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Archive for the tag “writing advice”

The Care and Feeding of Minor Characters


A miner, not a minor.

Let’s talk about minor characters.These are your protagonist’s family members, friends, and coworkers. Important enough to have a name, but definitely not an above-the-title name. They mainly exist to help move the plot along, often being on the receiving end of your protagonist’s witty dialog or exposition. “OMG Amber, let me tell you about what happened this summer at camp! You’re gonna freak out!”

They can also be plot devices: getting abducted, being diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses or accused of a crime, forbidding the protagonist to do what they want to do, or betraying them in some way. Nearly every cop’s wife in Western literature exists only to a) complain that the cop is never home or b) get threatened/abducted/killed.

Your protagonist lives in the world with other people, and how she interacts with them both humanizes her and gives your reader clues as to the kind of person she is. A hard-nosed business tycoon can show her secret tender side when she visits her grandmother in the nursing home. The nanny who is all sweetness and light with her charges may have a dark side that she explores in secret sex clubs.

Regardless of what purpose they serve, you should make sure your minor characters stick in your reader’s mind as people, not set-dressing. They don’t need to be as fully fleshed out as your main characters. In fact, to give them too much page space or backstory may indicate a higher importance to your reader than you’re going to deliver on. That’s not to say you can’t give a character more real estate than makes sense in one story because you’re setting him up for a larger role in the sequel. I had this conversation with my editor, Marti McKenna, while we worked on Griefed (Lexy Cooper #3).

Marti: I’m not quite sure why this Archie Wolfe guy is getting so much screen time. There’s not really a payoff…
Me: He’s important in Lexy #4.
Marti: Aha!

Let’s now make a distinction between the minor character and the “extra” or “walk-on.” These are characters that appear briefly to serve a specific purpose and then disappear. A taxi driver that gets your protagonist from point A to point B and maybe delivers one piece of news. A bartender confirming the alibi of a suspect. A beat cop who makes an arrest.

They are necessary to move the action along, but they don’t need backstory, motivation, or even a name. (Unless they do. If that bartender is supplying a false alibi because she’s sleeping with the suspect then she’s not a walk-on, she’s a minor character and she’s gonna need a name.)

Here’s an example of when not to name the baby. This happened during the editing of Glitched (Lexy #4)

Harper showed the letter to the only lawyer she knew—Xenon’s corporate bulldog—and she suggested that Harper zip her lip and try to move on…

Marti: I suggest giving the corporate bulldog a name to avoid pronoun confusion.

But, this bulldog will not be seen again until Lexy #6. I don’t want to commit to a name this far out, and more importantly, I don’t want to give readers the impression that this character needs to be loaded into memory yet. The problem was easily solved by the elimination of one letter. “She” became “he” and poof! No more pronoun trouble.


Don’t litter your book with a cast of thousands. Your reader can’t keep track of that many characters unless each and every character stands out. I bet if I name an obscure character in the Harry Potter series, fully half the world’s population will know who I’m talking about. Because Rowling paints a vivid—though sometimes brief—picture of every character and each serves a purpose.

For the rest of us? My best advice is to keep the cast lean. Only write characters that you need. And only give them names if you want your reader to recall who they are later in the book or series.


In the Beginning – Starting a New Novel

-it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-night-pin-2120-pMy ninth book (Glitched) is with my editor right now and so, it’s time for me to start writing the next one. Book number ten will be the second in the Mike Malick series, and it’s unique in my experience for one reason. I don’t really know what it’s about.

Here’s what I’ve got:

A title: You Go To My Head (yes, another Sinatra song).

A pretty solid cast of characters.

A reference photo for the cover art.

Reference for the cover art. You Go To My Head...get it?

You Go To My Head…get it?

And a news story about a real crime that gave me the germ of an idea. I’m not linking to it, obviously.

Other than that…I got nothin’. Every other time I’ve actually sat down to start placing words one by one into a coherent story I’ve had a pretty fleshed-out plan in mind. Sometimes those plans change. But this is the first time I’ve sat down to a fairly rasa tabula.

