Wordless

I’m trying to think of something to post so you know I haven’t died or fallen ill.  I’ve opened up the new post window at least twice tonight, stare at it, and shut it down.  There aren’t any words.

That’s my problem so far in 2015.

I’ve been battling several different situations at home this year so far.  Princess is struggling with her first job and the stress of making enough money to go on her band trip to Hawaii.  We bumped up her therapy appointments to every other week because she’s been having anxiety issues.  I’ve been depressed quite a bit and just haven’t had a lot of energy or motivation.  That Man is… well… That Man.  I’m not happy with how my healthy eating and exercise has trickled off to nothing.  Kind of like my words.

I have completed edits on two different books, so I haven’t been entirely worthless!  Just no new words beyond the requirements for edits.  I open up Scrivener and stare at my Billionaire project and there’s just nothing there.  I *have* to get this story done by May so I can work on the next Killer story due in September.  Since it’s a holiday story…  The window is closing before it’ll have to go to the following year.

A short story I wrote for an anthology last year was rejected, so my record still sucks in that regard.  However, now I have a nice little story to polish up and give away in my newsletter.  After news of rights issues with Cleis, I have to admit I’m more glad than anything that I don’t have to worry about my story and it took MONTHS to hear anything.  Relieved, honestly.  Now I can move forward.

I got devastating news at the Evil Day Job this week too.  Someone I care about a lot, someone I’ve been in the trenches with for years, is leaving, and since I telecommute, I won’t be able to see him off on his new endeavor.  I will just have to hope that the next time I go to the home office that maybe we can meet up at a happy hour or something.

So everything’s a struggle right now, but I’m still trudging onward.  I’m going to work on a little short story to try and get some of my creative juices flowing again.

This too shall pass.

20 Questions

La Crimson Femme tagged me for twenty questions:
1. How tall are you?
5’4″
2. Do you have a hidden talent? If so, what?
My hidden talent is making a mess in the kitchen.  I get flour all over me and the floor no matter what I’m making.  One time I tried to make sushi and ended up with rice in my hair.
3. What is your biggest blog-related pet peeve?
Blogs that only post “buy my books” over and over.
4. What is your biggest non-blog-related pet peeve?
When people complain about something that I’ve done for them.
5. What is your favorite song?
La Crimson Femme wrote:  Closer by NIN – If I were fit and going to do MMA, that would be my song coming out.  
Me too!  I write many sex scenes to that song.  I also love Take Me to Church.
6. What’s your favorite Etsy shop?
7. What’s your favorite way to spend your free time when you’re alone?
Writing or reading.  Though I do enjoy a good Big Fish Game too.
8. What’s your favorite junk food?
Doritos
9. Do you have pets?
Two dogs, KC and KoKoKoNa
10. What are you favorite fiction and non-fiction books?
Non-Fiction: I have tons of reference books on everything from BDSM to ancient China to Regency England.
Fiction:  too many to name.  Love Larissa Ione, George RR Martin, early Laurell K. Hamilton, Lynn Viehl, and many more!
11. What’s your favorite beauty product?
Coconut oil
12. When were you last embarrassed?
Probably when a bunch of guys at the Evil Day Job asked me to explain 50 Shades to them.
13. If you could drink one beverage for the rest of your life what would it be?
No question.  Coffee!
14. What’s your favorite movie?
Too many to name.  Lord of the Rings, Pitch Black, anything with the Rock
15. What were you in high school? Prom queen, nerd, cheerleader, jock,
valedictorian, band geek, loner, artist, etc?
I was prom queen, cheerleader, math nerd, valedictorian, band geek, choir geek
16. If you could live anywhere in the world where would you live?
Alaska or Hawaii
17. PC or Mac?
PC
18. Last romantic gesture from a crush, date, boyfriend/girlfriend?
That Man isn’t much on the romantic gestures.  We did have a nice long weekend in a log cabin for our anniversary though.
19. Favorite celeb?
The Rock
20. Which blogger do you secretly want to be best friends with?
La Crimson Femme!  She’s way cooler than me.

