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2016–The Year in Review

2016
From the loss of Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, and Carrie Fisher (among so many others) to the political disasters of Brexit and Trump, I think we can all admit that 2016 kind of sucked on a macro level. I had two procedures (one major) on my spine and continue to have chronic pain, but at least I’m (mostly) out of a wheelchair now.

However, it’s wasn’t all bad.

Recommended Reads

I wanted to read more than I did in 2016, but I still have some year end recommended reads that I’ve reviewed this year. I’ve joined the Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge. Follow my progress and add me as a friend here.

  • I loved Lez Talk: A Collection of Black Lesbian Short Fiction, edited by S. Andrea Allen and Lauren Cherelle. It includes two stories by one of my favorite authors, K.A. Smith. Read my rave review here.
  • Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins was so amazing, I ran out and read a ton more of her books. There aren’t a ton of authors of color in mainstream romance, and she’s possibly the best of the best. Not only are her stories well plotted, she does her homework on the history as well. My review here.
  • Basically anything by Kait Gamble (I reviewed five of her books here, but I read even more) but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Sins in the Sand. By the way, she just published a new book, Faking It, which I’ve bought and am looking forward to reading.
  • Basically anything by Alisha Rai (I three of reviewed of her books here, although I’ve read even more) but my favorite is Glutton for Pleasure.
  • Finally, one of my favorite reads of 2016 was Tamsin Flower’s serial novel, Alchemy XII. It opens on New Year’s Eve and continues month by month through December. (I was a beta reader for this series, and I loved every minute I spent with Harry and Olivia.)

Big Publication News

(Check out my Published Works page for a complete list of purchase links if Amazon Kindle isn’t available in your country)

 

Capturing the Moment

under-the-mistletoe

My first solo title, Capturing the Moment , and my first anthology, Coming Together: Under the Mistletoe were published and both have received great reviews!

 

Other Publication News

  • Intrepid Horizons, edited by Jessica Augustsson, included my story, Dumped. Blurb–A Unicorn’s (former) Virgin is left out as bait for a dragon, but things don’t go exactly as planned.
  • Rogues, edited by Delilah Devlin, included my story, Plunder.  Blurb–Sparks fly when the Caribbean’s most fearsome pirate falls under the spell of a sexy spitfire who’d rather send him to Davy Jones’s locker. I am working on a full-length novel version of this story, which will hopefully be published in 2018.
  • Coming Together Under the Mistletoe, edited by me, included two of my stories Kid Comet and an updated version of Baby it’s Hot Outside.
  • My essay An Expat Fourth of July was published by Long and Short Reviews.

 

Other Stuff I Wrote

  • Flash Fiction (for Wicked Wednesday) Dream or Nightmare
  • Flash Fiction (A Wicked Wednesday Top 3 story) Off Limits
  • Flash Fiction (for Wicked Wednesday) Keep the Shoes On
  • What I did for Lust, will be included in the upcoming anthology, Prompted.
  • Kid Comet, the third in my North Pole Chronicles series, was in Under the Mistletoe.
  • I further updated Baby it’s Hot Outside, was in Under the Mistletoe
  • For Love of Snow White was submitted
  • I expanded my first published story, Renewal, and submitted it
  • Lab Rats, was rejected (nbd, how publishing rolls)
  • Forbidden Territory was rejected (nbd, how publishing rolls)
  • I expanded Love is a Virus, and it was rejected (nbd, how publishing rolls)
  •  I wrote the first draft of the full length novel version of Plunder. (It sucks–all first drafts suck)

2017

My writing goals for 2017 are to finish Plunder and to write 5-10 short stories, including at least one more installment of the North Pole Chronicles.

