The Evolution of a Short Story

Well over a month ago, I saw a call for submissions.  Yes, yes, I know, I have terrible luck with anthology calls.  I get so wrapped up in creating something different and unique that I twist it beyond my original vision to something that’s just not suitable for that particular call.

Not to say I haven’t ended up with cool stories as a result — they just weren’t appropriate for that particular antho.  (Survive My Fire was first written ages ago for a dragon anthology call and I’m still pretty darned happy with it even though it wasn’t accepted for the anthology.)

Anyway, I haven’t written a short story in a long time, and I found the challenge (snort, you know me and challenges) appealing.  Plus I’d just really really love to get a publishing credit at Cleis.  I’ve tried a couple of times in the past to no avail, but maybe, just maybe, I could write the right story this time.

So I started my story.  A Viking stood on the frozen shore and a boat arrived, bearing a seemingly dead lady inside.  He was dragging the boat ashore and I ended up putting the story away.  It wasn’t doing anything for me.  It didn’t hold my interest any longer, and I had too many things to do (we were moving).

I thought maybe I’d missed the deadline, but I checked last week and saw I still had some time.  I still really wanted to do a story for the call, so I opened up my original incomplete story.  Well of course I’d put it aside.  It was all wrong.  It wasn’t the Viking on the shore — but the lady — and the person in the boat was the mysterious Viking.

I swapped it around and lo and behold, there was the story I’d been trying to get.

Again, I’d forgotten the original point of the anthology call.  The story needs to focus on women’s forbidden desires.  No woman would fantasize about lying frozen in a boat until the Viking pulled her ashore.  But I could sure see a woman dragging her dream man ashore and claiming him as her very own.

Yet as I wrote paragraph after paragraph, I kept going back to the beginning and fine tuning it.  Little layers came to me as I went.  Things that weren’t hugely significant to the plot, but just made the story all the more special.  Hopefully.  I didn’t even have the title until the very last lines of the story.  Then I had to go back and add a few details so that it all made sense and tied together.

I’m pretty darned happy with it.  If Cleis doesn’t take it, I’ll offer it as a free read.  I haven’t had a new one in a long time!

I Don’t Write XYZ

There’s a post or two going around via Twitter where some female authors are saying they write MM because they don’t like to write bitchy heroines.  Or they wrote a “difficult” heroine and it didn’t go over well so they changed genres to write only men.  It’s okay to have a man curse, but not a woman.

Uhhhh…..  (Nobody tell Lilly in The Billionaire Submissive that she’s not allowed to curse!)

That leaves me scratching my head going “HUH?”

Ignore the fact that I’ve read many “bitchy” or “difficult” heroines that I enjoyed a great deal.  Or heroines who are “sluts” – I love Lex in the Beyond series, and I hear the authors get a ton of hate mail about her.  I don’t LIKE doormat heroines, passive aggressive heroines, or whiny TSTL heroines.  Yeah, there are some out there.  But there are also tough, kickass heroines that are fabulous.  If you don’t like it, don’t read it!  But don’t tell me that ALL heroines have to be one kind of thing or people won’t read it!

I don’t write just one thing.  I don’t write just contemporary.  Or just BDSM.  Or just SFF.  Why?  Because I write PEOPLE.  They tell me what kind of story it’s going to be.  Oh, I have to set some boundaries as much as possible.  If I’m writing contemporary, then I know I won’t have any magic going on…other than in the bedroom.  *winks*  But in general, I’ve learned NEVER to say that I won’t write XYZ.

Because as soon as I say that…I’ll have a character show up who breaks that rule.

I can’t/won’t say I won’t write MM.  (see Cole and Arthur in Her Grace’s Stable.)

I can’t/won’t say I won’t write something without BDSM.  (see The Bloodgate Guardian.)

I can’t/won’t say I won’t write POC/non-white characters (unavailable Storms as She Walks or Golden or another project I’m working on).  Or FF.  Not that I have a story with FF right now… but I won’t say never.  One of my dearest friends came out as a lesbian in the past year.  Someday I’d love to write a story with her in mind.