Getting Unstuck – With Tarot

I blogged earlier that I was stuck on Billionaire #3 and started brainstorming the premise to figure out where I went wrong.  The final step for me to come up with a solution was flipping to my favorite tarot deck, The Steampunk Tarot.

That deck works fantastically for Lady Wyre’s universe, so I wasn’t sure if I’d get anything helpful on a contemporary idea or not. But it was worth a try.

Some background on this story idea:  When I first started working on this idea, for some reason I decided the heroine needed to change.  I built an entirely different backstory for her and gave her a different profession.  I loved what I built… but the story just died.  I couldn’t take it anywhere.

So the journaling and brainstorming I did first was to compare the original premise that I’d found lacking, and the newer premise that was a storykiller, and see if I could come up with a new (better) solution that solved all the issues my subconscious seemed to be having with both ideas.

My questions were about the heroine.  Who was she?  Why was she willing to step into this story in the first place?  What kind of woman is she?

Personally, I like to shuffle the deck 7 times and then spread them out in a line in front of me.  I don’t pick from the top.  I randomly drew 3 cards, flipped them over, and started taking notes one by one.

Note:  It’s important to LOOK at the card first, without reading anything the deck’s guide might have about it.  You’ll probably notice things that aren’t even mentioned in the guide that can add a cool layer to the story.

The cards I drew:

  • Queen of Wands
  • Seven of Pentacles
  • Five of Swords

This is one of the few times that the cards spoke perfectly to what I needed.  It’s not unusual for me to draw a card featuring a man when I’m trying to figure out a heroine.  That can still be helpful, but it’s not as “obvious.”  These cards were very obvious for this particular story.

Obviously the Queen of Wands is my heroine.  The first things I noted about her card without peeking at the book:  a riding crop (snickers, you know me so well), a sunflower, and a fox emblem that looks like a mask as part of the horse’s tack.  The book’s information about her was spot on.  This was my heroine to a T.  There are still several things I don’t know yet, but I’m hoping they come through slow revelation.

The Seven of Pentacles isn’t a character, but a message to me for this book. Yes, I should pause and take a full accounting.  Something’s not adding up.  There are good things in this idea, but not enough for success.  Evaluate.  (Which I was doing.)

The last card represents my hero, but also the book’s premise as well.  There are 3 main characters, two men and a woman, the same as my book.  One is obviously the “lord” or wealthy man.  Ditto.  It’s also a shifty deal-in-the-night-gone-bad sort of card — which my hero fully expects and experiences, even if that’s not his heroine’s intent.  The tarot guide says “He may have all the swords now, but I warrant someone will find something else to stab in his back.”

Oh yes indeed they will.

Now I feel like I can finish plotting this book!  I’m excited about it, where before I kept avoiding even opening my file.  Onward and upward.  I’ve got to hurry and get this one done, so I can change gears to Vincent’s story (Charlie’s brother).

Getting Unstuck

brainstormI’ve been stuck on Billionaire #3.  There.  It’s in black and white now.

I thought it was the holidays, birthdays (two of the monsters have birthdays immediately in January), basketball schedule, getting sick, Evil Day Job stress, other edits…

But in the end, I knew the truth.  I was struggling with an aspect of the premise.  I just couldn’t get my mind wrapped around it.  And if my subconscious isn’t buying it, then the readers surely won’t buy it!

Of course we ARE so busy right now that finding paper and pencil time has been difficult.  Either I’m in the car, or working late, or scrambling to pick up someone, or something.  I’ve had to do my “unstuck” process in pieces but I finally had a breakthrough over my lunch today.  I believe I’ve blogged about this process before, but I’ll talk about it again in case you missed it.

1. Set the stage for creativity with music.  I prefer to listen to an iPhone app, Naturespace, specifically the Peyote soundtrack that’s like a shaman beating on a drum.  It might also be a specific song that fits the story to a T (Take Me To Church was Charlie’s theme song).

