#AmWriting: What it means to me

mountains nature arrow guide

If only there were a sign that pointed the way. Photo by Jens Johnsson on Pexels.com

You’ve probably seen the hashtag #amwriting before. On Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. I don’t use it very often because if I’m on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, I’m actually not writing. I’m putting off writing. I’m distracted. I’m looking for a way to get out of writing.

I’m procrastinating, and, as my high school chemistry teacher always said, “Procrastination is the thief of time.”

Today, for instance, I #amwriting. I’m writing guest blogs and interviews for other people as part of my ongoing blog tour for Becoming Magic with Goddess Fish. Meanwhile, my novel writing is at a bit of a crossroads. I have started and stopped several times on my new project. Nicó and Brooke (the heroes of my newest untitled project) have been left wondering what’s to become of them. And poor Galen and Frankie from Magic at Sea! I left them way back last October to finish rewriting Becoming Magic and then realized I needed to write Dickens Magic if I wanted it out before Christmas this year.

Well, Kate and Alex from Dickens Magic are all set. Now I’m torn between the two stories I’ve started, and I have to pick a direction. Or I could always go back to finish up Jack and Kaelyn’s story in Timeless. At least that one’s written. I just have to edit and rewrite and edit again.

That’s what #amwriting means. I #amwriting. I just need to pick a direction. And quit feeding the procrastination thief!

Whoops…there it is: Rewriting, the true test.

I’ve been offline for far too long, trying to make my Facebook and a few Twitter posts make up for my lack of blogging. It’s not that I’m not writing, it’s that I am. I’m actually writing and having a lot of fun with it.

And something else is looming on the horizon.

My current work in progress is lovely. I’m in love with my characters and it’s set in New York, which is a city I love to write about. Not sure I’d want to live there, but I do love writing about it. I get caught up in the storyline, and the twists and turns of it reveal themselves a little more to me each day, so every time I sit at the computer, it’s an adventure.

But every now and then something else lifts its head like Nessie the sea monster and smirks at me with seaweed-stained teeth. Something that will take the joy—at least temporarily—out of my writing.

It’s the first draft of Movie Magic.

I don’t know if you remember Movie Magic. I wrote it way back in November during National Novel Writing Month, which was only the second NaNoWriMo I’ve ever finished. I have no delusions. Movie Magic is bound to be a mess since it actually started out as Pirate Magic and took a turn a third of the way through…and I obeyed the unwritten NaNo rule not to go back and fix what had gone wrong but just to plow through and get it done.

So it needs to be rewritten. Edited. Reworked. Sweated and bled over. I still owe this book a pound of flesh.

I know it’s coming after I finish the first draft of this as-yet-untitled new book. I plan to publish Movie Magic on October 31 (Halloween to the rest of the world, but always Houdini’s birthday to me). So eventually I must face it.

If you’re asking what the big deal is, you’re not a writer. Mark Twain once remarked that the best writers are the best rewriters. Because that’s the true test. Writing a book is one thing. Being able to open it up six months later and face the mess AND fix it…well, that’s a test of courage and willpower and skill.

I finally got it right! (Preview excerpt from ISLAND MAGIC)

I’m so excited! After working on Island Magic for at least the past six months, rewriting and then rewriting again when I hit wordblocks (ha, see what I did there with roadblock/wordblock?), I think I finally got it right! I have a really good feeling about this particular iteration of my latest in the Sleight of Hand series. At times I’ve even had to wonder why am I tearing my hair out over this story? Maybe it just doesn’t want to be written. But I do think it does want to be told. I just had to find the right way to tell it. And today, I hit on it. And because I’m so confident I’ve got it right and so excited about what I think the changes are going to do to my story, I’m going to give you a little preview!

The first few paragraphs of ISLAND MAGIC:

Even Logan didn’t expect magic that night, but when he thought about it later, that was the night the real magic started.

Night fell slowly in the Caribbean, and when it came, it was complete. Especially in the little bar on the beach that Logan loved. Even the tiki torches only spread small radii of flickering glow around their poles. The rest was dark, secret, a haven for those who would rather not be seen.

From his oasis behind the thatch-roofed bar, he watched the patrons of the resort milling around, coming in from the dark beach, usually hand-in-hand with someone else. Occasionally a group of young men would collide with a group of young women and soon they would pair off and head into dark corners. All Logan had to do was make their drinks and chat. No interference required on his part. He was like a voyeuristic benefactor, watching them leave his bar with nothing but good feelings.