Because I write PEOPLE.  Whatever that means.  The good and the bad, the black and the white and the 50 shades of gray in between.  Ugh, okay, maybe not 50 shades.  *snort*  I guess that means I may not always be able to define my brand, but I have to write the best Story I can the way it unfolds in my mind and heart.

That’s all I can do.

Back to the Beginning

I’ve gotten lazy… or lucky… with the last few books.  When they were ready, they just dumped out of my head without me having to do a lot of plotting.  It was all in my head and I just took dictation.  At times I couldn’t type fast enough (and I’ve been clocked at over 120 wpm in my heyday).  Remember how fast The Billionaire Submissive roared out of me?  70K in like 40 days and I didn’t have to revise a ton (unlike my original Fast Draft ms which I still haven’t ever done anything with).

However, the downside to this is that sometimes the book had to marinate in my head a long time. Either I was working on it subconsciously (Mama C) for years or I managed to just miraculously tap into the Great Ether of Story (Billionaire).  I can’t count on that happening every time and I don’t want to let Billionaire #2 marinate.  I want it done, signed sealed and delivered as quickly as possible.

I know how to plot.  I just haven’t done it in a while.

So I opened up Scrivener tonight and went through all my various plotting templates I’d started and never really used.  I have a Snyder’s Beats template, a Hero’s Journey template, the old original “Block” the Witch first taught me.  Some of each technique is here or there or not really useful. And the MOST useful thing that I used to use all the time but haven’t in awhile:  The Emotional Toolbox.  It’s nowhere in my templates.

Today, I started a Master Plotting template.  I’m going to have a folder for each bit of plotting technique I’ve learned that makes sense for me.  That way I can copy, paste, delete, move whatever makes sense for each story.  Then I also went through the Character Map questions today to refresh my memory and created a cool little graphic/worksheet that will jog my memory.

Before I lumber off to bed tonight, I’m going to take a first stab at running Jackson Montgomery Warring through the Character Map to figure out what’s going on in his head.  (If you’re wondering who I’ve cast in this role, take a peek.)

At least I already know the first song in the playlist:  Willie Nelson’s Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground.

And yeah, Jackson is the Angel who crashed and burned.

RT Reflections

I had a blast in NOLA, but not without a few hiccups.

I made the mistake of not taking an exercise bra (sorry if TMI) and we walked all day Tuesday in New Orleans heat.  Yuck.  I also sunburned my shoulders that day, but not too horribly.

I never actually had Café DuMonde coffee.  We walked by…and just never went in (they were busy).  However, I did buy some coffee to bring home and try.

I misunderstood how the Samhain party was going to work and had the wrong kind of promo.  I went with quantity and so have a TON of beaded bookmarks left over that I had to find a way to bring home.  The hotel charged me $15 to retrieve my package — I wasn’t going to give them the opportunity to charge me again to ship it back home.  Many were lost in a tangled mess of my misunderstanding, but I crammed them into a baggie to bring home and cut apart so I can at least save the beads.  Ann helped me save the bulk of them, so not all is lost.  I just have way more bookmarks (for an ebook – the print won’t be released for 10 months) than I need but oh well.

The Giant Book Fair was named appropriately.  So Giant that few readers actually made it over to our side of the building.  I chose to sit on the ebook/indie side since my last print release was over a year old, and my next release isn’t out until June, so I really didn’t have anything to “sell.”  I hoped to give away lots of promo, but the way the event was set up, we had few browsers.  Readers were hurrying to find exactly who they wanted in two separate huge ballrooms, generally standing in long lines (Ann stood in line well over an hour just to check out and pay for her books), so I didn’t have many people stop by. Some, but not many.  That’s okay – I still had fun dressing up and chatting with Monica Burns.  She was hilarious.  “Get your BDSM here, Joey Hill approved!’  (Re: His Mistress) Trying to get the hurried people to stop by our table.

I honestly don’t know that I’d do the book fair again unless I just really hit it big and could sell a lot of print books.  Or if they split the event out or come up with some better way to run things to encourage browsing and general chatting with readers.  I sat there for four hours in a corset, crammed in like sardines, and didn’t get to connect with many readers.  Meanwhile I missed the opportunity to roam around and see MY favorite authors.  I didn’t even get one of the Sylvia Day wheeled bags.