2. Go back to the basics with pen and paper.  For me, that means a good quality notebook (but not so nice that I don’t want to write in and spoil!) and colored pens.  I *have* to have at least one purple pen.  Then green.  Those are my two “magic” pens.  But other colors and even a pencil is good too.  I like the colors.  It makes me see things differently.

3. Journal.  The first thing I do is write about why I’m stuck or the project in general.  What do I not like about it?  Why am I feeling reluctance or uneasiness for the project?  I have to drill down into what’s bothering me and that’s not always easy.  e.g. maybe I find myself cleaning the toilet rather than writing.  But why?

4. Using the colored pens and paper, start brainstorming.  This time, I divided the page into two and did a quick and dirty compare/contrast of two possible ways the original premise could go.  Pretty quickly, I had an idea of where I’d gone wrong, but I still didn’t know how to fix it.

5. Tarot.  Once I knew the problem, I wrote down a few questions I had to figure out.  Then I shuffled my favorite tarot deck (The Steampunk Tarot) and drew three cards only.

WHAMMO.  There was my solution in three cards.  Not joking.  That’ll be another blog post!

P.S. The journal you see is some digital papers I bought from etsy (store Tsunami Rose) so I could create my own artsy journal.  I ran through a buttload of ink over the holidays!

Do you have any tried and true methods to breaking through a writing obstacle?

Edit Hacks

Since I just completed a round of developmental edits on two different stories, I thought I’d talk about a few things I’ve learned over the years.

Some edits are pretty easy.  Tweak this, make this scene a little deeper or more emotional.  Not too bad, right?

Other edits are HARD.  Change (or clarify because you didn’t get it clear enough) a character’s emotional ARC through the whole story. Add a completely different component to a sex scene.  What makes these kind of edits hard (for me) is that the story vision is already complete in my head. I told exactly the story I wanted to tell. However, I probably didn’t get everything that was in my head onto the page, and sometimes my editor sees something I missed.  Or even better, she has ideas to make it deeper, more emotional, and worse for the character.  Then I’m slapping myself and saying why didn’t I think of that??

But changing the VISION is hard, even if you agree 100% with the editor’s suggestions. (I’ve been super lucky so far that I’ve never completely balked at something an editor has asked me to do.)

Remember the chaos effect: A butterfly flaps its wings in chapter one, and by the end, you have an entirely different story.  You have to stay true to YOUR vision while making it better, which really can be hard.

So here’s my edit process in case it will help anyone.

  1. Read the editor’s revision letter.  DO NOT MAKE ANY CHANGES YET.
  2. Think about the main points and come up with alternatives in your mind. Nothing has to be concrete yet.  For this stage, I find doing something rather mindless, like crochet or playing a BigFish Game, can free up my subconscious to work on it in the background. This usually takes me a couple of days to mull over in my mind.
  3. Jot notes about what you think you can do to address each point.  If possible, refer to page or chapter or scene.
  4. Start breaking those tasks down onto a calendar or loose timeline so you have a rough idea how long it’ll take.  Keep in mind that many edits at this point have a trickle down effect – one change might affect several chapters. That helps you prioritize the tasks and lay out all the various places you have to work.
  5. Build in at least one full day to do a final read through before the work is due.

As I begin breaking the edit points down into specific tasks, I realize that most of the work is early in the story.  For whatever reason, my first chapter or two is always heavier work, even in copy/line edits. Your major work may be elsewhere and it might take a few times for you to figure out where your weaknesses or strengths are.