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My Plunder Playlist

**Disclaimer–Yes, I’m a total romantic version of pirates fan. It was probably inevitable that I’d write a pirate novel. I’m going to mention the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. If you haven’t seen them, see Curse of the Black Pearl and skip the rest unless you absolutely feel the need. I will say, though, that Mick Jagger as Jack Sparrow’s father was an inspired bit of casting.**

Music is as instrumental to me as breathing (pun intended). So when I’m writing, I usually have a playlist going in the background, and not just to block out Sofia the First or Teen Titans Go. When I wrote the short story version of Plunder, I didn’t have a song or a playlist in mind. However, when it came time to write the novel, I decided one was necessary.

I was wasting time on Youtube, as one does, when my recommendations came up with this…

 

I had no idea that my life was missing this, but it was. I then spent several hours watching Peter Hollens videos.He has an amazing catalog, including any number of gorgeous duets with his equally talented wife Evynne.

Not only was the Pirates medley awesome, but it made something click for me about Plunder.

My heart is pierced by Cupid

I disdain all glittering gold

There is nothing can console me

But my jolly sailor bold.

–My Jolly Sailor

The thing about Plunder is that both Bree and William are sailors, and they’re both crazy in love, despite their constant banter/fighting. So the lyric work both ways…Bree about William, William about Bree.

I immediately bought the song, and it is the cornerstone of my playlist. Because they did such a great job, I went over to the Pirate of the Caribbean soundtracks. I have the entire Curse of the Black Pearl soundtrack, and from the World’s End soundtrack I added “Drink Up Me Hearties Yo Ho” and “Hoist the Colours.”

Interestingly enough, My Jolly Sailor Bold isn’t on the soundtrack of Stranger Tides, despite it being the song the mermaids sing to enchant sailors so they can turn vampire, drag them into the water and eat them. However, you can find countless covers on YouTube.

 

Disney, however, didn’t write this song. It seems to be based off an 18th or 19th century shanty, depending on which version of My Jolly Sailor Bold you believe to be the origin song. To read more, go here.

So, my playlist (all of which can be bought on Amazon or iTunes, depending on your preference) is The Peter Hollens Pirates Medley, Hoist the Colours, Drink Up Me Hearties Yo Ho, and the full Curse of the Black Pearl soundtrack.

Happy Pirating! I should be finishing my edited version in the next few days and sending it off to betas. Once that happens, my playlist will look a lot more like this…

Sidenote–Check out Todrick Hall’s videos, too. He’s so incredibly talented.

First drafts suck and the process of writing a novel

first draft suck

Last week I finished the first draft of the novel version of my short story, Plunder. I wanted a minimum length of 50k and ended up at 42k. There’s so much that needs to be cut or repurposed, like the chapter of exposition. There are secondary characters whose names I lost track of, and ones who need to be fleshed out. There is a lull about two-thirds of the way through after I break up my couple  that needs a lot of work. Tertiary characters flip between being alive and dead because I lost track. It is a jumbled, disorganized mess. But that’s okay.

edit without mercy

The biggest challenge I’ve faced with the novel is the sheer scale of the story.

Where Capturing the Moment had two main characters and two secondary characters, Plunder has two main characters, and tons of secondary characters. The nature of life on a ship means that I had to flesh out some portion of the crew, and with something like seven named secondary characters on two ships, it’s easy to lose track of who is who and what their personalities are.

Plunder is told from Bree’s perspective, unlike Capturing the Moment which showed both Meg and RJ’s points of view. It is very challenging to not tip my hand or give things away before their time. William is an alphahole, but I need my readers to still root for he and Meg to figure things out.

I have realized that in order to effectively edit the novel I need to create

  • a master document wherein I list all the characters and details about each of them
  • a chronological timeline.
  • chapter by chapter summaries–some of the exposition in a later chapter was dealt with in casual conversation earlier.
  • a sexual summary–style, position, allegories I use for orgasm. I don’t want to get repetitive, or miss out on something.

editing

I’m not going to start editing yet. I’m still too close to the story. My plan is to take a few days off, write a short story or two, and start the edits in June. I’ve shared the document in all it’s disastrous glory with my husband, but I will spend a month (or more) polishing it to the best product I can create.

