Mar 30

All About #MyWritingProcess – The Blog Tour

Thanks to Kate Davies for inviting me to join her on this writing process blog tour!

 

NOTE: OMG y’all!  I’m writing this on Sunday night (naturally, because it has to go up on Monday), and we’re watching Supernatural. The episode is “The Monster At The End of This Book” and it’s where they first meet Chuck Shurley, the writer/prophet who’s been documenting Sam and Dean’s lives while thinking he’s writing fiction.

Dean demands to know how Chuck’s process works, and Chuck replies,  “Well, it usually starts with a headache. A really bad headache. Aspirin is useless, so I drink.”

 

That’s so meta it’s kind of scary.

 

1. What am I working on?

3.25 things at the moment. I’m almost finished with my book for romance writers (this is the .25 thing). It covers how to format a manuscript, deal with submissions and editors and, most of all, navigate social media.

I’m also still working on the rock start contemporary and I love it.  (NOTE: This will not last.) My hero is tough and sexy and adorable.

And there’s the alternate history steampunk, set in 19th century Galveston, for which I’ve developed a second burst of enthusiasm. I think it could be really good. Not really a romance, though — a steampunk with romantic elements.

And yes, I’m still working on Seth’s book. Having problems with the relationship between the heroine and the villain, though.

 

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I don’t know…it’s not as good? I mean shit, look at Viv Arend and Patricia Briggs and okay, I’ll stop self-flagellating now.

My werewolf books are lighter than a lot of series in the genre. Bad things happen, and the stakes are high, but the world is not dark and there’s a lot of humor.

My paranormal world is firmly contemporary–werewolves are a natural part of society, as are other shifters and the various species of fae.  There are no female werewolves–that’s not unique, but it is unusual.

I don’t think the steampunk I’m working on will be strikingly original, as for instance Meljean Brook’s is, but Galveston Island itself will be as much a character as any of the people in the story, and I like that.

 

3. Why do I write what I do?

I have no idea, seriously. I don’t know how I get the ideas I get, and I don’t know why I imagine the characters I do. My books always start with characters–a person occurs to me, and it’s usually a person with an already-formed backstory. And when that character starts walking around and talking in my head, then I have to think of a story.

The idea of a non-werewolf girl who throws herself in front of a crazed werewolf to save the live of a child she loves came to me when I was first reading the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, I think.

The character of a 30-something female fiddle player who’s been playing professionally since she was a teenager (she’s the heroine of my rock star romance) came to me years ago,  but I have no idea where she came from.  Recently I realized that Jason Isbell’s wife, Amanda Shires, fits the profile perfectly–she joined a storied country/Western swing band, and had a recording contract, when she was fifteen or sixteen. I’d love to ask her some questions about her experiences but I have no idea how to go about that.

The steampunk I’m working on is different – the character of Galveston Island came first. I love that place, and it has a fascinating history. If not for the hurricane of 1900, it might never have been eclipsed by Houston. In its heyday it was the equal of New Orleans for vice and pleasure, and of Wall Street for finance and corruption. I was driving down Seawall Boulevard one day and I passed the remains of the pier where the Balinese Club once stood (the pier was destroyed by Hurricane Ike in 2008) and I started thinking “what if?” And the more I thought “what if?” the more grandiose I got, until it was “what if Vienna fell to the Ottomans in 1683? What if the Ottoman threat to western Europe was so great and so imminent that the War of the Spanish Succession never happened and the thrones of France and Spain were united? And there was no American Revolution? And what if Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, when he escaped from Galveston Island after being shipwrecked in 1528, turned east in Mexico instead of west, finding his way back to Spanish civilization years earlier, and so the Spanish colonized Galveston in the seventeenth century?” And I just went on from there. As you do.

Have I mentioned I’m a history dork? Not just a history geek – a history dork.

 

4. How does your writing process work?

Slowly, with many false starts and constant distractions. My daughter takes medication for ADD and she was so happy, and so grateful, when she got it. It made a world of difference for her in school, both in her grades and also just in her self-confidence and stress levels. As she put it, “Now I don’t have to daydream if I don’t want to.”

I’ve been daydreaming against my will since I was at least her age and I’d really like to stop. (Doing it involuntarily, I mean.)  I’m seriously considering getting tested.

