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Playlist for Lab Rats

For me, music is essential to the creation of my story. Once I have an idea of who my characters are and the tentpoles of a new story, I’ll create a playlist for the book. Over the course of the writing, the list gets pared down to songs that are meaningful to me.

Here’s a list of five random songs from the Lab Rats playlist. I’ll try to give a spoiler free reason for them.

1-Lonely by Demi Lovato–There are many points where this song fits either of my leads. Ben grew up in an emotionally stunted borderline abusive family, and he keeps everyone at arm’s length and avoids personal connections. Diana is in the doghouse because her twin is the one who exposed the community, and as a result, she has to den by herself when she’s never lived apart from a pack.

2-It was Always You by Maroon Five–They’re fated mates. That’s pretty much it.

3-S&M by Rihanna–They don’t like each other very much and there’s definitely some semi-hate fucking as they first come together. While there’s not actually any BDSM, the song still spoke to me.

4-The Kiss from the soundtrack to The Last of the Mohicans movies–I was relatively young when I saw this movie, and the scene this music is from hit me hard. Since then, when I have an hungry, urgent kiss in a book, this song usually ends up in that list.

5-I Hate Myself for Loving You by Joan Jett–again, they don’t like each other, but are attracted to each other from the very first day.

Is writing for fun, profit, or other?

Welcome to week 1 of 52 prompts from Marketing for Romance Writers.

This week’s question is Writing–Doing it for fun, profit, or other?

I’ve been telling stories as long as I can remember, so I’ve never been motivated by money. The problem with the word “fun” implies frivolity, and writing isn’t a frivolous act for me. I suppose that means I fall into the “other” category. Or at least I used to.

Turning professional has really exposed how much of writing is marketing, and how hard it can be to find an audience and to profit from your writing. Unless you’re Nora Roberts or Beverly Jenkins you can’t expect the money to come pouring in. So, sure, you can say you’re writing for the money, but I don’t know how long you’ll last if that is your motivating factor.

Is writing fun? Yes, although I hate editing. But when I get sucked into the worlds I’m creating and am in the story with my characters, I’m having a ton of fun (well, except when they make me cry, but even that is fun in its own way). I would argue that I wrote primarily for fun when I used to write drafts of stories, not really bother with editing, and then threw them up on websites like literotica. The comments stroked my ego, as did the numbers that told me how many people had read it.

The thing is that while writing is fun, there’s so much more involved with professionally doing it. You hold yourself to a much higher standard, you have beta readers, you go through drafts (don’t even get me started on how many drafts fucking Plunder has been through), and then you either submit to a company (who will expect you to market your own books) or you self-publish (which carries a lot of issues like formatting, making a cover, etc). It is time consuming and often draining. Marketing is where I struggle and, if anything, makes writing less fun for me.

So why bother? If editing is a hassle and marketing can be soul-sucking why do it for anything other than fun? I want to share my stories with the world, and I hope that I will eventually find my audience. I’m still a newborn when it comes to everything that isn’t writing.

I also don’t know how not to write. The stories grow inside me until I have no choice but to write them down. For me, writing is like reading–a compulsion, something as vital as breathing for me. I don’t know how not to do it. While I have taken breaks in writing, I’m still telling stories–to myself, to my kids, to the cats, whatever.

Why do you write?

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.

Romance Writer’s Blog Challenge–If I weren’t writing

Today’s question is what would I do if I couldn’t write. The answer is simple–I’d be a teacher. In fact, I used to be a teacher until Athena was born almost ten years ago.

I used to teach middle school Math and History, and I was damned good at it. I had only intended to take a year long break from teaching when I had her, but she had serious health issues and needed me. So I stayed home. Then we moved to Singapore. So I stayed home. Then we had my younger daughter who is nicknamed Bunny (because she was born in the year of the rabbit and her class was always the bunnies). Then I started writing professionally. I did some freelancing.