When I wrote Capturing the Moment, I knew that my setting was accurate because I based it on my own visit. As I said in my guest post with F dot Leonora, I’m a photographer like Meg. I had to look up some details about art and the proper name of an instrument, but I was on solid ground. With Plunder, I’m dealing with a foreign time period and selective historical accuracy. The closest I’ve come to being a sailor is working as a costumed guide on the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum in college. I know nothing about rigging or the other jobs on a ship in the 17th. Research is only going to get me so far. I’ll need to consult with someone who knows their stuff as Bree is supposed to be a skilled sailor and fix the details I’m bullshitting today.

Once I’m done with edits, my husband will give it one last look. When both of us have signed off on it, I’ll send Plunder to my betas. They’ll need time to read and provide their comments.

During that lull, I’ll work on other projects.

When I have beta feedback, I’ll digest their thoughts and then revise Plunder further. I may send it to one more round of beta support or editorial support. A story is never really “done”–it just reaches the point where you are going to send it in or futz with it forever. I also call this the I keep editing, but now I’m making it worse instead of better. That’s the point where I’ll submit it for publication, and cross my fingers.

pirate 1

What does first draft, unedited hot mess look like? Here’s an example…

She was just about to head back to William’s cabin when it happened. A wave rose up and slapped the Ghost, tippping it starboard. She thought she heard a scream, and looked up in time to see the man from the foretop falling. He hit the gunwhale and slipped off into the sea.

“Man overboard!” Bree screamed, but her words were drowned out by the shrieking wind.

The starboard side of the foresail was unmanned, and began to flap. Bree might not be a pirate, but she was a skilled sailor who knew her rigging. She took a deep breath and dashed over to the ratlines and began to climb. The ropes were slick with rain, and she fought to keep her footing. Once at the crossbar over the foresail, she grabbed a piece of rope and knotted it about her stomach as the missing sailor should have. That would hopefully keep her alive if she fell, and she retied the knots that had gone slack.

The storm was like a living predator, snarling as it attacked its prey. Lighting slashed across the sky. She was soaked to the skin by the drowning rain. Waves tossed the Ghost, water sometimes crashing over the deck. Bree clung to the mast, keeping a close eye on the sail, listening for orders.

Bree prayed that the Maya was safely moored somewhere far from this storm. The thought of losing Marcus and James was unbearable. She looked for William, worried that he, too, might have fallen victim to the storm, but he wasn’t near her, and she couldn’t see the aft of the ship. Her heart twisted, but she remained focused.

The storm quieted, but she knew it was just the eye, and that the eerie calm wouldn’t last.

“Lass!” The pirate above her at the fore topsail called down.

She looked up. “Yes?”

“Can’t decide if you’re brave or dumb as a rock, but good work.”

My thoughts

  • “just” is one the worst offenders when it comes to filler/unnecessary words in my writing
  • Living predator? As opposed to a dead one?
  • I really know nothing about rigging, although I looked up proper names for things online
  • “the man from the foretop falling” what?
  • Would tying a rope around her waist save her if she fell? Really?
  • The storm needs more description. Do more than those few sentences.
  • She cares about Archie, the ship’s boy she befriended as well as Marcus and James

It’s not a bad passage, but it’s a really important one in the story. It needs expansion, more details (including support from someone who knows something about ships and sailing), and other editing support.

Here’s the thing, though. You can’t edit what you haven’t written. I wrote this, so now I have something to edit. In a month or so.

Rogues is now available for pre-order

Rogues

Rogues, edited by Delilah Devlin, is now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle, and will be published on May 17, 2016.

I have to confess that my story in this anthology, Plunder, is one of my all-time favorites.

Sparks fly when the Caribbean’s most fearsome pirate falls under the spell of a sexy spitfire who’d rather send him to Davy Jones’s locker.

pirate 2

Here’s a snippet (which I shared in October 2014, but it’s worth sharing again)

Put it down, lad. Don’t think to try me,” he warned her.