So what now? I’ve got to turn this

In the beginning blog post

I do this bit right after finishing the prior book. The satisfaction comes from adding the newly-written one to the “Also by this author” list.

into a full novel that

  • Gives readers what they’ve come to expect in a Malick novel: snark, crime-solving, waitress-banging
  • Tells a compelling and complete story from the discovery of crime to the solution of whodunit
  • Touches on and advances the subplots and story arcs in the series
  • Feels familiar but not too similar to the first book Summer Wind

Where do I begin? I start with a victim. Right now I don’t know the name, gender, or method of murder. All I know is why the person was killed and who did it. But this dead body will put Malick and his partner Cricket Yi on the train that will carry them to the end of the story, some 300 pages away.

It’s unfamiliar and sort of scary but also a bit liberating. BRB, gotta go kill someone.

All About That Pace

keep-calm-and-pace-yourself-24Let’s talk about pacing, i.e. the action in your novel. Does it start slow and build to an action-packed climax? Do you hit on your main themes in a regular pattern? Do you sprinkle humor here and there?

I wasn’t sure how I did it. I’ve had readers comment that they like the pacing in my books, so I guess I was doing something right. But to be honest, I don’t consciously think about pacing much. Well, except for the first Lexy book in which I was convinced each chapter needed to be 5,000 words and I distinctly remember saying to myself, “Hmmm Lexy hasn’t gotten laid in a while. Better fix that.”

But I know that pacing is important and I was curious to see what exactly I’m doing and when I’m doing it. So, as I reviewed and revised my new book Glitched, I kept track of certain elements of the story and where they appear. This is what it looked like:

Glitched Pacing

There were quite a few pacing relationships I was particularly interested in. Sex vs Romance is one of them. Maybe they’re not different for you, but they are for Lexy. At least in Glitched.

Also, Sleuthing and Skills. This fourth Lexy mystery is different in that alternating chapters are not in Detective Malick’s POV. In fact, the murder isn’t even Mike’s case. This is the first time that Lexy is actively trying to solve a murder. Now, she hasn’t hung out a PI shingle, and she’s still working at Xenon full-time, but neither is she stumbling on evidence or just lending Malick a hand. In this book–and going forward–it’s important for Lexy to have agency. For her to do things on purpose with intent instead of have things happen to her. Ergo, sleuthing is when she’s investigating the case: talking to witnesses, doing research, staking out a location. Skills is when she’s purposely trying to improve her sleuthing. Mainly recalling something she’s learned from Malick about being observant or getting reluctant witnesses to talk.

stake out

Then there are the ongoing story arcs: her relationships with recurring characters. So, Romance hits on her interactions with a certain character (no spoilers) and Rivalry hits on her interactions with Agent 54.

When you’re writing a series there is also a fair amount of Backstory or references and reminders to what has happened in previous books, and Set-up, laying the groundwork for the next book: introducing characters and situations who will be important in Lexy 5.

A couple other things I tracked were Humor and Trouble. Humor’s pretty obvious, and there are funny (I hope) Lexyisms throughout, but these were situations I included solely for comic relief. Trouble refers to situations when Lexy purposely does something knowing it will get her in trouble or stir the pot. Just because she’s Lexy.


Lexy’s new roommate?

I also tracked her use of drugs and alcohol, and her smoking. She’s always been a closet stress-smoker and when she’s upset she indulges. If you check the grid, you see that she smokes less as the story continues. Is it because I forgot to put a cigarette in her mouth? Nope, it was that she was busy chasing baddies and had other stuff on her mind.

Looking over this, it occurs to me that I did a pretty fair job pacing this without much planning. The question is, do I want to track as I go with the next book (potentially leading to “hmmm Malick hasn’t gotten laid in a while” thoughts) or do I just keep on keepin’ on?

Series Fiction: What I wish I’d known at the start

long gameI’m in the final stretch of writing the fourth book in my Lexy Cooper mystery series. Now, I’m certainly nowhere near as prolific as many writers, but by the time you get to Book 4, you’ve built up a pretty substantial cast of characters, a history, and a world. Here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way and wish I’d known when I was writing the first one.

