j

Travel The World To Find Yourself

In SEVEN NIGHTS TO SURRENDER, aspiring artist Kate takes herself on a trip to Paris in search of inspiration. Instead, she finds Rylan, a fellow ex-pat who offers to show her around the city–and also to show her his bed. The two indulge their every desire, but Rylan is hiding not only his fortune but also the truth about who he really is. As the two open up to each other, they both want more than the week they’ve allotted, but Rylan’s secrets may tear them apart before they’ve even begun.

“Jeanette Grey has become a must-read voice in romance.​ Seven Nights to Surrender is lyrical, stunningly sexy, and brings swoons for days.”
      — Christina Lauren, New York Times bestselling author

“A must read! I couldn’t put it down. Jeanette Grey’s writing is so refreshingly honest. Seven Nights to Surrender is intensely emotional and sexy as hell. I need the next book ASAP!”
       — Tara Sue Me, New York Times bestselling author

“With its sexy setting and sensual story, Jeanette Grey’s Seven Nights to Surrender sparkles!”
— J. Kenner, New York Times and International bestselling author

Read an excerpt from SEVEN NIGHTS TO SURRENDER

Grey_SevenNightstoSurrender_TR2015-08-14Eyeing her up the entire time, he finished the rest of his drink. She still had a little left of hers, but they were closing in on decision time. He didn’t have anything else going on today—he never really had anything going on, not since his life had fallen apart. But was he willing to sink an entire afternoon here, offering to show her around?

He tried to be analytical about it. Her body language was still less than open, for all that she’d loosened up a bit. Given her age, probably not a virgin, but he’d bet a lot of money that she wasn’t too far off. Not his usual fare. He preferred girls who knew what they were doing—more importantly, ones who knew what he was doing. What he was looking for.

This girl…It was going to take some work to get in there. If it paid off, he had a feeling it’d be worth it, though. When she smiled, her prettiness transcended into beauty.

There was something else there, too. She was romantic and hopeful, and between the story of her lost sketchbook and her delusions about Paris having the power to change her life, she had to be a creative type. Out of nowhere, he wanted to know what kinds of things she made, and what she looked like when she drew.

He kept coming back to her eyes. They hadn’t stopped moving the entire time they’d been sitting there, like she was taking absolutely everything in. The sights beyond the window, the faces of the people in the café. Him. It was intriguing. She was intriguing, and in a way no other woman had been in so long.

And the idea of going back to the apartment alone made him want to scream.

Decision made, he pushed his chair out and clapped his hands together. “Well, what are we waiting for then?”

“Excuse me?”

“Travel guides are bullshit anyway. Especially when you’ve got something better.” He rose to his feet and extended his hand.

Her expression dripped skepticism. “And what’s that?”

He shot her his best, most seductive grin. “Me.”

Get your copy today:
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1fNJiiU
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/seven-nights-to-surrender-jeanette-grey/1121335315
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/br/book/seven-nights-to-surrender/id1014052823?l=en&mt=11
Google Play: https://books.google.com/books?id=rsYLCgAAQBAJ
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/seven-nights-to-surrender-1

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