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Meet Ben, Diana, and Justin

One of the fun parts of writing a book is imagining your characters. On pinterest, I like to create boards where I effectively cast my books. Here are my takes on Diana, Ben, and Justin.

This is Diana. I looked for someone with their hair in a braid, as Diana does in the book, but I couldn’t find a picture I liked. So I shrugged it off, and found a picture of the character with hair down. I really liked this picture.

This scene is after Ben shifts for the first time. Neither Diana nor Ben had known he was a Wolf.

Diana’s instincts scraped at her. Another Wolf was in pain. She needed to do something. There were no Alphas to step in and deal with the hurt. She was the only one who could help him. She closed the distance between them, and pulled him into her arms. * “Oh, Ben. We’re not monsters, we’re just a different kind of p—”

Diana’s voice cut out as her nose told her something terrible.

Ben wasn’t just a Wolf

He was an Alpha. And she was his mate.

Ben was the hardest character to cast. I couldn’t find a scientist picture that I thought was hot enough, so I started looking at professors and found this picture. Ben doesn’t wear glasses, and he’s a bit young for Ben, but he’s the closest.

This scene is right after he’s shifted back to human, shortly after Diana’s excerpt.


He couldn’t have pulled his head away from her neck if he wanted to, which he did not. Her scent was the only thing tethering him to his body. Without her, who knows what sort of horrific outcomes would happen? He clung to her. He stroked up and down her back. He ran his hands through her silky hair. His tongue slid out of his mouth and licked her neck. Licked her neck?

“I hate you,”he muttered.

In some ways, Justin was the easiest character to cast. Hot actor with dark hair and light eyes? Little bit of smolder? Check.

This is from chapter 1, just before Justin shifts.

Despite everything. Despite Weres being involved in the project at every level. Despite all the care being taken to turn out strong performances, even if they couldn’t exactly portray Were society. Broken Dreams should have been his. He was fucking perfect for that goddamned role. But no, they had to cast a human. And Stephen had let them.

Have you ever cast the books you write or read?

Cover Reveal: Lab Rats

Lab Rats is coming February 11, 2020! Pre-order here.

Everything changes the moment heartthrob Justin Carson shifts from human to Were Wolf on live television and is subsequently captured.

Dr. Benjamin Wells is tapped by the government to create a test from Justin’s blood intended to identify anyone who might be a Were. Dr. Diana Lutz is the Were Wolf sent by the Were leaders to stop him, and to find and hopefully free Justin, her twin. The only thing stronger than Diana and Ben’s mutual dislike of each other is their sudden attraction. Soon that attraction explodes, and in the same moment Ben learns the truth about his heritage—he’s part Wolf, and Diana is his mate.

As they race to be the first to discover the blood test and prevent the other organizations from endangering all Weres, Ben must decide whose side he’s on. Will he betray his people? How far is Diana willing to go to save her brother, and what is she willing to sacrifice?

CW—violence is committed against the captive Wolf by the soldiers holding him captive

Cover by Spotondesigners on Fiverr

I won NaNo and another snippet

Technically NaNo doesn’t end until Friday, but I uploaded and validated my win today with a grand total of 80,900 words. I finished both The Game of Love and Lab Rats.

The Game of Love is exactly the type of hot mess draft that just pushing through a story, even when deep down you know it’s weak and needs a lot of work, can produce. I knew it was a mistake not to go back and fix things, but I pushed through instead. Now what I have is a hot mess that will need so much editing it will be almost starting from scratch. Ironically this is the first novel I’ve ever outlined, and I guess part of me thought that it would help create a cleaner first draft. I’ve reread it and there’s promise, but it’s more like a draft I would have written a dozen years ago (aka the last time I won NaNo) that my current standard of writing.

Lab Rats is a whole other ballgame. I hope that after reading the snippet in the last post you also see the promise. Here’s another snippet from Chapter One, featuring my hero, who has a giant stick up his butt at the start of the book.