Consistency in World Building

Just because I write books set in modern times in the “real” world doesn’t mean I haven’t done some world building. It’s not Middle Earth, but Lexy Cooper’s fantasy world mapRedmond and Seattle are not exact replicas of the real thing and those subtle differences need to be consistent. Sometimes I run up against a perception I had while writing earlier books that cause me to hesitate and stumble writing later books. Take the Redmond Police Department headquarters, where Detective Malick does his murder-solving thing. When I wrote Schooled I had a very vague idea of what it looked like: a lobby where a desk sergeant sits, desks where cops do their work on battered government-issue desks, a conference room where the cops can gather to brainstorm, and an interrogation room for grilling suspects. That’s all I wrote about, because it was all I needed. Then in Pwned, I added another interrogation room and now there’s “Interview A” and “Interview B.” Each book has added new areas as the story requires them. By the time I wrote Summer Wind, in which Detective Malick gets his own series, the building is three stories high and has a computer lab, briefing room, Chief’s office, gym, and impound lot. The good news is I never said, in Book 1 that the station was small or one-story, or lacked any facilities. So looking back, is it better that I was vague in the beginning, or should I have mapped it out with a little more diligence from the get-go?  Vagueness has allowed me to get what I need from that location, but every time I send Malick up a flight of stairs that wasn’t in my head during the previous books, I feel a little bit guilty.


The Trouble with Character Names

There are two male cops in my series: Mike Malick and Mark Rogers. In the first three books Rogers was always “Rogers” because he’s a young cop still in uniform and Mike is the star. But by Book 4, Rogers has a new job in a neighboring city and is a detective. Now equals–mostly–“Mike and Mark” are so close it sounds lame.

name gameWorse yet are rhyming names. Lexy’s brother is Kent and her cameraman is Trent. I never even noticed it until the two characters have a scene together in Book 4 and I had to write around putting their names next to each other. Meanwhile I cursed myself for my foolishness for not noticing in Book 1. Another example? Kenny Longworth and Kent Cooper don’t share a scene in the first four books, but that too, could be problematic in the future. And then I have to wonder: What’s with the “Ken” thing? Why did I choose those names? I don’t think I even know anyone named Ken.

Now I’m being much more careful in naming new characters. In book 4, Lexy’s friend Harper Cole (who appears in Pwned and Griefed) is a major player. When it came time for me to introduce a new character, I wanted to name her Hopper after Grace Hopper. But Hopper and Harper? That’s a no-go. So right now her name is Borg after Anita Borg, but I don’t think I can get past the Star Trek association on that one and it will most likely change again.

Now here are a couple of things I think I did right. And I did them right because I was slow and careful about what I was doing. I’m going to avoid spoilers as much as I can here, but if you haven’t read Lexy 1-3 and are super sensitive to vague hints about the plot, you may want to skip this bit.

The Long Game

If you’ve got the foresight to plan the major plot points of the books in your series, it’s very effective to lay the groundwork early for the biggest payoff. So there’s a bad guy in Book 3. Now I could have created a new character to do the bad things, but instead I played the long game. Knowing all along what I was going to write in Book 3 (at that time the end of a Lexy trilogy) I introduced the character very casually in Book 1. This character was so minor he or she may have mostly gone unnoticed. But then he or she became more important in Book 2. So by the time Book 3 rolls around and he or she does the bad thing it is a shock and betrayal to both Lexy and the reader.

See also: Foreshadowing. This character offers hints of what he/she is capable of in the first two books. What you’re going for is either a “I felt like there was something weird about that person!” or “Why didn’t I see that coming!?” So hopefully, a person who read Book 3 could go back to Book 2 and smack themselves for not realizing this character was trouble.

Another example: In Summer Wind (which is Malick #1 but also Book 3.5 in the Lexy series), I introduce a character who is not really going to be very important until Book 7. But when she becomes important she won’t have dropped out of a clear blue sky. She’s already been established in the cast and the world.

Incremental Change

It would have been easy to begin the series with Lexy Cooper–community manager by day, kick-ass vigilante detective by night, but let’s face it…that’s not really believable or relatable. Instead, Lexy learns new skills as the series progresses. Not because she has an end-goal of being some sort of Dirty Harriet, but because she has reactions to the things that happen in her life. Possible spoilers For instance: In the first book, something happens to Lexy that makes her interested in finally learning to handle a firearm. So in Book 2 she learns to shoot. In Book 2 and then again in Book 3, she is in a situation where she has to run to safety. And her speed and endurance fail her. In Book 4, running has become a priority for her. She’ll be ready for the next time. And at this point, she carries her Glock everywhere. By Book 4 or 5 readers will not be shocked–or skeptical–if Lexy outruns an assailant or uses her gun because these are skills she’s worked to acquire and not superpowers she’s granted when she suddenly needs them.