Defiantly she stepped out of line and faced him. He raised an eyebrow when he saw she was no lad. His distraction presented the perfect opportunity; her sword sliced through the air. Bree grinned fiercely as she scored first blood, but her victory was short-lived. It was humiliating how quickly he disarmed her. She found herself face down on the deck with the pirate captain’s boot planted firmly on her back.

This would never have happened if Papa hadn’t sent me away. Fighting had been yet another useful skill she’d had to abandon in favor of nonsense like bossing around servants. Maids were bigger crybabies than seasick boys on their first sail.

“This girl has more courage than the rest of you scum put together. At least she tried to kill me,” he said derisively.

The boot was removed and he hauled her to her feet. She immediately cocked a fist. “Quite the spitfire, aren’t you?” He picked her up and tossed her over his shoulder.

Her blood boiled. “Go to hell!” She beat at his back ineffectively as he carried her to the quarterdeck. She was put down with her back to the railing.

The pirate imprisoned her hands in one of his own. “I have a proposition for you, minx. You’ve given me more amusement in the past five minutes than I’ve had in a long time. Amuse me tonight and I don’t kill your crewmates. Maybe you’ll even please me so well that I’ll let you keep your ship.”

The roar in her ears wasn’t the ocean. “What?”

“Don’t disappoint me now. Is the idea of my bed so repulsive that you’d rather lose your ship?”

Brianna swallowed. “How do I know you’ll honor the bargain?” My body is to be a bargaining chip no matter what.Better to use it for the Maya than submit to whomever Papa chose.

He gave her a feral smile. “You don’t.”

Writing Schedules, Pantsing vs Plotting, and a Sneak Peek

I recently spent a week fully immersed in what I hope will be my first full length-novel, Plunder (based on the short story soon to appear in Rogues). I had an absurdly productive week unlike any other writing experience, except the one I had when I wrote the first draft of the Plunder short story, am now roughly halfway done with the first draft.

pirate 5

However, I am a pantser, not a plotter. So what I have is an incredibly rough half of a book that will require extensive editing.

Does this mean I don’t know what’s going to happen next? For me, it means I have the complete arc of the story in my head, and am filling in all the empty spaces.

It’s easy to say that I’ll refine the first half and then write the second half, but if I learned anything from the ghost novel, which holds the record for most starts and zero finishes of any story I’ve ever written, ever, it’s that you suck it up and keep going.  My goal is to write the entire first draft and then fix it.

It’s only apt that I pepper this post with pirate memes not only because Plunder is a pirate story, but because even when I have plotted a story, my characters have committed mutiny and gone off to do whatever they want despite my outline. I have learned that I write more effectively by pantsing than plotting.

pirate 4

When will the first draft be done? Damned if I know. People talk about daily word counts and schedules, but as Jade A Waters said in her post called “The Process,” I kept fooling myself into believing I have a systemized process, and it’s become abundantly clear I’m full of shit. I laughed with delight when I read that line, because I find it to be so true for myself as well.

I’ll write in the mornings, when the kids are at school–Oh crap, I have to grocery shop. I don’t want to grocery shop with my four and seven year old, do I?

I’ll write in the afternoons, while the kids are absorbed in tv–Assuming I can block out Sofia the First or whatever other inane tv show is on/am not on Ms 7’s case about homework.

I’ll write in the evenings, after the kids are in bed–Well, sure, once I’ve done the other at home things, and if I’m still conscious enough to not fall asleep at the laptop/have enough energy to do anything other than watch tv listlessly. Or if I don’t have a freelance article due.

I’ll write on the weekends, when Mr. Night is around to run interference with the kids–Sometimes. Sometimes we actually want to do stuff as a family.