Dr Benjamin Wells didn’t watch daytime television. It was a frivolous waste of time, and the only frivolity he enjoyed was Star Trek: The Next Generation.

“Dr. Wells?” the brunette in the first row—Valerie Alvarez, according to the seating chart—waved her hand in an undignified manner.

“Yes, Ms. Alvarez?”

“Do you think that there’s any way, biologically speaking, that the viral video about the werewolf on that morning show is possible?”

“I think we should leave nonsense like werewolves to discount writers and movies, don’t  you?”

“So you don’t believe it?” The voice came from the back of the room without so much as a raised hand.

“I will admit to not seeing it, but no, I do not believe that such mutations are biologically probable,” Ben replied.

“You say not probable, not impossible.” Yet another student blathering on about this damned video.

Enough. Today’s lecture is on DNA methylation. You have all read the assigned reading, I hope.” From there he launched into his lecture.

The students, properly rebuked, opened their laptops and began to take notes. There were no more ridiculous suppositions about mythical creatures.

Once back in his office, though, curiosity got the better of him. What was this dratted video they were all going on about? He entered Video werewolf talk show into the search bar. Already ashamed of this waste of time, he clicked on the first search result.

He rolled his eyes at the pap his students were watching. What a waste of time. Was this some sort of mass joke on the professor in retaliation for a test he hadn’t graded on a curve? Trends in movies? Who cared?

“Screw that,” finished the actor and he stood. Ears shifted upwards on a head that was turning, indeed lupine in nature. Fingers became shorter and melded together into a paw. The screaming in the background was frenzied. Then the video cut out.

Ben wanted to dismiss it as CGI. But something deep inside of him—the reptilian part of his brain, he reasoned—quaked in fear. All of that rippling skin, hair sprouting from every inch of the body, hands blurring into paws made his stomach roil. If this was real, there seemed to be no way to know who was human or not until they exposed themselves. What if people of actual consequence—generals, the President, the Dean—was one of them?

Fear skittered along Ben’s spine.

The phone rang at seven that evening, just as he was about to leave his office and go home. He almost didn’t answer, but his stepmother’s cold voice droned in his head that when one is present it’s just good manners to answer a ringing telephone.

Ben picked up the phone. “Dr. Benjamin Wells.”

“This is General Abernathy with the US Army Medical Corps.” The voice was low and rumbled, yet carried an undeniable authority. It was a voice used to being obeyed.

“How can I help you, General?”

“It is the belief of our scientists that you are the best person to examine the werewolf. Your paper on mutations of human cells suggests you can tell us if this is a mutation or something entirely inhuman.”

Benjamin blinked several times. “You want me to experiment on a werewolf?”

“Yes. We have it in custody, and in a reinforced cage. We can get you the blood you need to conduct your research. Will you serve your country?”

Revulsion flooded Benjamin’s body. He wanted to go back to this morning, before he’d heard about the video. He didn’t want anything to do with mutants or the government. But another voice twined through his brain—someone will do their research for them. They will be famous, able to get tenure at any university Think of the research money. The two impulses battled for supremacy.

Benjamin was as surprised to hear himself say, “Yes, sir, I will.”

“Excellent. I will meet you in your office at oh-six-hundred tomorrow morning.”

“Yes, sir.”

The phone clicked, signalling that the General had hung up.

What have I agreed to?

Nano progress and a snippet

With only eight days left, most of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is behind me. I’ve “won” in that I’ve written more than 50,000 words this month–an unprecedented level of success and productivity. I guess this is what I can do with basically no distractions like television (I genuinely forgot Outlander was back, and I’m a huge fan), keeping my book playlists on repeat so that the characters are constantly in my head, and dragging my laptop literally everywhere. It’s also what I can do when I dance on the edge and sometimes slightly into the manic side of my bipolar disorder, which is kind of exhausting, honestly.