The highlights:

I won a copy of Meljean Brook’s book at the Steampunk Carnivale and she signed it for me.  Even more, she said she recognized my name!  I was too stunned and shy to ask if that was a GOOD thing.  I hope it was.

I finally got to meet Stephanie Tyler and she hugged me twice!  I also got to see Larissa Ione again.  Shiloh Walker invited me to eat with her one night when I was alone.  Angela Knight and her husband also took Ann and I to lunch one day.  I was awed to meet and be in the company of so many of my favorite authors!

Near the end of the book fair, an agent went by.  I recognized her name and said hello.  She saw The Billionaire Submissive and recognized it.  She said she thought it was going to do well.  From her lips to God’s ears!  Then she asked if I was agented.  No, I’m not.  Nothing will probably come of it, but it was nice to be asked and recognized in some way.

Then Sat. night I had a really nice chat with my Samhain editor, Tera, and another editor, Christa.  We discussed timing for the next two billionaire books.  I’m going to write a proposal and we’ll go from there.

I also had an epiphany about what’s wrong with my PNR.  The heroine isn’t quite right.  Close, but not right.  I need more.  More experience, more darkness.  It’s tabled a bit while I switch gears to get the next billionaire book turned around as quickly as possible.

I used the travel time to read.  I finished two books and then read my entire Shanhasson series.  I needed a comfort read midweek and then I couldn’t stop.  I’m glad – reading that na’lanna series helped reaffirm what I want to write in my mind.  It reminded me of what I love, and that I need to just stop worrying and Shine with love as Our Blessed Lady desires.

I’m off work today and I’m going to plan out as far as I can with Billionaire #2.  I’m not going to tell you the title of book 2 and 3 – I want them to be a surprise.  They’re too hilarious and cool to risk sharing until I’m ready!

P.S. If you’re still reading, I have lots of goodies to give away from RT including print books, bookmarks, pens, buttons, etc.  I’m going to start by offering goodies to my newsletter followers.  So if you want the first shot at goodies, sign up!

Camp NaNo

I’ve never joined a cabin before, but this year I’m going to Camp along with Raelyn, Nicole and Diana.  My #1 goal:  finish the PNR.  I don’t care how many words that is, whether 20K or 50K.  I just want this done so I can get it submitted.

So I can work on the next billionaire book (which I finally got a hilarious title for – I hope they let me keep it!) and the plantation story and Mal’s book…

Sigh.  I have so many things I want to do this year!

So it’s time to get busy.

Anyone else ready to make some s’mores and tell some ghost stories around the fire?

Guess Who’s Talking Now

That was unexpected.

I’ve been working on two things back and forth:  Charlie and the PNR.  I’ve had some important realizations on both, but I haven’t really been getting very many words.  I’d like to run the PNR by my editor soon to get a feel for whether she likes it or not, and while I really love some things… other things were a little too stiff and not quite right.  Those kind of changes are hard to make, but I’ve been chiseling away all month.

Out of the blue today while I was working for the Evil Day Job, a new voice popped into my head.  Okay, not really a *new* voice, but not one I was expecting to hear for awhile (story wise at least – I really didn’t expect to hear at all from this particular character, but what he said makes sense).  It was Elias, from Yours to Take.

He was having a heart-to-heart.  With Mal, the Mistress of Dallas.  It seems that Colby is running into a bit of trouble.  Elias was trying to “warn” her, but knowing Mal, it really just turned her on.  Ha.

Anyway, a nice 750 words over my lunch on a story that’s coming soon but not for awhile yet.  I really need to get the next billionaire story done before Mal and Colby get into full swing, but hey, if they’re talking…

I’m writing it down.

Working on the Inaugural Newsletter

In case you didn’t notice, I added a newsletter a few months ago, but haven’t done anything with it.  Partly from just being so busy lately – but also because I’ve never done this before and I didn’t know how to begin.  I don’t participate in a ton of author newsletters, so I don’t really know what to include.  Did I really have hours to invest in figuring out how to work in Mail Chimp, the templates, etc.?

So I decided for this first newsletter, I’ll just give away books.  :mrgreen:

If any of you have recommendations of things I should include, let me know!  I’ll definitely appreciate the ideas.

If you’ve signed up, I’ll plan to send out the first campaign this Friday.

