Tag Archives: writing

A New Book!

Let me introduce you to Catherine, Reginald, and Yolann … and to Francesca Rose.

Francesca Rose is the name I’m using for my Victorian Secret Romances. They’re set in the Victorian era and are a little sexier than the Frankie Robertson titles. If you’ve read WITH HEART TO HEAR, you’ll enjoy this new release, YETI IN THE MIST.

YETI IN THE MIST: A Victorian Secret Romance

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Catherine Denton loves her ailing husband and is taken aback when he  encourages her to take a lover. Reginald, formerly a colonel in the East India Company Army, wants his young wife to have what he cannot give her: children–and his titled brother, Cedric, has offered to oblige. However, her brother-in-law is not the man Catherine desires. The male who makes her pulse race is Reginald’s good friend Yolann, the Yeti who served with him in India, and who sleeps just down the hall.

 

 

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Heroes: Too Stupid To Live

My husband and I watched Sunday’s episode of “The Last Ship” last night. The evil, bad, nasty Russian Admiral (we can thank Putin for restoring this trusty stereotype) had the best line.

SPOILER ALERT!

I was gleeful when he said to Commander Chandler: “Your hubris has led to your tragic downfall.” (Sadly, he didn’t take that observation to heart.)

Commander Chandler (or should I say, Captain Kirk?) is one of the worst recent captainkirkexamples I’ve seen of a TSTL hero. This was the third time Chandler left the ship to do a job that his subordinates were better trained to do. But the third time wasn’t the charm in this case. He’s still alive.

Next Sunday, Chandler will no doubt take his XO to task for disobeying a direct order. At that moment, I truly hope that Adam Baldwin’s character says something like, “You weren’t on the bridge. I was. I made a command decision. If you want to make command decisions, STAY ON THE BRIDGE! In fact, if you ever try to leave the ship again before this mission is complete, I WILL SHOOT YOU MYSELF.

Okay, now that I have that off my chest, here’s the point. Your protagonists can make mistakes, but they have to learn from them. Those mistakes can arise out of character flaws, or misunderstandings, or misinformation. Those mistakes cannot be something anyone with the character’s training and background would logically avoid. If circumstances force your character into a bad choice, it’s even better. That kind of situation really makes the reader squirm. (And you want your readers to squirm.) Just be sure your protagonist doesn’t have a better choice available that doesn’t contravene his or her values.

Chandler’s rescue of the scientist’s wife and daughter was consistent with his love for his own family and the values of a decent man. (This was good.) The fact that he was there in the first place was further evidence of his cowboy nature, and I have to wonder if he would have risen to the rank of Commander, or been given this sensitive command, with that kind of behavior in his record.

I recently saw a quote, but I can’t remember who wrote it. “Build people, not characters.” To that I’d add,  build consistent, intelligent people, and be true to their natures, and they will help you write consistent, intelligent  stories.

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Thinking like an Italian Race Car Driver

raul juliaMany years ago my husband introduced me to the movie “The Gumball Rally” (1976) about an amateur coast-to-coast road race. In it, the Italian driver, Franco, (Raul Julia) says what for me was a memorable line as he ripped off the rear view mirror and tossed it away. “The first rule of Italian driving: what is behind me is not important.”

Ah, if only it were that easy. When I haven’t produced enough new words I’m very adept at looking behind and torturing myself with what I haven’t accomplished, even if I’ve been doing other kinds of productive work like editing and marketing. I found Rachel Aaron’s book 2000 to 10,000 (which she recently updated) both helpful and daunting. I’m still working on regularly producing the 2000 words a day, let alone 10,000. That’s why I found Rachel’s post “Don’t Stomp on My Cake” from 8/22/13 so reassuring. (Thanks to Caroline Mickelson for telling me about it.)

Even someone like Rachel, who is very organized and is productive has days, or weeks, or even months, when other things get in the way of creating. Sometimes those things can be avoided or ignored, but some of them you just have to endure, or in some cases, enjoy.

In The Gumball Rally, Franco is very clear on his priorities. Have fun. Win the race. In that order. He was frequently distracted by beautiful women along the way, but he still came in second and he got the girl. Several girls, actually. Lamenting time lost while making love to a lovely woman wasn’t even on his list. Obviously, a certain amount of reflection is necessary to learn from the past so we don’t repeat the same mistakes over and over, but what constitutes a mistake is not always so obvious. Not every side trip is a mistake. Not everything that takes us away from writing is to be lamented.

Lamenting the past steals energy from the present. Don’t give it that power. Relax. Take a  a deep breath. Are those flowers you smell?