The Downside

The downside of the slow build and the long game is that readers can’t see inside your head and may get impatient as they wait for your heroine to “grow up.” I have had feedback about how Lexy often gets rescued in early books, or that she’s immature or didn’t have a big enough reaction to the tragic events at the end of Griefed. All I can say to that is: keep reading.



Crowdfunding for Novelists

In between the second and third Lexy Cooper books I did a crowdfunding campaign to fund a research trip. The trip wasn’t critical to my book; I had already budgeted money for the cover, editing, and proofreading. I didn’t have to travel to Roswell, but believed the book would be more authentic if I had first-hand experience at the location. The writing and publishing of Griefed was happening whether the crowdfunding was successful or not. That gave me the freedom to test the waters of crowdfunding without it being a make-or-break situation. The campaign ended up being very successful, and here’s what I learned.

ufo museum

1. You Don’t Need a Video

Indiegogo (and Kickstarter) will encourage you to make a video and cite statistics telling you a campaign with a video is X percent more likely to be successful. I’m sure that’s true for films and video games, but I don’t believe it for books. And yes, perhaps I just didn’t want to make a video because hosting a show on Xbox Live was enough video for me for the rest of my life. Video is essential for showing motion, but how will you show a book you’ve yet to write? Or maybe it’s written and you’re asking people to fund a book cover or printed copies or promotional costs. What can you show them? Your face, I guess. If you are fantastically good-looking and charismatic go for it. It will probably work to your advantage. Otherwise, enjoy the fact that it doesn’t (yet) matter what writers look like.

2. Make Frequent Updates

alien shipLet your donors or backers or angels know what’s going on during the course of the campaign and as you deliver the goods. Don’t spam or annoy them with updates just to say you’re planning on an update. Think about news beats. A good time to update is when you’re halfway to your goal, when you’ve met your goal, and as you use the funds you’ve been given. For example: I updated my Indiegogo page six times:

  1. The halfway point. I also posted a photo of the paperback that some backers would receive.
  2. Goal met. Because there was still time in the campaign, I told backers where the funds beyond what I’d asked would be used for (cover art and editing).
  3. Details on the research trip. I provided dates of the trip and a photo of the trip mascot.
  4. More stretch goals. The campaign was still going, and money kept coming in.
  5. Leaving for the research trip. More thanks and links to follow along.
  6. Results of the research trip. Photos, what I learned, how the experience would benefit the book.

3. Exceed Expectations

lexypostcardIt was important to me that my backers felt like they got their money’s worth—long before the book came out. I made sure to get deliverables out to them as soon as possible. I never wanted anyone to have to wonder where their stuff was or if they’d been forgotten—or worse, ripped off. I also did some things that were not included in the Indiegogo perks:

  • I sent them postcards from Roswell, signed by “Lexy.”
  • I gave them all a free copy of the short story I Saw Lexy Kissing Santa.
  • I revealed the cover and title to them before anyone else

4. Here’s why I think my Indiegogo campaign was successful:

My goal of one thousand dollars for the research trip was met in five days. By the end of the campaign I’d exceeded my monetary goal by over sixteen hundred dollars, and I had a wonderful and productive trip to Roswell. Sure, I may just have gotten lucky or been in the right place at the right time, but I think these factors contributed to the successful outcome:

  1. I asked for a very specific thing — a trip to Roswell, for a very specific reason—research.
  2. Lexy Cooper books were a known quantity. People could see that I had successfully written and published two books in the series and probably felt like the risk of my flaking out and not finishing the book was low.
  3. People love to see their name in a book. Or anywhere, really. The perk in which I name a character after the backer was so popular I had to double the amount.

Here’s my advice to writers regarding crowdfunding: Wait until you’ve got a book or two under your belt before you do it. I have seen many campaigns from would-be authors that fail for these reasons:

  • They are unproven as writers. If you can’t show potential backers that you can see a big project to completion and have some degree of skill, you should ask your family to back you because they love you.
  • The book isn’t written and they are asking folks to pay them for their time to write it. That’s just insulting.
  • Their goals are vague or overpriced. If you’re asking for 10,000 bucks for editing, cover art, and the super-vague “marketing,” you come across as naïve and greedy.