He spotted Rachel in the bar, but he lost sight of her in a crowd of college kids. He frowned, craning his neck. It certainly had looked like Rachel. Nora’s best friend, the maid of honor at his wedding to a woman who was now dead. But what would Rachel be doing there? And why wouldn’t she have told him she was coming?

He recognized the long, luxurious hair and the lovely features, even though they had a hard edge he wasn’t used to seeing. And what was up with the slinky dress? Rachel had always seemed so strait-laced he’d figured she would be a suburban soccer mom by now, though he’d lost touch with her years before. This was no soccer mom. This wasn’t even the beautiful, gentle woman Nora had known in the years after their marriage.

As he spied, she sat at a table not far from the bar. She was alone, but everything about her said she had no intention of remaining that way. Logan noticed several men glancing her way. He couldn’t blame them. Her raven hair fell over one bare shoulder, her sleeveless red sundress setting off her tan. He couldn’t take his eyes off her, and he shouldn’t be looking at Rachel that way. Not Nora’s best friend. Never mind that Nora died eight years ago, his self-imposed exile hadn’t been long enough. He needed more.

When the waitress delivered her order for a frozen margarita with salt, Logan intercepted it from Ramon. “Sorry, man.” He grinned at his friend. “I’m gonna deliver this one personally.”

Ramon gave him a mock growl. “Earn me a good tip if you’re gonna pull rank on me, amigo.”

Logan flashed him a smile and vaulted the bar neatly, landing on the other side to appreciative looks from a group of young women. He saluted them, picked up the margarita and crossed to the table. “Your margarita, señorita.”

She raised beautiful dark eyes to meet his. God, he’d always known she was beautiful, sexy, desirable, but the raw sensuality in that gaze left him breathless. She smiled, playing along as if she had no idea who he was. “Muchas gracias, señor. To what do I owe the special delivery?”

He glanced left and right, then sat across from her, leaning over the table as if to keep their conversation covert. “Between you and me, I’ve been told I’m overly concerned with our guests’ satisfaction.”

The curve of her lips deepened and he knew she’d sensed a double entendre in his words. He wanted to laugh but didn’t give in to the impulse. He’d spent so many years on stage, his career so dependent on reading his audience, yet he couldn’t seem to see Rachel’s carefully guarded exterior anymore. It intrigued him enough so he stepped over a boundary he hadn’t crossed in years.

Leaning over the table, he beckoned her closer. When she obliged, her expression highly amused, he let his lips brush her ear. “Do you believe in magic?”

Embrace your velvet-cloaked vampire: Go ahead and publish that book

I just read an article in Forbes called Don’t Publish That Book. It’s worthwhile reading. The author Suw Charman-Anderson publishes a Twitter conversation she had with authors Steve Mosby and Lou Morgan in which the authors bemoan their early stories, one of which was evidently about a vampire in a velvet cloak.

I enjoyed the article. It encourages writers to write until they’re good enough to be noticed and not to rush to self-publish. Charman-Anderson seems to indicate that if you get multiple rejections, there’s probably a reason for that. She’s probably right and I agree with her. Too many self-published books are published before they are ready. Please, please copy edit. Don’t rely on spell-check. It’s not infallible. And let a manuscript sit for a few weeks after it’s done, re-read it and then decide if you want to publish it. You might be surprised by the answer you give yourself. My self-published book Weeds and Flowers sat on my hard-drive for years before I got the go-ahead from my inner editor.

With that said, I will also add that we all have our stories about vampires in velvet cloaks. C’mon, if you’re a writer who started publishing within the last fifteen years, you have that story. That one story that’s still floating around in the ether somewhere waiting to come back and bite you in the ass. I know where mine is. Do you?

My point is that we live and publish in a different time. A new age for publishing. An age in which our mistakes and growing pains may make it into “print”. Yes, we need to watch ourselves, but we also need to embrace this new age. Imagine if we could read Stephen King’s first stories. I’ve heard Nicholas Sparks say his first novel was a horror novel. Now that would be some interesting reading.