Anyway. I come up with an idea, it germinates for a while, then I start writing it down. I am a plotter; despite my ADD, I cannot pants. I can’t sit down and just start writing with no idea what’s going to happen. I’m far too OCD (yes, along with the ADD). I have to plan. I have to have a list, a map, directions. I don’t have to follow the map exactly – I can alter the course. But I have to start with at least a partial plot.

One last thing about plot: I was observing a Twitter convo between Stacy Gail and Jody Griffin – they were discussing pantsing and plotting and process. Stacy said that her plots unspool in her head like movies; she writes in scenes. Jody was gobsmacked by that – she just writes as it comes to her.

I recall reading an interview with a romance author many, many, many years ago — like, pre-Internet days, when I was in high school or college. (This, by the way, is how my mind works. I remember details of an article I read 30 years ago but I’ll probably forget to cancel Diva’s dermatology appointment in the morning.)  The author talked about how she’d had what she called “mind movies” for years — stories she made up seemingly without trying. So she started writing them down.

I recall feeling SO FREAKING RELIEVED that someone else did this; I’d done it since I was a toddler and I’d always been afraid something was wrong with me. You could argue, I guess, that something is wrong with me — mind movies probably aren’t normal.

Something else I recall from that same interview: The author’s husband was quoted as saying “Have you ever smelled a writer on deadline?”

That could be every author’s tagline.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to swing over to (SOMEONE ELSE’S BLOG I DON’T KNOW WHO BECAUSE I FORGOT TO INVITE ANYONE BUT I HAVE NOW AND I’LL UPDATE THIS POST WHEN I HEAR BACK FROM THEM) next Monday for the next installment!

Mar 22

My New Favorite Image

Book Club

This is my new Twitter avi. I’m going to print it out and put it on my wall at work. I might make it my background picture on my phone. It’s how I’ll reply from now on to anyone who says “Oh, I don’t read romance. I mean, it’s just too [silly/ridiculous/trashy] for me. I have to read serious books” or any of the thousand variants of that sentiment. I will submit it as a comment to every clueless, condescending blog post, news article or NPR piece that uses the term “bodice ripper,” or muses about how romance novels might cause women to be unsatisfied with their marriages or to yearn for unrealistically mind blowing sex, or just generally points and laughs at the romance genre in general.

And if they tell me they used to belong to Oprah’s book club, or they can’t remember the title of the last book they read, or they’re not reading anything at the moment, or they read Nicholas Sparks books, or they haven’t read any recent winners of the Mann Booker or Pulitzer prizes, I won’t repress the urge to say “Ah. So you don’t read serious books. You just don’t read romance.”

(And also, Nicholas Sparks is totally romance.)

Because really, it’s just unbelievably rude for people, including those who don’t know you well, to explicitly insult your taste and implicitly your intelligence, so why shouldn’t I respond in kind?

Mar 10

I Need Some Feedback

Six of the Nine Naughty Novelists will be at RT in May and we’re doing a panel on group blogs; at least, that’s the original idea of the panel. That’s what we talked about last year. This year, though, we’re thinking we might need to readjust the focus because, from what we can see, Facebook is drawing more and more traffic away from blogs, at least romance blogs.

I think news and political blogs are just as popular as ever, but for bands and authors and other artsy type stuff, Facebook seems to be — or seems to be becoming — the preferred mode for fan interaction, while websites are for information– tour dates, books, bio, etc.

Do y’all see this happening too? How do you feel about it? I’ve always said I hate Facebook – and I do  – and that I’m on it because I have to be – which I do. Now I’m thinking I need to devote more time to it – post every day, solicit interaction. I really think I’d be better on Facebook than blogging because I always feel like a blog post has to be “about” something, has to have a beginning and a conclusion, while Facebook can be hit and run type observations or stream of consciousness, which is better suited to my ADD anyway.

And comments or ideas are welcome. Also, if you haven’t liked me on Facebook yet – why not??? Come on–it’s easy!