Now that you’re re-energized, get back to work. 🙂

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A Field Mouse, A Crow, and A Writing Lesson

Have you ever been reading along in a book that has multiple viewpoint characters and wondered for a moment, “Who is talking here?” I confess, that’s happened to me a time or two–when I was reading my own stuff. That’s when I know I haven’t been doing my job properly.

Fae Rowen has written a great post about how to fix that problem.

A Field Mouse, A Crow, and A Writing Lesson.

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Back At Work: BETRAYED BY TRUST

After some unexpected Life Events I’m back at work revising my next release, BETRAYED BY TRUST.  For those of you who have been waiting for another Celestial Affairs novel, you’ll be happy to know that Gideon plays a role in this book. It takes place in 1979, and although it isn’t exactly a prequel to LIGHTBRINGER, it does tie into the Celestial Affairs story arc.

Here’s a teaser:

It’s January, 1979. The Vietnam war is over. The oil embargo and long gas lines a bad memory. And Three Mile Island is just a Pennsylvanian power plant that no one has ever heard of.

Marianne Benton works for the Trust, a secretive organization guarding against abuses of occult power. Marianne’s assignment, rescue an Elemental Spirit from slavery — by seducing the heir to a corporate dynasty.

Dan Collier is a former Green Beret. His assignment: keep Marianne alive.

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My Self-Publishing Journey: Do Public Appearances Work?

I have several opportunities to speak in public this year and I’ve accepted a few. First, I’m talking with other romance writers on a panel at Tucson’s Himmel branch library on February 9th. Then a month later I’ll be speaking twice at the Tucson Festival of Books. I’ll be talking again in November at TusCon, Tucson’s local science-fiction convention.

I also have several other conventions available for me to attend to network with readers and other authors. There’s the Romantic Times Convention, the Romance Writers of America national conference, and Jimmy Thomas’s Romance Novel Convention. 

All of these events will be a lot of fun to attend. But which of them will do my career the most good?

J.A. Konrath (a suspence/thriller author successful in both traditional and indie publishing) busted his butt to promote his first seven traditionally published books. He traveled all over the country doing signings and personal appearances. Now that his indie career is well established he’s not doing that anymore.  Author Dean Wesley Smith and his author wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch  believe that writing is a better use of their time than promoting–but they still go to the occasional science-fiction convention.  I’m still in the very early stages of my career, still building word of mouth about my books and going to conferences is a fun way to break out of the solitary existence of writing. But is attending conventions the best use of my time and money?

I think for most authors it comes down to the budget. Does the event require travel and an overnight stay? If so, how much does transportation and lodging cost? Is the benefit worth the expense? For many authors who are looking for a traditional publishing contract, the larger conferences give them a chance to talk to editors. There is a direct benefit. For indie authors the reward is less immediate. You may sell some books at the convention, but probably not enough to cover your expenses. The rewards are less obvious: connections and friendships that will enrich your life in unexpected ways. New readers who may not have heard of you otherwise. It may be only a few, but they may be bloggers who eagerly share the news about an author they just met.

These benefits can’t be measured on a balance sheet. But as business people, we do still have to keep track of the money. How do we decide to spend it? Which event is worth interrupting our writing schedule to attend?

Share with me how you choose.

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Secondary Characters as Heroes

Part of the fun of writing a series is having the chance to turn the spotlight on secondary characters. That’s also part of the challenge.

I have a tendency to write stoic heroes who are bound by duty and honor. I also tend to give those heroes friends and brothers who are a little flip and irreverent. These sidekicks do a good job of pricking the ego of the hero, humanizing him. But when it’s the buddy’s turn to take center stage, it becomes my job to torture him. That’s where the problem lies.

You have to make your characters suffer or they won’t change and grow. The trick is to make a secondary character who was a joker mature without losing his personality. He can have a dark, or self-deprecating sense of humor, but when he’s really suffering the reader needs to feel it. You have to make the hero’s pain real and profound for his eventual triumph to be meaningful. Humor can still work in these situations. The character may try to deflect his pain with humor, or he can turn sarcastic and biting.  But however he reacts, he can’t be quipping as usual.

I faced this problem when I wrote Ragni in as the hero of FORBIDDEN TALENTS. He had to become more serious given what I was putting him through, without losing the essence of what had made him appealing in DANGEROUS TALENTS. One technique I employed was keeping the hero from the earlier book, Dahleven, around. By comparison with his older and more serious brother, Ragni is still irreverent. By the end of FORBIDDEN TALENTS he’s gained a bit more gravitas, even if he’s still more than ready to give Dahleven a hard time.

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FORBIDDEN TALENTS is FREE from Kindle through Tuesday, 10/16/12.

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An Accidental Series

I’m guest blogging over at Secrets of 7 Scribes today thanks to an invitation from Casey Wyatt, the author of MYSTIC INK and THE UNDEAD SPACE INITIATIVE. I’m talking about why I’m writing not one, not two, but three different series. Come over and say hello!

