Monthly Archives: June 2014

Hardest Book I’ve Ever Written

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I have six books published now, plus the short story, Meet Olive on GoodReads. The hardest thing I’ve ever written? Never Ready, hands down. You’d think it would be Chrysanthemum, because that was technically the first novel I wrote, and the longest. Actually, no, A’gust was the longest, and still is (working on that.) Or AKA Lexi Frost because it was the first with an erotic scene. No, those all just flowed. No problem.

I haven’t really struggled with any in the Lexi Frost series. I’ve hardly struggled with the three I’ve completed in the Death of Secrets series, other than sheer length, or the fourth that I’ve got half done (working on that too.)

The genies? Be Careful What You Wish For wasn’t difficult to write, although it was a pain to revise. It took a long time to get Viv’s character where I wanted her. Olive was remarkably easy, I mean for being such a troublemaker. The next book, Make A Wish! seems to be fine (half done with the edits, yes, working on that). Hmm. Before Never Ready, I would have said revising Be Careful What You Wish For was the hardest book I’ve done.

Writing Rerun, which next to none of you have had the chance to peek at, wasn’t this hard. It was different. Killing, a lot of killing. Darkness, but hey, it’s a thriller not a romance. But it wasn’t difficult. Okay, sure, I cried because, you know, killing, a lot of killing. Bloody doesn’t equate to hard.

No, it wasn’t until I ended the Lexi Frost series and started the Thousand Words series that trouble started. Wrapping it all up in one nice, neat package. I should have left it messy, it would have been easier. I wrote Transitions. But what about Never Ready? Didn’t I just say that was the hardest book I’d written? I’ll get there.

First: Transitions crossed marketing strategies. It started as Contemporary Romance and ended as New Adult Romance. Those assignments (as well as YA and MG) are based on the age of the main character. Well, there’s the other problem: It was kind of two books in one – choose your main character. Based on the number of scenes/focus, the main character was Dev, so I decided to make this the first book in the Thousand Words series, not the last in the Lexi Frost series and focus more on the New Adult side of marketing. And to make matters slightly more complicated, he’s seventeen when the book starts – in the Young Adult age group (not that I would in a million years classify this as Young Adult!) – but he went off to college midway through the book and was firmly twenty by the time it ended (Whew! safely New Adult).

Also, as mentioned before, it’s a ‘choose your character’ book. In romance, you typically follow only one romantic couple in a book, but I clearly had two: Teri and Flynn, and Dev and Lindsay. I start with one and over the course of the novel transferred attention to the other. It’s also traditional not to have intimate interaction until you get about 80 pages in. I didn’t necessarily break that tradition, it just seemed that way at first. No real problem there. And you don’t have intimate relations between anyone but the romantic couple, but as I said, I had two, meaning I had more than one intimate encounter between different couples. That’s kind of a no-no.

The big headache was how to let readers know what the hell I’d done with this book. It’s really two stories written together, and a progression of events. Some books are character-driven, meaning readers follow along because they identify with a character and need to see what happens to them (most Disney movies are like this or chic-flicks). Some books are story/plot-driven and the readers follow along because they have to know what happens (think Lord of the Rings, or any action-movie). Good books tend to be a mix between the two. Writers want the readers to be invested in the main characters, but also interested in the story as a whole because then cliffhangers work. We’re kind of evil that way. Sorry. This was meant to be story or plot driven and I just assumed readers would like the characters and follow along as I wanted them to. That’s not the way it usually works.

So I have this book, it’s appropriate novel-length with two couples, two love stories, but the events are so intertwined trying to pull it apart into two books just seems like a poor idea. And while I’m starting a new series for new readers of a (probably) different age group, I’m trying not to either overwhelm them with backstory or lose them entirely because they have no idea what happened in the Lexi Frost series. Meanwhile, those who read the Lexi Frost series may or may not be game for what mischief her troublemaker of a son is up to.

The whole time I was writing this book, I knew what I was going to do (plot-wise, and I won’t give spoilers) and that had me on edge. I knew it was going to be hard marketing-wise, and I couldn’t see a way around it. It was like I had a cloud over my head the whole time. Not even chocolate helped, although Hubby made a valiant effort and kept me supplied.

Even when I finished, it wasn’t really over. Revisions were like reliving the drama of writing it. And then I lost my editor. My second editor. So I gave it to the most anal of my beta readers and said ‘go for it.’ Then I washed my hands of it because I’d had enough. When it came back from formatting, and it was all perfect, I made one small change – and suddenly nothing was perfect anymore. So I got to spend all day fixing everything.

With a dramatic sigh, I stuck Transitions on Amazon – for 24 hours before an alpha reader decided to pipe up a concern that I really did need to separate the story lines. She made a good argument, and I pulled the book. There are five copies of Transitions out there. Sigh again and reach for a bottle of something mildly alcoholic. Hubby handed me Irish Cream, and thus Never Ready was born. As if writing and revising Transitions wasn’t hard enough, Never Ready was pure torture.