End of January Summary

BillionaireSubmissive-The72webFirst things first – the pretty new cover for THE BILLIONAIRE SUBMISSIVE!  The official blurb is also here.  Coming from Samhain June 2014.

What do you think?  We deliberately went with something new – specifically no people on the cover.

I haven’t broken the chain yet – writing every single day in January.  The only “qualification” to that is the work I did yesterday was reading through print galleys for Lord Regret’s Price.  They were due and it’s business – just not new words.

41,121 words in January, so 2014’s off to a good start.  Finished a book and submitted it.  Edits will be coming soon on The Billionaire Submissive.  I’m plotting another contemporary idea I had, possibly a Christmas/holiday theme.  Then it’s back to the PNR.  I also have two more billionaire stories in the works.  Just gotta keep on truckin’!

Mama Connagher Day 4

Slowed by finishing a sex scene–and the KC Chiefs playoff game, sobs–I only managed 1363 words today.  But I finished the major sex scene AND killed Ty.  *sobs some more*

Yes, Ty was adamant that I had to write a brief scene leading up to his death.  Now whether this ends up in the final version or not, I don’t know.  But I had to look at it for the sake of Story.

Completing the flashback excerpt:

“Are you spoken for? Promised to anyone?”

She didn’t lift her head.  Should she tell him about Jebadiah?  But why?  So she’d known him her whole life.  So the whole town assumed they were a couple.  The man had never kissed her.  Never held her like this.  Even the few times they’d been alone, nothing had happened.  Which is probably why Daddy trusted the young man to escort me.  She pushed the twinge of guilt away.  “Why?”

“Just figuring out who I need to wrangle for the right to court you properly.”

“Nobody but Daddy and I’ll take care of him.”

“No, you won’t.  That’s my job.”

She tipped her head back so she could see if he was just joking, but his face was solemn.  “You’re serious?  You’re going to talk to Daddy and tell him…what?”

“That I’m done with rodeos for good.  That I’ll do any job he wants as long as he lets me stay on.  That I love you with all my heart and soul and I’ll do anything to make you happy.  I’ll work night and day until I can provide what you want.”

Her heart soared, even though it was crazy.  He couldn’t possibly love her already.  Could he?  Could she love him?  Sure, she’d kissed him.  She’d done more with him than she’d ever done with any man in her entire life.  But…  “Daddy—”

“Nope,” he cut in.  “I’d have to be an idiot not to know your Daddy’s loaded with this fine ranch sprawling out in all directions as far as I’d care to ride.  I won’t take a dime of his money.  You tell me what you want and I’ll get it, and I won’t marry you until I have it.”

“I want you.”  It surprised her, but as soon as she said it, she knew it was the truth.  No one else had the courage to step up and risk her fury—and her parents’—to  find out what kind of man she wanted.  And now she knew that the kind of man she wanted was standing right here.

“And?  What else?”  He insisted, though he tightened his arms around her.  “What will make you happy?  What’s your dream?  Not your Daddy’s dream, not your pretty movie star mother’s.  What’s yours?”

She didn’t have to think about it.  “I want enough land to raise and train my own show horses.  A barn and corral.  Enough equipment to travel properly to the shows until I make a big enough name that people will come find me instead.”

“Where?”

“Nowhere but Texas.”

“You got it.”  He pulled away and reached for his hat and shirt tossed in the corner, as if he were going to go out right now in the middle of the night and start looking for that land they’d make their own.  But she dug her fingers into his waist hard enough he turned back and looked down into her face, eyes narrowed.

“Didn’t you forget something?”

A slow smile softened the hard lines of his face.  “Yes’m, I imagine I did.”

One of those big, broad palms cupped the back of her head and he bent down to kiss her once more.  She pressed up against him, rising up on her tiptoes to get as much of him as she could.  Assured of her choice, he let his hands roam up and down her back.  He molded the curve of her hips, the dip of her waist, and finally, at last, he cupped her breasts in both hands.  His thumbs rubbed her nipples through her shirt and the ache she’d felt watching him earlier came back a thousand fold, spreading fiery heat all through her veins.

When he lifted his head, she moaned.  The knowing twinkle in his eyes made her want to punch him.