One of my favorite books on my bookshelf is A Whisper in the Dark: Twelve Thrilling Tales by Louisa May Alcott. Of course, I don’t love the tales so much as I love the book. You see, Louisa May Alcott was my inspiration for becoming a writer. I loved all her books, read all of them, but my favorite, of course, was the semi-autobiographical Little Women, in which Jo, the character Alcott based on herself, writes “sensational” tales for the paper. The first time I read Little Women when I was about nine or ten years old, I couldn’t imagine what “sensational” meant. Later I got the idea that they must have something to do with sex, especially since Jo destroys them all in a fit of shame in the book. I read A Whisper in the Dark much later as an adult, and I wondered what on earth Alcott was talking about. They’re corny by today’s standards, and probably pretty dark and risque in the nineteenth century, but not the awful stuff I’d half been expecting.

Only now as I begin (notice I said “begin”) to reach my own maturity as a writer do I understand where she was coming from. But as a writer, I’m grateful not all of Alcott’s early works were lost. It makes some of my own early growing pains easier to bear.

Even now when I look back on Secrets of the Lotus, published almost exactly two years ago, I see things I would do differently. The same for Winter Solstice. If I’m fortunate enough to continue growing and developing as a writer—and I hope that will be a lifelong process—in five years I may reread Where the Heart Lies with tolerant disdain.

It’s a process. So whether an editor or publisher will take the time on your work or you self-publish it, you have to know that if you are one of the lucky ones, you won’t like what you write now in five years.

Just got my next round of edits on Where the Heart Lies…

…so this is going to be brief. This is my last chance to make any changes before it goes to copy editing, though, so the need to be thorough is pressing. I must put away all my distractions for the time being and get to it. The good news is, it probably won’t take any more than a week to make the editing changes, so here’s hoping I’ll be back soon!

Where did I go wrong? The musings of a frustrated author…

So I’ve been beating my head against a brick wall over my latest work-in-progress since November. I started it for NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) got to the 42,000 word mark and realized I couldn’t make it any further. I kid you not, I could have written 8,000 more words of crap and finished the 50,000 word novel but I realized what I was writing would never be publishable. Ever.

So I started over.

It takes a lot to throw out almost 40,000 words of hard work, even if you know it’s crap. I did it. I started a rewrite. I made it almost to 50,000 words and hit the same roadblock. This time I threw out about half of it. Started again. A few days ago, I thought I’d figured out where it went wrong, cut out some of the scenes, rewrote some. It’s better now, and I think I can keep plugging along, but damn. It’s hard. I’m starting to wonder if I’m beating my head against a brick wall for no reason. My editor at Carina Press says I’ll have her line edits in a few days. Maybe I should just wait, get myself into editing mode. Maybe I should work on the second edition of WEEDS AND FLOWERS.

I decided to pull out a novel I finished a few months ago. I love this novel. I tentatively titled it DUCKS IN A ROW, and it’s about twin sisters, Cady and Cam, who are experiencing completely different problems in their lives but find the answers to them together. I read it. It’s got some problems and it needs a little TLC, but to be honest, I couldn’t actually believe that story came out of me after all the problems I’ve had with my current work-in-progress. It’s one of those stories where I’m pretty sure those characters actually came to life and told me their story.

Like my other novels, I feel like this one has magic in it.

So what to do? Put away my current w-i-p and all the blood, sweat and tears I’ve put in it? Start a new story? Get this old story ready to go and put it out there to be accepted or rejected as the publishing world sees fit? I think I’ve made up my mind. I’m happiest when I’m writing, but I’ve been through this before, too. Sometimes you just have to accept that the story you want to tell isn’t going to work no matter how much life you try to breathe into it. I’m hoping this one is just comatose and might wake up one day.

Excerpt from DUCKS IN A ROW:

“We’re not having an affair.” Cady glanced over her shoulder, keeping her voice low as her sister cleared the table.

“What would you call it?” When Cady didn’t answer, Cam set the plates she’d brought into the kitchen aside and faced her. “Did you kiss him?”

“It wasn’t like that.” Cady bit her lip. “I mean, yes, but—”

“But nothing.” Cam shook her head, turning on the water in the sink to rinse the dishes before handing them to Cady to put in the dishwasher. “Kissing’s more intimate than sex, if it’s done right. Did he do it right?”

Cady couldn’t help a little smile at the memory, and that was evidently all her sister needed. She shook her head. “See? You know what I mean then. Cady, you’re going to regret this.”