Feb 22

I got Kaylee, which is as it should be…

Feb 15

Appropos Of Nothing…

The Houston Chronicle ran an article a few days ago on Texas Highways’ readers’ top picks for Texas getaways. And there at No. 37 is Caddo Lake State Park. Caddo is Texas’ only  natural lake (all the others are manmade.)  I’ve always wanted to visit there–Caddo is more swamp than lake. I love swamps and it’s supposed to be a beautiful one. And it’s big–stretches into Louisiana.

This is where I set the town of Luxor in Ready to Run. Luxor is based on the town of Karnak, which is located near Caddo Lake (and is the birthplace of Lady Bird Johnson.)

Isn’t this beautiful?

Caddo Lake

Caddo Lake State

 

Feb 08

Don’t know why but I just love this and can’t stop giggling

If you're happy

Feb 05

I Improved the Extremely Simple Word Count Spreadsheet

Actual to Goal Word Count Spreadsheet

The spreadsheet above tracks your actual word count against your daily/monthly/yearly goal.

Row 71 (Goal) calculates the daily word count target for each month – the value in each of these cells is 750, because that’s my minimum target every day. Plug your own goal number into row 71. If you’re unfamiliar with Excel, just click on each cell (A-N) of Row 71 and, in the formula space at the top of the spreadsheet, replace 750 with your number.

If you know how to copy and paste formula, then you only have to plug the number into February once; plug into January and then copy to March, May, July, August, October and December; and plug into April and then copy over to June, September, November.

Enter your actual word count for each day. At the end of the month, the numbers you’ve entered will be totaled in row 72, and row 73 will show the under/over.  If the word count is under, the number will be in a red font to provide that extra boost of shame and judgment that we all depend on. If you’ve exceeded your goal for the month, the cell is bathed in a lovely light pink. (You’ll have to trust me about the pink because I haven’t started using this yet. Or just plug a number greater than your monthly goal and gaze at the positive pink.)

I’ve thought about doing a separate sheet for different word count targets on different days – like, if you take Sunday off or you give yourself a lower target on Friday. It might require a calendar showing actual days of the week.  I bet sombody’s already done it.But on the other hand it would be an awesome procrastination tool.

Feb 05

An Extremely Simple Word Count Spreadsheet

I’ve been looking at word count spreadsheets prepared by Excel-proficient writers, and while I’ve been impressed with them, I’ve always been intimidated. They have bells and whistles that would probably be useful if I managed to learn how to work them, or else they have all these formulas nested in formulas and I can’t figure out where to plug in my information. I wanted a word count spreadsheet based on a calendar, where I can see cumulative weekly and monthly totals. Nothing fancy, just dates and running sums.

So I downloaded a very spare calendar template — January through December across the top, 1-31 down the side — no mucking with the days of the week. Each month is totaled at the bottom, months are totaled across.

I added some pictures just to jazz it up a bit.

You’re welcome to download it – like I said, it’s very simple. All you have to do is plug the numbers in.

My WordCount Spreadsheet

Jan 25

I Want to Read Real People and I Want to Write Real People

Ruthie Knox recently wrote a fabulous post about her frustration with editors who insist they know what readers do or do not want in romance novels. A lot of editors seem to think that what romance readers definitely do not want is anything too close to real life:

We romance writers … get these edits that say, “No, this isn’t the fantasy, that is.” Edits that say, “Readers don’t want this. They want that.”

We get edits that say women don’t fall in love with men who cry.

Edits that say women don’t masturbate.

We get edits that say women with unapologetic sexual agency are sluts, so can you make it so she’s been in love with him forever, maybe? Or else have her thinking about how she doesn’t usually get horny like this, but this guy is special?

. . .

We get edits that say penises must be very very large, and vaginas must be very very tight, and very very wet, but not in a gross way. Never in a gross way. Here is the list of things that are gross. Note the placement of armpit hair (female).

The post is too good to excerpt so really, you should just go read it. She makes some excellent points. (Especially about heroes carrying condoms in their wallets–a very unwise practice.)

Now, I haven’t dealt with editorial gatekeeping of this nature, but I’ve had editors flag stuff that I thought was just fine. A copy editor questioned something Taran said in Kiss and Kin – I honestly don’t remember what line it was — but the copy editor thought it was sexist. And I responded that yes, it was. My werewolves are kind of sexist. That’s not exactly positive, but it’s believable and it makes sense. Sexism is a character flaw–though as long as it’s not accompanied by contempt or violence, it’s far from the worst character flaw and besides, who said protagonists had to be flawless?