I figured out where the book would be divided and reassigned scenes as needed. Neither book was very long now, nor were they full stories anymore. I was already resigned to ending the Lexi Frost Series, and it was incredibly difficult to become reinvested to go back and fill in the blanks in Never Ready. I’d sown the seeds of trouble that wouldn’t sprout until the next series as it turns out.

It was also hard to go back into Transitions and finish it a second time. To be honest, I’ve written the two books following Transitions, and I went and stole scenes from the second book in the series to put in Transitions, so that made finishing that book a little easier. Although I moved a whole plot complication up by half a book and now I have to go fix the sequel. Then I had to fix Transitions to actually introduce all the characters. In Never Ready, it’s assumed you know the players, but I can’t do that for Transitions, it’s the start of a new series. Done.

Except Never Ready still leaves you with Dev and Lindsay on your mind, so I didn’t really accomplish all that much by pulling the book apart after all. The troublemaker alpha reader sort of disagrees. Never Ready focuses more on Teri and Flynn (true). Dev and Lindsay are a big part of it, but their story doesn’t really get underway until Transitions, so I can justify that book as New Adult Romance and Never Ready as Contemporary Romance. I at least solved the marketing problem. Knowing what genre your book is can be a big relief and that alone was worth the tears, frustration, and headaches. And the two pounds I gained from the chocolate. I actually put the chocolate in the acknowledgment for Never Ready. I’m serious.

Great, so I gained a specific genre, but did I solidify the story? It’s still the finale and transitional novel that I originally wrote so I’m concerned. My alpha readers think so, but they may be biased by this point. My actual readers are not given to reviews, although some do send me messages directly from my website. (I think that’s great.) Time will tell.

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A Pathetic Princess

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“Don’t tell your father that” is one of the worst things you can say to a teenager. Wait, let me back up.

We have a cat: Darth Jingles. Both kids fight over who gets to trap the poor overloved thing in their room when it’s time for bed. Usually, The Girl gets her first because she puts herself to bed much earlier. Then The Boy sneaks in and steals the cat after his sister’s asleep when we finally threaten/blackmail him sufficiently and he’s run out of stalling tactics.

The Girl has been tired of this arrangement for a while and expressed a desire for a second cat. Insert my previously mentioned utterance: “Don’t tell your father that.” The Girl is generally well behaved, but I essentially just told her that he’d cave. What is a teenager to do with conflicting signals like that? Exploit the loophole. She told her brother, who relayed her carefully outlined plan to Hubby who, for reasons I’m not clear on, decided a second cat was a good idea.

Fine. So now we have Darth Jingles, a black cat with an attitude, and Princess, a lilac Siamese just as lovey as you can imagine. Things have not been going well.

To begin with, Darth Jingles was notified of our plan to end her only-cat status, but she clearly thought we were joking. She’s not fond of the interloper and initially hissed at her at every opportunity. Princess (for reasons I’m unclear on) took this as an invitation to come closer and attempt to be friends. The kids spent a lot of time keeping the cats apart and speaking softly to Jingles to let her know she’s still loved. She imprinted on Hubby instead of the kids, although she’s fine with hanging with them, and loves bacon and ham. I lead her around the house with a strip of bacon and The Boy taught her to meow in a particular half-purr way that sounds like “hammm?” then rewarded her with pieces of ham. Peachy.

Then Princess decided to be a pill and started pulling at her stitches from being spayed. Yeah. Long story short, she got rewarded with a cone. Neither cat is fond of the contraption. It freaks Darth Jingles out. No more hissing – Yay – instead, she runs from Princess when she sees her. Princess of course doesn’t care for it either and spends a lot of time looking pathetic and running into the edge of walls and furniture because she lost her peripheral vision. It took three adults to put the cone on her, including the vet, so while we theoretically only had to have her in the cone at night or when we weren’t right there with her to make sure she didn’t pull at her stitches (that then had to be left in for four more days instead of being removed the next day as we were hoping), Hubby and I decided it would be less traumatic for everyone, Princess included, to just leave the thing on her.

A cat with a cone on her head can feed herself, but she makes a terrible mess, that was the first thing we learned. The second was that she couldn’t bathe herself. Fine, so we brushed her nearly all day long because she also can’t scratch and she really likes being brushed. Really. I’m serious, grooming is kitty heaven for her. She doesn’t care so much for it when I wipe her down with a damp washcloth, but she’s a good sport.

Princess tolerated the cone, almost, and the night before we took her back to have the stitches removed, she wiggled out of it. And started on her stitches again. And tore them open. The vet was displeased, but not as much as Princess when the cone was next attached to her harness instead of her collar. (Yes, she walks on a leash – better than Darth Jingles even, although she isn’t as good about car rides. And it is like one of Dante’s circles to get that cat into a carrier, so it’s just as well she’ll take to a leash.) As a bonus, because she tore open the incision, they had to stitch her back up and Princess has been in the cone for the past week. She glares at us a lot. You adopt me just to humiliate me? I don’t know exactly what passes for kitty-cursing, but it’s crossing her mind.