“I know.” Cady faced her sister and turned off the water Cam had absently left running. She glanced at the stairs her daughter had gone up a few moments before and the closed study door. She could hear Neil’s voice on the other side. Either he’d gotten the call he was waiting for or he’d grown too impatient to wait any longer. She sighed and looked back at Cam. “I already do. Not just for me or my family, either. For Will. He should have a family, somebody he could love.”

“So why the hell are you doing this?” Cam grabbed her sister’s arms and shook her. “Why are you taking this chance with your life and his?”

“I love him.” The words felt right in her mouth, even while she knew how wrong it was to say them.

Cam stared at her, then sank into a seat at the kitchen table. She stared at nothing while Cady finished the dishes and made two cups of coffee. When Cady sat across from her, Cam accepted the coffee automatically.

“Are you okay?” Cady peered at her sister anxiously. Cam looked so pale in the dim light.

“I just can’t believe this is happening.” Cam shook her head. “You’re really in love with him?”

Cady nodded. She took a sip of her coffee. “And you don’t have to tell me how wrong it is. We both know. We didn’t mean to—it just happened.” She reached over and touched the glittering diamond on her sister’s hand. “Like that, actually.”

Cam pulled her hand back, covering the ring as if it were too precious to be subjected to the current conversation. “That has nothing to do with it. What are you going to do?”

“What do you mean?” Cady raised her eyebrows, leaning back in her chair.

“You know damn well what I mean.” Cam made an impatient movement as if to push something out of her way. “Are you going to have sex with him?”

Cady winced. “Geez, Cam. Way to couch those words in gentle expressions.”

“It’s sex even if you call it making love. It’s giving something intimate to someone besides your husband.” Cam’s expression challenged her sister. “And you didn’t answer the question.”

New Year, New Book, Free Book! Send Me A Typo Offer.

Happy Free Book Day! Seriously. Well, free Kindle download, anyway. If you’d like to read WEEDS AND FLOWERS, today is the day to do it. It’s available today only at Amazon.com for free download. Go check it out: WEEDS AND FLOWERS.

I re-read it yesterday. At first I couldn’t put it down. I was blown away by my own literary awesomeness. No kidding. Then I got into a couple of rough spots and had to wince a little. I sort of wished I’d re-read it (again) before I jumped right on it and published it. So I decided to offer a deal to you guys who suffer through my rough self-editing. Send me a typo from WEEDS AND FLOWERS in the next week and I’ll send you a copy of one of my other (professionally edited) books free. Or you can choose to receive my as-yet-untitled romance due out from Carina Press sometime this summer. Just specify which book you prefer and what format you’d like it in (for Nook, Kindle, etc.).

And enjoy your New Year, by the way!

Day 3 of My Second Annual E-Reader Giveaway: Why I Won’t Finish NANOWRIMO This Year and I’m Not Even Sorry

First off, a reminder that if you’d like to register for my e-reader giveaway, all you have to do is leave me a comment telling me what type ($100 or less) you like best. I’ll throw your name in the hat and when I draw the winner, I’ll order it and have it sent directly to you. There truly is no catch on this! I write e-books, I love reading e-books and I want to share that love with others. The more people with e-readers in the world, the more chance I have of selling a book, right?

Now, on to the news. I’m not sure I would even call it bad news. Well, maybe a little. I got up to 46,000+ words done on my NaNo novel and realized it was crap. For one very simple reason. I had a character alive in it who should have been dead from the start. I couldn’t even kill her off partway through the novel. It just didn’t make sense. So I started over.

It’s quite an experience throwing away almost 46,000 words. I can’t actually say I mourned them. I knew they were crap and becoming crappier with each word written. I also knew I was going against the entire NaNo philosophy: Write until you hit 50,000 even if it is crap, then fix it later. I just couldn’t do it. I knew how to fix it and I was eager to get started. So I went back to the beginning, axed the troublemaking character and am now working my way back through the novel, salvaging what I can. I’m up to 7,000 words. Some of them are even good words. Here’s a teeny-tiny sneak peak:

“You can’t sell this place to a developer. Your grandmother would never have wanted that.”

“What do you want from me? I can’t keep the place. It’s not like it’s a real productive farm like it used to be. It’s a few acres and some horses. My life is in Raleigh, Colin, and I plan to get back to it.” Silence fell and she raised her eyebrows. “If you love this place so much, why don’t you buy it?”