“I’d be pleased and honored to return the favor if your folks are going to be gone awhile.”

As if Miss Belle had picked up on the disturbance and threat to her daughter’s virginity, the sound of a car pulling up the driveway made Virginia moan louder.

With a laugh, Tyrell released her and grabbed his shirt, tugging it quickly over his head so he could fasten his jeans.  “That’s what I was afraid of.  I might as well go speak to Colonel Healy now.”

For a moment, she actually felt a sliver of dread stab through her, worried that her proud, hard father might reject her suitor.  “Now?”

“No time like the present.  Don’t you worry none, Princess.”  Tyrell jammed his hat on his head and took her hand firmly in his.  “I know exactly what to say.  I won’t let you down.  I’ll never let you down.”

She didn’t want to admit to worry.  Or fear.  Or that she just might burst into tears if Daddy refused them.  Or if she woke up the next morning and Tyrell’s rusted out truck was long gone.  Instead of voicing her fears, all she said was, “Your mustache tickles.”

Without pausing a step, he threw open the barn door and dragged her toward the house where her parents waited on the front steps.  “Want me to shave it off?”

“Don’t you dare.”

Mama Connagher Countdown Day 2

I have a title!!

The theme song is soooo damned important.  I swear, sometimes I can’t get anywhere with a book until I know what the theme song is.  The playlist so far had included Seven Spanish Angels by Willie Nelson and Ray Charles, Before the Next Teardrop Falls by Freddie Fender, and Desperado by the Eagles.  All good songs, all having something key to do with the story.

But it wasn’t *quite* enough.  Until I found Lady Down On Love by Alabama.  Ahhh, yes.  That was key.  Because now I have the title.

I needed something with You, I, Me, etc. in it to coordinate with the other Connagher titles.  I thought about some form of Dare Me, I Dare You, etc. because that does play a part (you’ll see that in this next excerpt), but all the good twists of that idea have already been done.

Finally, I settled on Never Let You Down.  I tweaked the opening scene to better reflect that line, and now I’m able to carry the theme forward.  *happy sigh*  I also figured Ty’s static trait and how I was going to use it as a message from beyond.  I knew he did *something* to signal his approval, but I had no idea what, exactly, until today.  How some of this works out is just magical.  I swear it’s not deliberate on my part!

It’s been a crazy, crazy night.  My wrists and eyes are killing me and I practically skipped dinner so I could write (thank God for leftovers).  I slept horribly last night because I kept writing scenes in my head, and today I used every spare moment I had to capture those ideas before they disappeared.  I laid down a rough sketch for the final Act’s plot too, but again, it’s rough.  There are many more scenes underneath that I’m still going to have to figure out.

I’m trying not to stress out too much about the structure yet, trusting in the magic and my gut to help me weave it all together.  I have a bunch of flashbacks written.  I have a bunch of story-within-the-story scenes written.  Where they go, exactly, I have no idea.  It’s the flow of those separate stories that matter.  I feel like I’m at the midway or even slightly behind almost two-thirds, but Virginia still hasn’t done the deed with Jeb.  So that’s a little worrying.  But again, I’m just trusting in the story.  They’ll take me where I need to go, and then once I finish it, I can make it all work even better.  I’ll see everything more clearly.

7668 words for the day and I’m honestly not ready to stop yet, even though my wrists say I should.  We’ll see.

Continuing the flashback scene from yesterday:

She didn’t pause, couldn’t hear his response if he had one, not over the thundering of her pulse. The stable door slammed behind her and she broke into a run. She wasn’t even sure what she was running from. Him? All he’d done was kiss her. Safely away, she could admit that he hadn’t hurt her. The misguided fool had only been trying to protect her. Then she’d beaten him with her crop. Pausing on the wraparound porch, she ducked into the shadows and watched the stable door, but he didn’t attempt to follow. Panting, she leaned her back against the wall of the house and tried to gather her thoughts.