I’ve thought about going back. I’m getting my paperwork together to transfer my teaching license to California, but it’s more of a “break glass in case of emergency,” sort of thing. Besides writing and doing the mom thing, I also have fibromyalgia, which is an illness with chronic pain. It’s questionable if I *could* go back as several medications I take make it hard for me to wake up from. I have trouble getting out of bed before 11 most days. I’ve started doing my girls’ hair at night in tight braids that will survive the night and the next day of school because it’s questionable if I can be waken up enough in the morning to do their hair.

So I guess the real answer is that if I couldn’t write, I’d watch a lot of tv and read, I likely wouldn’t be able to go back to teaching.

Sorry, I didn’t realize how depressing this entry would be.

Romance Writer’s Blog Challenge–How much of you is in your writing?

***First a little business. After this post I’m on vacation until 10/17, after which I’ll tell you all about my adventures in New Orleans, and maybe share a tidbit of a story I started that is set in New Orleans, but have mostly abandoned at this point***

Today’s question is how much of myself is in my writing.

This is a tough one. I think something personal has inspired all of my stories and that there’s a little of me in every heroine.

When I wrote Renewal, I was reconnecting with my own spouse after giving birth to my second child. It was an intensely personal story. While my marriage’s response to kid #2 was different from that of my characters, at heart there was a deep connection.

Capturing the Moment lifts huge chunks of my trip to Cambodia. Every picture Meg takes is a picture I took. Every place she goes, I went. The encounter with the baby monkey? I stole it from myself.

In my new book, my heroine is a giant nerd, just like me. So is Blitzen, for all that he’s male, he is a giant nerd, too.

If I don’t relate to the characters, I can’t write them well. So every character has a little piece of me–a snarky sense of humor, they like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, they’re independent, they think banter is foreplay. But obviously each character has their own personalities. I didn’t know that there would be a surprise wedding in a story. In another Persephone is far more timid and in her head than I originally conceived.

Ultimately I try to let the character have their own voice. If they don’t then every character will be just like every other one I’ve written.

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.

 

Masterclass with Margaret Atwood

***This is not a sponsored post. I am writing this blog post because I want to***

 

One day as I was scrolling through my personal  (as opposed to my DN page) Facebook feed I saw an ad for something called “Masterclass.” I saw things like Shonda Rhimes teaches writing for television, which sounded cool, but didn’t speak to me. Then one day there was an ad for Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing. Maybe it came up with this because I like the Red All Over fangroup of The Handmaid’s Tale. Or it showed up because I talk about writing a lot. Regardless, I saw it and I was intrigued.

I went to the Masterclass site, and saw that the online course of twenty lessons cost $90. This is obviously a limiting factor for a number of people, and it sucks if it is a limiting factor for you. I grew up poor and even though I was a teacher, I have massive student loans–the only reason I can afford this sort of thing is that via my partner, our family has economic privilege. But full access to the site for a year was 180, or the cost of two classes. Was there at least one more class I wanted to take? There’s also a Judy Blume Teaches Creative Writing class, and that appealed to me. I also want to study cooking with Gordon Ramsay. Other cooking classes. Maybe watch the videos for the Shonda Rhimes or R.L. Stine because whether I want to write for tv or young audiences or not (it’s not) I can probably get some useful writing information. So I paid my 180 and started my Margaret Atwood class.

I am on lesson five and I find it really helpful that I can take the class at my own speed. One day I got through two lessons, but I haven’t done any for almost a week because life stuff came up. I love learning, but being a mom can be limiting sometimes–a college class sounds both wonderful and like too much commitment all at once, for example.

Each class has a 10-15 minute lecture by Margaret Atwood, and then there’s a pdf reviewing what she talked about including an assignment. The videos don’t cut perspective as much as the trailer does–the trailer is a bit irritating that way, tbh. What I find most helpful, though, is listening to Margaret talk about writing. Is it news that you should do revisions? No, but hearing her talk about it as re-vision-ing instead of revision reframed the concept from onerous chore to an opportunity (that is still kind of onerous, but less emotionally taxing that before).

If it is something that has interested you, feel free to ask questions in comments and I’ll answer them to the best of my ability.