I think it’s healthy to have a daily writing goal and it’s helping me quite a bit right now. But I’m also going to have to go into an editing phase and I’ll need to figure out how I can write and edit at the same time. Historically I’ve only focused on one and that means huge lags between my projects. It’s been two years since Capturing the Moment was published (three since it was accepted for publication) and while there have been huge changes in that time, like an international move, I have not always used my time well. I have some ideas for New Years Resolutions, but we shall see how things progress from here.

Thus far in Nano I have completed the book about love and espionage at a video game company  (which is either a long novella or a short novel), and am about 90% done with the second big project of November which is a long novella about what comes after the Were community is exposed on national television, and what will be the first in my first series of stories.

In the meantime, he’s the opening from that Shapeshifter book, which I’m currently calling Lab Rats

Everything went to hell in less time than it took to conduct a five minute interview on Wake Up LA!

Liz Green, the perky blonde co-host batted her eyelashes at Justin Carson. He was a deliciously hot up and coming actor. She wondered if he had a girlfriend, and if he might be amenable to a little extracurricular activity in her dressing room. She leaned forward, just enough to give Justin a glimpse down the front of her top.

“So what do you think of the new trend? Zombies are in, werewolves and vampires are out.”

“Zombies suck,” Justin said flatly.  “Werewolves are where it’s at.  You think dead humans are scary when they want to suck you blood or eat your face?  That’s not scary. You know what’s scary, Liz?  When you can’t tell the monsters from the humans. How can you?  Anyone here could be a werewolf. I could a werewolf.”

Liz, laughed nervously. “I had no idea you were so passionate about scary movies!”

She had never lost control of an interview before, and Justin wasn’t about to faze her. He was probably teasing a new project. She could picture him in a horror flick, and even more clearly, she could picture herself clinging to his arm, pressing her face against his broad shoulder, his arm coming around her to hold her close. Later that night, he’d tease her for being so scared of make believe creatures, and then he’d rock her world six ways from Sunday.

“But you know what, Liz?  No one thinks they’re real, so humans get cast to play werewolves.”

Liz laughed and played along. “Sounds like you’ve got a very meta project coming up. Actors playing werewolves who are actually werewolves. Give us another hint.”

Justin growled. Actually growled.

Nervously, Liz looked at her notecards. “So how did you connect with the character of Grant for After Dark?”

Justin stared at her, unblinking.

Liz glanced at the camera. The interview was D.O.A. and she still had three minutes to fill. Her foot jiggled, the heel bouncing against the floor. The idea of hot sex in her dressing room was starting to fade in the harsh light of a bad interview. She knew she’d be blamed for it—bad delivery of questions, not enough effort at chemistry, making him upset. She took a deep breath, then flashed a dazzling smile at Justin.

“I heard the producers are hoping to start a whole After Dark franchise.”

Maybe that would get this interview back on track. Most actors couldn’t wait to talk about how their franchise was going to be the biggest thing since the Marvel Cinematic Universe series of movies. Please let this get him out of whatever snit he was in. Please, please, please.

“Weres are scared of being outed, and this is the consequence.  Screw that.”

Justin’s hands clenched the armrests of his chair, and his knuckles turned white from the pressure. His nails scraped over the buttery leather, leaving marks in their wake.

“Um…” God help her, she was going to have to dump to commercial. Liz sat back, and squirmed, no longer thinking of sweaty trysts on the soft blue coverlet of the daybed she’d picked over having a couch in her dressing room. At this point, she’d be grateful just to climb into the daybed and pull that coverlet over her head until she could face the world again after this horrific goose egg of an interview.

Justin stood up. He kicked off his shoes, but his paws ripped through the socks. His jeans shredded as his legs contorted, becoming shorter and thicker. His face elongated, and suddenly long canines snapped at his shirt until it, too, ripped and fell away from his body. Within a minute, a large wolf had replaced the handsome man.

Liz screamed, and fell off her chair, out of view of the camera. She skittered backwards, away from the monster she’d actually fantasized about fucking. She could feel a wetness spreading under her as she peed herself in fear. She scrambled to her feet, kicked off her heels and ran as fast as she could toward the safety of her dressing room, which had a solid lock. She’d be safe there, or so she hoped.