Why on earth had he kissed her? She’d barely talked to him. Sure, she’d noticed the bright blue of his eyes. She’d caught him staring at her from beneath the shadowed brim of his hat several times. They’d exchanged a few “good mornings” and pleasant smiles. She’d even tried to take a few bites out of his calm, silent demeanor but he hadn’t risen to the bait. That’s it. Certainly nothing like the years of polite social events she’d attended with Jebadiah. They’d danced together countless times, her hand in his, his other hand in the small of her back. But her pulse hadn’t ever hammered like this, her breathing coming fast and frantic. It hadn’t just been fear. The long lines of his body had been nice. Extremely nice. And his mouth. She’d dreamed about kissing and it’d never been like that. His mustache had poked her lips and tickled her nose and somehow she hadn’t cared one bit.

She caught herself absently stroking her fingers over her lips while she stared back at the stable. She wanted to go back and give him a piece of her mind. Maybe he’d try to steal another kiss. But was it safe? Perhaps she ought to wait until someone was around to hear her scream. Just in case.

Fool. The last thing she wanted was to end up hurt and possibly dead. For one thing, Miss Belle would never let her lie in her grave peacefully, but would harass her daughter until she herself passed just for having the audacity to die first.

Virginia dropped her hand to the door handle but froze. Dancer. She’d left him out of his stall. That sealed it. She had to make sure her prized jumper got put away safely. Head up, refusing to look left and right like she was scared of her own shadow, she marched back to the stable and opened the door without trying to be quiet. The aisle light was off and no horse seemed to be running around looking for a treat. Keeping her steps light and soft, she walked down to Dancer’s stall and found him settled back in for the night, his lead rope curled up neatly on the hook just as she would have left it if she’d been in her right mind. At least Tyrell had the good sense to care about the welfare of a horse. She’d give him that. But where had he gone? He could have gone out the back door, but that seemed a little cowardly for the man who boldly stood up to the boss’s only daughter just to make sure she didn’t break her neck riding her horse in the dark.

The light was on in the small lavatory at the rear of the stable, the door barely cracked. She’d never used it herself, for fear one of the hands would amble by and decide to test the door’s rusted lock. Creeping closer, she tried to see if he was in there. What he might be doing. She could see a shadow moving slightly through the crack, but not much else. He was in there, but what he was doing, she couldn’t say. Not without pushing the door open. She debated with herself as she drew close enough to put her hand on the door, but surely he wasn’t doing anything too private if he hadn’t bothered to shut and lock the door.

Then she heard a low, muffled sound. A cry, though she’d never heard a big strapping man make such a sound before. Could she have hurt him? Seriously? She’d thumped him in the head pretty hard.

Quietly, she pushed the door open further and froze.

Tyrell Connagher stood over the toilet, one hand braced on the wall as if he was using the facility. He’d taken off his shirt for some reason and the angry red welts she’d left on his back struck her to her core. Sucking in a deep breath, she opened her mouth to apologize when she finally noticed his jeans were jerked open. He ran his cock through his fist, the muscles in his forearm, biceps, and back flexing deliciously beneath the tanned planes of his lean body. She couldn’t look away. Didn’t want to look away. Until he spoke.

“I had to see the marks you left. Then I couldn’t stop.”

Trembling, she jerked her gaze up and away from her first tantalizing view of a man’s private parts. She met his gaze in the cracked, streaked mirror, sure she was blushing but unable to stop herself. A knot swelled on the side of his head, but the only thing burning in his eyes was hunger. Not pain. Certainly not delirium.

“If you’ll hit me again, Princess, then I’ll be able to finish quicker.”

He wanted her to hit him? Again?

Numbly, she glanced down at her left hand to find the crop still gripped in her white-knuckled fist. She was surprised she hadn’t dropped it in her frantic retreat. She looked back at his shoulder and tried to imagine striking him again, not in anger this time, not some mindless reaction to frustration at so many things in her life that she couldn’t control. But deliberately. At his request. She’d never hit another person like that. Sweat trickled down her spine, making her shiver, but her body blazed with heat. Embarrassment, yes, but something else. Something that made her transfer the crop to her right hand so she could lay a better blow on his back. If that’s what she decided to do.

She checked his face in the mirror again, half convinced he had to be yanking her chain. His blue eyes were darker like the midnight sky, the skin tight across his cheeks, his lips tight. No teasing. No. Rather, he looked like he was on the verge of something that would change their lives forever.

“I dare you, Princess. Hit me again.”