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To Series or Not to Series

I recently had an online conversation about whether a book being part of a series helps or hurts its sales. Almost everything I’ve read suggests that most readers like series. What they don’t like is not knowing where a book falls in the sequence, or being left hanging until the next book comes out.

When I started writing my first novel, DANGEROUS TALENTS, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just writing a story I wanted to tell. I certainly wasn’t trying to start a series at that point.

Then my critique group said, “Tell us Ragni’s story!” So I wrote FORBIDDEN TALENTS.

By this time I’d decided that writing a third book in a series that wasn’t selling yet was a bad idea, so I wrote two more stand-alone books, VEILED MIRROR and LIGHTBRINGER. Except some of the characters in LIGHTBRINGER  told me that their stories needed to be told too, so it turned out to be the first of another series. And then I decided I had to tell a story that turned out to be connected to the Celestial Affairs universe, but not actually about the Celestials. I started writing SEDUCED BY TRUST. Then I stopped because the hero’s mom needed her story told first. That’s how BETRAYED BY TRUST came to be written.

The problem with writing multiple series is that you have to keep it all straight. That’s too much for my little brain to remember, so I have  haphazzard story “bibles” that help me keep track of eye colors and name spellings. I’m also creating a series arc for the Celestial Affairs and Trust books.

Some writers just can’t stand to outline because it robs them of the joy of discovery. Fortunately, I’m not one of them. I start with a general idea for a book, some characters, a place and a goal. I’ll write a chapter or three to learn about them, but it doesn’t take long before I have to know where I’m going, so I draw myself a little map which gets more and more detailed as I go along. Usually that’s enough for a singleton, but with three more books in the Celestial Affairs series and the two Trust books to link in, I can’t wing it. I have to know.

So I’m drawing myself a big map that covers all six books. Each of the next two Celestial Affairs books, GUARDIAN and APOSTATE, will stand alone but will build to a big finale in the last book, SERAPHIM. At least, that’s the plan.

So here I am with three series begun, and readers asking for more in each of them. It might not have been the smartest way to go, especially since I’m not the fastest writer, but I’m thrilled my readers are so enthusiastic. (And when it comes out, I promise to tell you where a book fits in each series.)

In the meantime, the next book to be released is the 2nd Vinlanders’ Saga book, FORBIDDEN TALENTS. You won’t have to wait long–it comes out in early October.

Thanks for reading!

 

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Synchronicity and Perfection

I had a brief exchange recently with a new follower on Twitter. This man is a stay at home dad with four kids, and amazing writing productivity. Yet he’s still looking for ways to increase his output because he believes that by writing more he’ll become a better writer, faster.

I couldn’t help but remind him that quality is as important as quantity. (Sue me, I’m a devil’s advocate.) I think there is just as much to be learned from the revision process as there is from composition. Learning to let your subconscious do its thing is important. Learning how to critique your work by seeing what works and what doesn’t teaches your subconscious to do better next time. The trick is to not get bogged down in endless revisions.

Actually, I think that writing a lot is important. That’s why I encourage beginners (and others who ask) to write short stories at first. You can create an entire story arc, experiment with voice, POV, plotting, and character development in a small package and bring it to a conclusion in days or weeks instead of the months a novel requires. (Yes, short stories are different animals from novels, but they’re similar enough to be a good starting point.)

Just after I had the exchange on Twitter, I stumbled upon a post from a couple of weeks ago by Kris Rusch on the topic “Perfection.”   What I took away from Kris’s essay was that there is 1) No ultimate arbiter of perfection, 2) The single most important criteria to use in evaluating a story is not the quality of punctuation, imagery, or plot, but whether it entertained you, 3) Strive to write the best story you can right now, not for perfection, and then, 4) Move on to the next best story you can write.

That’s where the synchronicity comes in. I just finished reviewing FORBIDDEN TALENTS one last time before sending it to my editor. This book was the second novel I finished. It’s been through more than one critique group, but I hadn’t looked at it in over a year.  I read through it again to clean up word processing artifacts, and touch up word choice here and there. I wanted to clarify things for readers who haven’t read DANGEROUS TALENTS. Fortunately I didn’t find any glaring problems. Does that mean I wasted my time?

Remember Pareto’s Law? Eighty percent of your results come from 20% of your effort. The time I spent on FORBIDDEN TALENTS this week was not part of the most productive 20%. Whatever entertainment value the story has was already there.

And yet, the devil’s in the details. I can’t help thinking that my readers will have a slightly smoother ride because I spent that extra bit of time. Will that mean I sell more books? Who knows? But I do know that I’ll be sending FORBIDDEN TALENTS out into the world with the confidence that it is the best I can do, right now.

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