As Liz was escaping, the audience had fallen into chaos. People were shoving each other, willing to trample the less vulnerable in an effort to get away as fast as possible. Screams mingled with sobbing as the reality that this wasn’t some strange special effect—this was a real honest-to-God werewolf. And if you believed him, he wasn’t the only one. They fled as if he were on their heels, about to take a big bite out of them.

A woman wearing a smart blue pantsuit with tasteful gold jewelry dashed into the frame.

“Justin, we need to go. Now!”

The large wolf snarled at her.

“I said now,” she snarled back.

The wolf turned its head to the camera, tilted its head back, and howled.

The video cut out.

NaNoWriMo 2k18

Last year I wrote a blog post talking about why I wouldn’t do NaNo and what makes it a bad idea for me.

GUESS WHAT I’M DOING?!?!111

So I am doing NaNo this year (add me as your buddy–Delilah Night), *but* instead of starting a new project, I’m continuing to work on my contemporary romance about love and espionage at a video game company. I also keep telling myself that I don’t care about making daily word count, but then I low-key got stressed yesterday because my daughter’s birthday party took over my day and all my energy. (Yes, again. My two have birthdays three weeks apart.) 

Ask me on Dec 1 if this was a good idea of complete folly.

To get me through the month, I’m only going to post once or twice a week, with some cross posting to keep me sane.

Romance Writers Blog Challenge: Favorite Thing I’ve Written

I’m very late to the game on the weekly Romance Writers Blog Challenge, but here we go.

What is your favorite thing you’ve written and why

The obvious answer would be Capturing the Moment. After all it’s the book I finished. It’s the book that was accepted for publication by Totally Bound. It’s the book that’s currently on sale at The Ripped Bodice. Or maybe it’s Renewal, since that was my first sale. Or my pet project–The North Pole Chronicles (all of the three installments thus far can be found under the Deliciously Free tab at the top of the page).

But no, the answer is Plunder. As I lack a publisher and a cover at the moment, please accept this picture of Hook from Once Upon a Time.

Plunder is the longest thing I’ve written by easily 50% more book. It is the most complex. Capturing the Moment was a slice of life–one day in Siem Reap as tourists. The main characters were the majority of the book with very little in the way of secondary characters (her driver, her sister, the owner of the Indian restaurant). Because I grounded the book in real places, doing things that I did (mostly–no naked photo shoots in the falling down temple at Preah Khan, for one), it didn’t feel like I had to do a ton of world building in the same way that I did for a historical book with an actual bad guy, and two ships’ crews among other characters. You may never have been to Angkor Wat, but I have and I can describe it for you. I’m just as much a stranger to 1700 as you are, which made it both harder to write and something to be proud of.

I did tons of research to bring Plunder to fruition. With Capturing the Moment it was unintentional research–it was a trip I went on as a vacation from my life as a wife/mom (off topic–solo travel is awesome). All of that research was exhausting. Figuring out things like what clothes they’d actually wear, and that desks hadn’t been invented yet and a ton of other anachronisms that I’m sure my editor will find and help me fix even with that research. I’m really proud of the effort I put forward.

Beyond that, I think Bree and William are hands down my favorite characters thus far. She’s sarcastic and independent and isn’t here for anyone’s shit. He’s charming and arrogant and sexy as hell. Together they’re explosive. Maybe I shouldn’t say that because it will set your expectations too high. But I’m saying it. My betas say it, even when they are picking apart other aspects. The chemistry is off the charts.

Maybe it will get picked up by an agent. Maybe a publisher will want it. Maybe I’ll self-publish. But whether it sells five copies or five million, I’ll still be incredibly proud. And my goal with the next book is to take my game up another notch.

 

Worrying about wordcount

An editor friend once told me to let a story be as long as it needs to be. Which is good advice in theory, but not always realistic when worrying about submission guidelines.