We kept the line.

I don’t want to write a perfect hero or heroine. I want my characters to have believable personalities, believable problems,  believable motives–whether they’re werewolves or rock stars. And of the very few people I’ve known with very few flaws, none were interesting and all made me feel uncomfortable. Probably because I have lots of flaws.

I feel that way as a reader, too. Perfect characters are boring. It’s disappointing to hear of editors who want perfect characters–or characters with “flaws” that aren’t really flaws in any true sense of the word. I don’t trust editors who insist that readers won’t accept the flaws, bad decisions, and messy lives that make characters compelling and give a story depth and texture.

The heroine in Yours, Mine and Howls is nosey–she asks questions about things that don’t concern her and if she stumbles upon a private conversation, she sticks around to listen. The guy she falls in love with, Cade, takes an instant dislike to a friend of hers for no good reason, and has kept his four-year-old on his ranch all her life instead of sending her to school in town so she could make friends. He did it out of loving protectiveness, but it was a shortsighted thing to do.  That doesn’t make him a bad person overall, or unlovable.

Cade’s second, Michael, is a grumpy bastard. And Michael’s little brother, Nick, is promiscuous–a slut, really. If a guy is deeply in love with someone he thinks he can’t have, and yet goes around banging every woman who wants him–which is, like, every woman–is he a horrible person? Can he still deserve love?

Readers frequently complain about romance novels that sound and feel just like all the other romance novels. Readers like complicated characters and unusual stories. Readers can handle characters who’ve made bad decisions or say stupid things or act from less than noble impulses.

My last editor at Samhain–and I loved her, I really did–wanted me to remove a couple of lines from Yours, Mine and Howls that I didn’t think readers would have a problem with.

There’s a scene towards the end of the book, when Cade and Michael go looking for the creepy guy who Ally briefly dated back in Texas. They toss his hotel room and find a bunch of pictures he took of Dylan, Ally’s 18-year-old cousin. Ally quit seeing this guy just a few months ago because he seemed way too interested in Dylan; she thought he might be a pedophile. Michael laughs when Cade repeats what he’d said to Ally: “Baby, if that guy was really into Dylan he wasn’t a pedophile, he was just gay.”

The humor isn’t aimed at gay people; it’s aimed at Ally, who still thinks of Dylan as her little boy when he’s actually a young man (okay, werewolf.) My editor thought readers would think Cade was laughing at gay people, whereas I thought the point of the line was pretty clear. I cut it anyway, because it wasn’t integral to the scene or the overall plot and I see no reason to argue over small stuff like that. Still, it kind of bugged me because I really thought readers would get the point.

Wouldn’t they?

I’m on my third or fourth editor at Samhain (this is not unusual — there’s a high rate of turnover in the publishing industry, and editors move around a lot). “My” editor now is someone I’ve never worked with, and I do wonder what she’ll think of the rock star story I plan to submit. Having followed her on Twitter for a while now I don’t think she’ll want to change my characters too much, but who knows?

My hero is a rock star who’s been sober for five years. Back in the day, he was a junkie of epic proportions. He’s not proud of the things he did. There’s a lot he doesn’t remember, and there’s even more he wishes everyone would forget. He hates the way many of his antics passed into legend and get repeated with something close to admiration, because when your addiction is so bad that Nikki Sixx wonders how you’ve managed to stay alive, that’s not an impressive thing. That’s a horrible thing. He should be dead, and he knows it, and it makes him ashamed.

The heroine is a fiddle player and a successful songwriter. Her last relationship ended three years ago because her (ex-)boyfriend cheated on her. She hasn’t dated anyone seriously since then because she’s on the road or in the studio so much. But a girl’s got needs, and she finds herself waking up next to the cheating ex-boyfriend more often than she’d like. She’s caught in this cycle of ex sex, and she knows it’s unhealthy.

Will my editor tell me readers won’t accept a heroine who’s doing booty calls with her ex, or a hero with a truly sordid personal history? Probably not.

What if she does–will I change the characters, clean them up?

Definitely not.

 

Jan 24

Today’s (ok, tomorrow’s) Song of the day…

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