For me, inertia is a problem because I initially feel overwhelmed. For Charlie, I had 5 pages front and back of MY notes I made while talking with Alissa, and then I printed out her revision letter too which was several pages long.  Where to start? OMG this is going to be soooo hard. There’s no way…

HACK #1:  SKIP YOUR WEAKNESS FIRST.  I know the beginning chapter edits are going to be hard (usually this is how a character is introduced and reacts for the first few scenes, so lots of work is involved).  So I skip the beginning edits entirely.  You don’t have to work on edits in a linear fashion. Pick one that’s easy, that you already clearly know how to address.  That way you start out solid.  Sometimes it’s just STARTING that makes all the difference, then you can chisel on each item bit by bit.

HACK #2: WORK IN LAYERS.  You don’t have to get the edit point fixed entirely in the first go-round. This is especially true if you’re working on character arc changes.  It’s going to take time to layer in all those changes across several chapters, so take it in pieces. Make one change in one scene, save the work, and I literally take a break. Either I read what I’ve done so far, or I jot notes on something else.  Then I come back and take a look at what I did and move forward from there. It keeps me from getting overwhelmed.

HACK #3: BUILD IN TIME FOR A READ-THRU.  At least one!  Just because you make topical changes to meet the editor’s suggestions, that doesn’t mean your job is done.  It’s your vision. You have to make sure that all of the little subtleties are there, that you’ve carried every little new thread through in a logical way. I save a copy and call it “approved” with all comments deleted, all changes approved, and track changes turned off.  Then I read thru form start to finish, and fine tune the real copy as needed.

Refer back to #2 at this point.  For Charlie’s story, I had to read thru several times, especially the opening chapter because so many things changed.  Little things, but I had to make sure they flowed, made sense, and didn’t mess up what I’d started.  Just make sure you SAVE the real doc before saving an approved copy with all the changes accepted, and then you make the corrections in the main copy.  I got messed up once and  saved my changes in the wrong version.  I don’t send that approved copy to my editor, so if I hadn’t caught it, that change would have been lost.

Do you have any tips or hacks for surviving an edit pass?

Never Let You Down Giveaway

NeverLetYouDown120To celebrate Virginia’s book, I’m offering winner’s choice:

  • Signed print copies of all four Connagher books to date, mailed anywhere on the planet.
  • OR digital copies of all four books, any format, and a $35 gift certificate to any online book retailer.

You have two opportunities to win!  Enter via Rafflecopter below, or join my newsletter for a second prize package (same details) to be drawn from the list of subscribers on Jan 16th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Balance for 2015

Balancing multiple projects at once has always been a problem for me.  I tend to become OCD with a project, especially once it’s over the hump and flowing in the Zone.  I don’t want to leave the Zone – I just want to finish.  Even if that means 5K, or even 8K, 10K days.  That means no sleep, stressed out, aching fingers and wrists, sore muscles in my back.  It’s stupid, really.

Though I have to admit I love careening down those deadly curves at breakneck speed.

I have multiple series and publishers to balance in 2015.  At least I do have contracts in hand to help me figure out which ones need to be worked on first, but overlap is inevitable.  Ideally, I’d like to have one in brainstorm mode while another’s in drafting mode, but that doesn’t always happen.

e.g. this month, I’m brainstorming and plotting two completely different books.  One has a higher priority and will be my drafting book by January, but if I get good ideas on the other book, I want to capture them at the same time.  I need the second book to be ready to go in the wings as soon as I finish the first.

Then add in promo, edits on other projects in various stages….

Yeah, it’s going to be fun!

I intend to use my timer more to help me focus.  Small bursts of time back and forth on projects as needed.  I’m also working on getting my bullet journal going again.  I slacked off right around the time we moved.

I’m also re-evaluating my three and five year goals.  I have a pie in the sky crazy dream I’d really like to make happen, but honestly, I don’t see how I can possibly make it.  Still, I’m going to put it on my dream big list and see what happens.

Do you have any tricks for switching back and forth between projects?

Sold!

I’m thrilled to announce that Charlie (the novel I finished for NaNoWriMo) and his brother, Vincent, are both going to have a home at Carina Press!