“I’d love to, but I’m not the rich developer type, in spite of my appearance.” His mouth twisted with sarcasm as he indicated his worn work shirt and jeans.

Yep. I killed off the grandmother. And I introduced another character (the developer) earlier in the story. Everybody seems to have a much clearer idea of how they’re supposed to act. So I’m not sorry I didn’t finish NaNo this year. I think it still worked for me.

Now I have to go wade through some more of my ultimate revision. Congrats to the NaNo’ers who finished and those who attempted it!

The Death of a Computer and I Am Not a Mail-Order Bride!

It’s officially Saturday here on the East coast, so I’ll go ahead and call it two days to WINTER SOLSTICE. I would’ve updated yesterday, but my three-year-old MacBook gave up the ghost. Well, what Apple taketh away, Apple also giveth. Less than twenty-four hours later, my new MacBook Pro arrived (yeah, I anticipated the death and had already ordered the replacement), so I can’t help but be happy. Plus, through the magic of Apple’s Time Machine, I didn’t even lose that much. A couple of paragraphs, and believe me, it wasn’t much of a loss considering my work-in-progress at the time was much less than my usual brilliance.

Speaking of Apple, I may have finally made it to the big time. Well… You see, after SECRETS OF THE LOTUS, I checked constantly for my book to be uploaded onto the Apple iBookstore. Due to formatting issues, it never made it. Well, I’m far from obsessing about WINTER SOLSTICE, but believe or not by happenstance I discovered it’s already available on iBooks the other day. Which was sort of neat. Yes, you can pre-order me on iTunes. Which sounds kind of raunchy, but I’m not…I mean, it’s not…I mean, well, if you’ve got an iPad, figure it out.

So Apple’s on my positive karma list for multiple reasons as I head into the last weekend before my second book release. Don’t forget to join me for some great giveaway action here on my blog all day Monday to celebrate the WINTER SOLSTICE. Hope to see you then!

P.S. A big shout out to my horror buddies at CUTTING BLOCK PRESS for the highly anticipated release of TATTERED SOULS 2. I’ve had the pleasure of working with these guys for both TS and TS 2 as well as several other projects. I have to say, TATTERED SOULS 2 is a beautiful product with some incredible work inside. I copy edited two of the four novellas and look forward to reading the other two. If they’re anywhere near the quality of the two I worked on, the whole project should win some awards!

Snow. Eastern Carolina style.

Snow hit Eastern North Carolina this morning. I woke to a winter wonderland but by ten o’clock it was obvious the snow wouldn’t be sticking around for long. I enjoyed the short drive over non-icy roads to get one son to school, however. Tree branches laden and lawns crusted with snow on all sides with a gray snowy sky above gave me the feeling I had stepped back into Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” or maybe I was going “Over the River and Through the Woods”. The hum of my minivan’s engine replaced the jingle of the sleigh bells, however.

I’ve had a productive week, thank goodness. I like those. I’m working on a special Valentine for you for Monday, in addition to my “friends and family” blog post. I also got started on my newest editing project. I’m working with Cutting Block Press on the final edits for Tattered Souls 2. This one’s going to be a good one, so go ahead and make plans to buy it! I’m always happy to work with Cutting Block Press on any project, mainly because they don’t cut corners and they put out a high quality product. If I still wrote horror I’d be hitting them up to publish something of mine, but instead they let me keep my hand in the horror field by doing some editing for them.

I’m also getting back into the submitting business. I’ve sort of taken a break from it recently, but a couple of interesting markets have come to my attention, and since I had some stuff wasting away in my files, I’ve pulled them out and started going over them to get them ready. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the results!

Finally, I got two great bits of mail today. First, Ellen Meister sent me a signed bookplate to put in my soon-to-arrive and highly anticipated copy of The Other Life, which will be out on February 17! Second, I got a nice note from Habitat for Humanity thanking me for my $25 donation. At first I thought, But really, it was only $25. Then I realized every little bit counts for charities like the ones I’m trying to draw attention to with my HONEOWP initiative, and even if I only donate $25 every month to a charity, that’s more than the nothing I have always donated before. That thought made me feel good for a minute or two. Maybe I will accomplish something positive before the year is out.