5 Great Reasons to Publish Short Content

short-fictionWhen you’re trying to establish a brand, it’s important to build your series as quickly as you can without sacrificing quality or sanity. If you have a good response to the debut book, don’t make readers wait a year or more for their next meal—they will move on, and you need all the momentum you can get. Short stories are a way to stave off starvation and keep your audience engaged while you finish the next full book.

How short can it be?

Too short will piss people off. I’m not sure why, but I’ve seen tons of one- and two-star reviews in which the reader’s only complaint was that it was “too short.” Anyway, I’d say the bare minimum is 5,000 words. That’s enough real estate to tell a complete—albeit brief—story and make it worth your reader’s time. Here are some ideas for a short story featuring your protagonists:
• Prequel – Your heroine in college, your hero during Desert Storm. The first time your main characters met.
• In-between – Action that takes place between two of your full books. Even better if it’s a time or incident referenced in the later book.
• Fantasy – Take a break from your usual genre and send your private eye into space. Or stick your sorceress in a modern corporate cubicle. How would your CIA agent deal with becoming a werewolf at the full moon?
• Seasonal – Christmas stories are popular every holiday season and beyond. Halloween’s a good opportunity to explore horror, disguises, or just spooky fun. Summertime offers all kinds of vacation, travel, beach, and bikini action.

So when are you supposed to find the time to write a short?

Well, those two or three weeks when you finish a novel-length work and you’re not allowed to touch it until you get some distance. Or while you’re waiting for feedback from your editor or proofreader. Once you’ve finished the first draft of a novel, there is some downtime, and for the first few days you may not feel like writing anything, but then again you might miss your daily fix of your characters. I know that when I finish a Lexy book I am just sick to death of her. She’s emotionally exhausting and I’m anxious to take a break. But after a few weeks or a month, I start to miss her. I start to think about what sort of trouble she can get into next. I just can’t quit her. So I might have to knock out a little short to get it out of my system so I can give my undivided attention to the other book I’m supposed to be writing.

5 Great Reasons to Publish Short Content

1. Keep your readers engaged and hungry (but not starving) for more content
2. Maintain a regular release cadence
3. Explore settings and situations that you wouldn’t want to build a whole novel around
4. Test the waters on new characters or genres
5. Generates a promotional opportunity: pimp the new short and your whole catalog

How Not To Write

There are a million and one things you could do instead of writing a book. Things that are easier, more fun, and will earn you more money. You’ve been doing some of them for years. Let’s take a look at the excuses we use and the lies we tell ourselves when we aren’t writing.

Fiction writers are terrific at making stuff up. Probably the best things we invent are excuses for not writing.

violin-old-new-670*Cue violin music*
“I’m afraid to write because it might not be good.”
“If only I had the time…”
“I have a couple ideas, but I’m just waiting for inspiration.”
Translation: Writing is hard and scary and I’m too chicken-shit to turn off the television and get at it.

Gather round children, and I will tell you a story…

When I was eight years old my third-grade teacher, after hearing me read a story I’d written about a pink cow, told me, “That was good. You should be a writer when you grow up.” And that was it. I wanted to write books from that day forward. But I didn’t do much writing. I was always looking for an easy way out. And I bought a fat hardbound copy of Writer’s Market and kept a journal and read all kinds of books about writing, plotting, and getting published. Some of the lazy ass ideas I had included taking the letters I’d written to my friends while I was working as a nanny in New York and turning them into an epistolary novel. You know, so I wouldn’t actually have to write. I even had the idea to write a memoir of my parent’s divorce because I thought it would get a lot of attention and I could go on the Johnny Carson show. That was when I was ten years old, folks.


So finally, on my twenty-fourth birthday, I realized that I was a full year older than F. Scott Fitzgerald had been when his first novel, This Side of Paradise, was published. I was way behind schedule. That night I sat down and started writing The Sleepless Nanny. I wrote it for an hour every night for ten months. With a toddler on my lap. Then I sent it off to Bantam Doubleday Dell. The acquisitions editor had some nice things to say about my writing, but she didn’t want to publish my book.

me and scooter

Me, age 24 with my writing assistant, Scotty. Guess who he’s named after?