It’s ironic, because I started Charlie’s story for one of their Christmas anthologies last year or maybe even the year before (time flies).  But he had other ideas.  (The story of my life.)  His book clocked in at 91,500, one of the longest books I’ve written since the very beginning.

The reason I’m not saying titles is because we’re looking at new ones, both for the book and the series.  The original inspiration for the book was an interview I did for RT in Chicago:

Burkhart responded that an interesting mix would be romance and horor. Perhaps, even, some kind of serial killer romance. If she wrote one, the author revealed the title would probably be “Killer Of My Heart.”

So “Killer of My Heart” will be changing, but I don’t know what it’ll be yet.  The Gregar is strong with this one.  Very strong.  Yes, he’s an assassin/serial killer.  So is his brother. Very dark, bloody, and violent.  And erotic.  Mustn’t forget that.  *winks*

I’ll update the Coming Soon page once I have dates!

Guest Post: Sherri Goodman

prince-charmingPlease welcome Sherri Goodman to my blog today!

As a lover of the erotic literature and the romance genre, you’ve probably spent many moments fantasizing about the characters and steamy scenarios you encounter in your reading. In these fantasies, you may have deviated from the script a bit and implored the help of your own imagination. Why not take all that creativity and enthusiasm for romance to the next level and create your own erotic piece? While it may seem daunting, the process of writing an erotic or romance novel is no different from the methods used to produce a work of fiction or a biography and the benefits can be just as rewarding.

Although the basic writing procedures provided by PBS are the same for most types of literature, there are a few slight differences when it comes to romance—the original narratives and themes, for example—that make the process of creating erotic literature unique. Even with the number of writers and novels in the genre, there is still some uncharted romantic territory that has yet to be explored. So whether you want to write something with a supernatural theme or prefer to develop your own sensual motif, you can easily concoct an authentic erotic work.

Much like any other type of writing, the practices used to produce romantic literature takes time, research, and the development of ideas. Because this genre has such a tight-knit, discriminating group of readers and fans, there are certain expectations that you must meet in order for your book to be a success with enthusiasts of erotica. Essentials like creating a sympathetic protagonist and a strong, charming, and attractive love interest; building emotional and romantic tension; and crafting an intriguing, yet realistic plot and suitable conclusion.

When it comes to your characters, ideally you want all your readers to believe that they could fall in love with one of them. Unfortunately, you can’t please everyone. As Adam and Eve explained in a blog post, everyone has different characteristics that make up their “Prince Charming Fantasy.” The Prince Charming Fantasy includes being swept off your feet by the person who’s perfect for you in each and every way imaginable. Granted, it’s impossible to create someone everyone loves, but there are some classic characteristics they mention for males that will certainly give your characters a boost. Among them, of course, is the classic look of tall, dark, and handsome. In addition, they mention other highly desirable male characteristics including strength and financial stability.

While these are great ways to appeal to a mass audience, what’s even more important is that you make the characters a perfect match for one another (if that’s the direction you choose to take). One man certainly isn’t going to be considered flawless by every woman in the world, but you can definitely make him seem so for the character that you create.

Once you properly nail down your characters and plot lines, you can move on to other significant writing techniques, including effective pacing, adequately seizing the right emotions and actions of the characters, and applying conflict and a proper resolution—all of which are crucial to crafting a romance novel, according to Writer’s Digest’s tips on writing about conflict. By paying careful attention to how your story unfolds and how your characters develop, your work is more likely to get noticed by editors, publishers, agents, publicists, and, most importantly, readers.

If your end goal is to be published, it’s wise (and worth the investment) to hire professionals to edit, proofread, and fact check your work. If you can’t afford to hire people, brush up on your own editing skills or acquire the necessary editing capabilities and edit your novel yourself. In addition, be mindful of certain stylistic elements such as margins, fonts, and spacing. Not much can be done in terms of the book’s layout and formatting, which is usually dealt with during the production stage; however, you must make sure your work is stylistically symbiotic prior to disseminating your book to potential publishers, per this advice from Harlequin.