To be extra amusing, Princess is really playful for a two-year-old cat. It’s awesome to watch her chase a ball and run into things. She can dive under the bed with a cone on her head, something I wouldn’t have bet on. I’d like to go back in time and stop The Boy from training her to beg for ham. It was cute, but it’s gotten out of control.

At first whenever anyone walked in the kitchen, we had this little Siamese underfoot: “Hammm? Hammm?”

Sigh. “Fine. Here, take some ham. Shoo.” (Reinforcing the behavior was a bad move on my part.)

She widened her perceived feeding area to the dining room. “Hammm?”

“We’re eating acorn squash. It’s not ham. You don’t want it.”

“Hammm? Hammm?”

Sigh. “Fine. Here, have some squash. See I said you didn’t – oh.” Yes, she eats acorn squash. She also eats watermelon, cantaloupe, bananas, and applesauce. She gave Cheetos a great effort, but just really wasn’t into it. Darth Jingles happens to enjoy pretzels, so I was actually thinking the Cheetos would go over better. Then again, what can you expect from a cat who eats squash?

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Sweetheart vs Plague, Inc.

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I hinted at dual events on our Memorial Day BBQ with the Friend family. Of course I already wrote about The Girl and ‘soon to be a boyfriend in another high school.’ Now let’s discuss his little sister.

Mr. Friend and I both did the military thing. He’s also a cop and has been for many years. Hubby did ROTC before deciding against military service, and he did the Cop thing for a while, which is how our families came to be friends. Mrs. Friend is a bit out of her depth with the three of us. She’s the nice one: the one that doesn’t think tactically or strategically — ever. It drives her nuts to watch movies with a firefight with us – we count bullets and argue about the realism of just about everything. It’s not that she has patience (she rolls her eyes and glares) she just recognizes a lost battle. And I’ll back her up when she’s had enough because that’s what friends do.

So that’s back story. When the dear little 11-year-old baby of the family, we’ll call her Sweetheart, came to join the adults because the teenagers were boring and she didn’t want to be alone, Hubby handed her an Android Tablet and set her up on Minecraft. Sweetheart was delighted. Then she discovered another game. And another. It just kept getting better.

The menfolk went off to discuss something Y-chromosomes were drawn to, and Mrs. Friend and I chatted about I can’t remember what. Sweetheart found a game called “Plague Inc.”

Now, for those not familiar with Plague Inc by Miniclip.com, it’s a game where you put in the parameters of a plague (vector, symptoms, abilities, etc) and try to wipe out humanity. It’s a little dark. This post is sort of timely with my summer cold, and the ebola outbreak in Africa. I’m really whining about one and intensely interested in the other.

Having known Mrs. Friend as long as I have, and knowing her teenage son and husband, I don’t know whether to be surprised it took as long as it did for her to notice what Sweetheart was playing, or that it didn’t take longer. The darling little kitten and pony-loving girl was out to kill humanity via a plague, and she kept asking me my opinion on symptoms, transmission vectors, and which immunities to build up.

Eventually Mrs. Friend perked up and asked “What are you playing?”

“Plague,” Sweetheart answered innocently as she cheered on the invasion of Greenland.

“Plague?”

“Yup. Just got Greenland. That’s important.”

“What?”

“Greenland,” I explained. “You have to infect Greenland before the world clues in that your plague is too deadly and infectious. If they close their borders before anyone there is infected, you can’t wipe out all of humanity.”

Wipe out humanity?” she asked, looking more alarmed than I expected considering her background. She really should be used to this sort of thing.

“That’s the point of the game. To kill off everyone,” Sweetheart told her. “I’m a virus.”

Mrs. Friend looked at me. I shrugged. “It’s actually pretty realistic, so she’s learning something.”

“Yeah, how to be an evil genius!” Sweetheart laughed. That wasn’t helpful.

“I meant about how diseases spread. And I told her to start it in China or India, and the map doesn’t show country names or even borders, so you have to know geography,” I explained, trying to soften the blow to Mrs. Friend that her daughter was learning things, but in perhaps a more interesting way than she expected.

“Except I missed China and started in Russia,” Sweetheart said.

“Except for that. Learn your geography. China’s pretty big, kiddo.”

“So, it’s how realistic?” Mrs. Friend asked, probably thinking of graphics of corpses piling up and people bleeding from their eyes.

I should probably take a moment to say my bachelor’s degree is in biology. So we had a chat about past plagues and how epidemics work and so on.

The boys came back, and for some reason our discussion on epidemics turned into a case of ‘when the zombie apocalypse strikes’ and it all went downhill from there. It usually does when zombies get involved.

Sweetheart played a new round and named the virus ‘Zombies’ so messages kept popping up like: “Zombies has killed more people than smallpox” and so on. She got a giggle out of that. Mrs. Friend decided in the end the game was mildly educational, probably more so than Halo. Especially when I started saying things like: “Start in North Korea.”

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