Short story calls tend to be in the range of 2,500-5,000 words, with 7500 words as an upper limit. Totally Bound, which is the publisher behind Capturing the Moment says that novellas start at 25,000 words and novels at 50,000. Other publishers say a novel is 75,000 or 80,000 words. Other wisdom holds that a novel is around 100,000 words.

In general I find that it is easier to trim a story than to lengthen it. Taking a story and trimming off all the tangents, the many times I use “just” as a filler word, and other bits here and there streamline the story. If you look at a writer like Malin James, every single word serves a purpose–there isn’t so much as a spare syllable.

However, when I sat down to write Capturing the Moment, it was with the explicit goal of writing a novella. That felt like stretching my writing muscles, as the longest thing I’d had professionally published at that point was a 5,000 word story. Writing 25,000 words wasn’t easy, and I had to keep asking myself what I could have them do within the guidelines of a 24 hour story (at the time I was writing to a specific call, but ended up going with a different publisher for personal reasons).

It took me eight months (with a big health related break) to get from the first word to submitting to a publisher.

Plunder began life as a short story in October or November of 2015. The characters wouldn’t leave me alone, so I started a novel. Unlike when I wrote Capturing the Moment, I didn’t have a specific publisher or call I was responding to. There was no exterior framing device to use. This was all on me, with the goal of at least 50k words, even as I knew 50k is often considered a long novella or a super short novel, but that was still twice the length of Capturing the Moment.

In the roughly two and a half years since, I wrote a first draft that almost killed me to get to 50k words. I felt desperate by the end of it, watching my word count slowly trickle upwards to that goal. I had a beta read and respond to it, and I began to mess around with it again at the end of last year, taking it from 50-75k words because I was then responding to questions I hadn’t answered, making things more obvious, and stregthening the weak spots that had been called out to me. I then sent it to several more people and a good friend who is also a sometimes editor of mine (Jessica Augustsson, owner of Jayhenge Publishing).

Jess asked several key questions that, along with my conversation with Beverly Jenkins, made me realize I hadn’t done anywhere near as much research as I should have for a historical.

Now I am back at the drawing board, and my writing is both ticking upward as I fill in gaps, fix historical errors, and shifting down as I trim the fat. As you could see in the top picture, my word count as of this minute is 77,003. At the end of today it could be 78,000 or 76,000, although my final goal for the book is in the 80-85k range.

Then I’ll send it back to Jess (I asked her to let me go through and fix the historical issues to the best of my ability) and we’ll see what happens then. At that point, though, the focus won’t really be on wordcount.

So what advice do I have?

My solution was to keep messing with their happiness. I think that’s probably lame advice, but it’s one of the pieces of advice I’ve always gone back to when struggling with my work. Oh, are they happy? How can I create a situation–interior or exterior–that will fuck with that.

What do I mean?

So in Plunder, one of my two MC’s is Bree, who is a young woman who grew up on her father’s ship, but was sent away to what was in effect an early finishing school. She’s leaving school and thinks she’s going to return to living on a ship when she learns that her father has arranged a marriage for her. When her ship is attacked by pirates, she negotiates with the captain for the safety of her crew. A night turns into a week, and she falls for him. Everything seems to be going well, and that could have been the end of the story. But I have him send her back to her father’s ship–an act with repercussions for the rest of the book.

In Capturing the Moment, I kept bringing in Meg and RJ’s past, because the relationship they’d had in college and just after had repercussions on how they interacted six years after their broken engagement. Eventually, they also needed to have a massive fight to deal with their past. Each time the past came up, it affected the present. By figuring out their past, it not only helped me understand where the story had to go, it affected word count.

Ultimately I don’t think there’s a magic bullet to deal with word count goals. If there was, I’d be producing stories at a much faster pace than I do. I think it’s a muscle that gets stronger as you practice your craft. I could write a novella because I’d grown strong muscles writing short stories. I can write a novel because I wrote a novella.