I don’t have a hard and fast policy because my life isn’t regimented enough to have one at this point (and probably never will be as I’m just not that organized). I have hopes that I’ll finish it before Capturing the Moment comes out on March 29 (pre-order will start March 14), but have accepted that it may not be.

pirate 2

I think that Plunder came along as well as it did during my intensive writing week was due to the fact that I love this story. This is a story I am happy to give up my free time to, and characters I absolutely adore. William is an alphahole (a term I only just learned thanks to Ilona Andrews post on that trope–btw, I loved her book, Clean Sweep). Brianna is an equally alpha heroine who has no desire to bow to the whim of any man. All she wants is to be a sailor, and eventually the captain of her father’s ship, the Maya. Both William and Bree are strong personalities with lots of opinions about everything, and throwing them together is often delightful.

If anything, I think the reason that things have slowed down is that they are currently apart because William was, well, an alphahole. Entirely his fault. I’m finding it hard to keep the story moving until they meet up again. Which is not to say that the middle bit is bad (although it’s a draft so it probably does suck–all first drafts suck), but rather than I have more fun and thus write faster when they’re butting heads.

pirate 3

Speaking of William and Bree, here’s another glimpse into their story

“What are you doing?”

“Darling, clearly it’s your nature to argue over everything, but it’s a blanket. It’s warm. You sleep under it.”

“I didn’t say I was ready to sleep.” Bree plucked the blanket from his hand and tossed it back to the floor. “I’ve yet to fully explore your territory with my tongue.”

“If you must. I suppose I can close my eyes and think of my duty to cartography.”

Bree’s hand had been trailing through his chest hair. At his comment she grabbed a fistful and yanked.

“Vicious little vixen.”

“Damned pirate. Turn over.”

“Aye aye, wench.”

All mine.

Her hands roamed his body. Freckles were scattered over his back, and Bree pressed a kiss to each. She had never considered a pirate would have such a banal thing as a freckle.

“Where did you get this?” An odd scar marred the perfection of his buttocks.

“Slight disagreement with a shark.”

She dug her nails into the cheek.

William sighed deeply. “Slight disagreement with a fishing hook. Rum was involved.”

Bree laughed with delight. “Turn over, and let me see what other wounds have been inflicted upon you. I wish to catalog them all.”

He turned onto his back. “What of the wound you gave me, minx?”

“A memory I shall always cherish.” Her tone was tart, but her eyes were soft as they made a study of his form

A Pirate’s Life For Me…

Siem Reap has been submitted. Everyone send good thoughts–if accepted, it will be my first solo publication, and I’m so excited by the prospect.

So what’s next?

princess bride 2

I’ve decided to take my pirate story, Plunder (not currently published) and extend it.  Brianna (Bree) and William are one of my favorite couples, and I think you guys would enjoy seeing more of them than a 5k story.

Here is a draft of our introduction to Brianna, who is being picked up from finishing school to go back to her beloved ship, the Maya. The Headmistress of the school speaks first.  (Keep in mind that this is a very rough draft that I wrote two days ago–there has been no editing, and the final opening will likely look very different.)

 

The woman sniffed. “I have a letter for her father. You should know, Miss Northerly, that I take no credit for how you’ve turned out. You arrived a hoyden, and much to my dismay, you are leaving one. You are my great failure.”

Bree grinned widely. “I take that as the very greatest of compliments, Mrs. Lingstrom.” She swept into a deep curtsey. Once upright again, she lifted her skirts and did a little sailor’s jig. “Fair weather to you, and may I never darken your doorstep again. Let’s go, Marcus.”

With that, Brianna Northerly turned her back on a dismal four years of enforced femininity and strode out to the waiting carriage.

Marcus shook his head at her behavior. “So much for turnin’ ye into a lady.”

“A lady will do you no good on the ship. A solid deckhand, on the other hand, will,” Bree retorted as she climbed into the carriage.

Marcus spoke to the driver before climbing in after her. “Lass,” he began.

She interrupted him. “I’m so glad Father changed his mind! Was it you? Was it all my letters? What convinced him?”

Her companion swallowed hard. “Ye don’t know, do ye?”

A feeling of foreboding settled like a storm cloud in the pit of Bree’s stomach. “What don’t I know, Marcus?”

“I’m taking you to be wed.”

What?”