I didn’t send it to any other publishers. I saved it on a floppy disk and put it away. And didn’t write fiction again for almost twenty years. In the meantime I made my living as a professional writer. The kind of writing that as a teenager I’d thought was beneath me: marketing copywriting, magazine writing, even the dreaded technical writing. I had ideas for novels, one of which was set in the middle ages and required me to purchase dozens of history books for “research.” (I didn’t even read the books, much less write the novel.) I kept reading books about writing and feeling momentarily inspired, but never enough to do more than make notes or think up character names.

For two decades I used all those excuses, which really boiled down to fear. Fear of hard work and fear of failure. The same shit that’s holding you back right now. The reason you’re reading this right now instead of writing your book is that you’re procrastinating. You’re looking to me for some loophole that will make the arduous and sometimes soul-crushing task of writing your book easier. And I’m totally taking advantage of that because I’ve been you. Three years ago I was you.

Here’s what changed.

Self-publishing happened. Specifically, the ability to nearly instantaneously publish a book simply by uploading a Word document to Kindle Direct Publishing. Within two days of reading an article about KDP I had 1) purchased a floppy disk to USB device 2) cobbled together a clean copy of The Sleepless Nanny from an ancient version of Word to the latest incarnation, and 3) uploaded my novel where anyone could purchase it and anyone with a Kindle or Kindle app could read it.

I was a goddamned published author. And you know what? It didn’t matter that I had a bullshit default cover or that I’d written it a lifetime ago or that I didn’t have the accreditation of Big Publishing. It felt great. And when people read it and liked it and gave it five-star reviews? Holy shit that was like Christmas and New Year’s and the first really good kiss all rolled into one.

Sleepless Nanny CoverWhen my husband handed me a copy of The Sleepless Nanny in paperback—a project he’d taken on in secret, for my birthday—with a real cover and an ISBN? I confess I broke down and cried. It was the dream I’d had since the age of eight and I held it right there in my hands.

There is nothing to prevent you from holding your own book in your hands, whether it’s digital or in paper form. There is not a damn thing to stop you. You just have to decide to make it happen and do a little bit every day until you get to the end.

It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s the worst thing ever. But the payoff will be the greatest feeling you’ll ever have.

When to release and promote your books

There are those who say that authors should release a book simultaneously in digital and paper form. Their argument being that everyone who wants to read your book should be able to. If they want to give you money, why make them wait? Well, I’ll tell you. Every new format is a chance to promote your novel. Because unless you want to make enemies, you just can’t say “buy my book” every day. People will tune you out at best and unfollow you at worst. And then you’ve lost them.


In public relations you have what are known as “news beats.” I’m sure a PR professional would explain the concept differently (and probably with a twenty-slide PowerPoint presentation), but here is the way I understand and use it: You create “news” about your product (in this case your novel), and dole out these bits of news in increments that are most likely to be noticed and shared. So the news beats that I could do for my novel Summer Wind could go like this:

• March – Announcement of book “A Lexy Cooper Spinoff Featuring Detective Malick is in the works”
• April – Cover and title reveal “Title of Mike Malick #1 is ‘Summer Wind.’ Check out the cover”
• May – Launch date reveal “Detective Malick returns in Summer Wind October 31”
• August – Book release “Summer Wind, Mike Malick spinoff now available as eBook and paperback”

And then…nothing. You’ve got no more news. Sure you can post reviews and interact with your readers and all that good stuff, but you don’t have any “news.”
Now, if you hold back on paperback or audio versions, then you have more news to share:

• November – “Summer Wind coming to paperback”
• December – “Summer Wind now available in paperback”
• June – “Summer Wind audiobook in the works. Who will voice Mike Malick?”
• August – “Summer Wind audiobook now available”

You’ve had a full year of newsworthy items about one book. And you’re probably ready to start releasing news about the next book. Now, if you’ve got multiple titles to promote, you can do even more. Here’s a peek at my Marketing and Release calendar.

marketing and release calendar

This spreadsheet actually goes all the way through 2017, four more Lexy Cooper books and two more Mike Malick books.

Newsletters are in yellow, promotions are in blue and releases are in green. You can see that I’m promoting different things at appropriate times. I’ll do two promotions for I Saw Lexy Kissing Santa this year. It was free for five days in a “Christmas in July” promotion, and when the holidays roll around again, I will post about the story in all my social channels and hopefully get another round of sales. I’ll do a “Back to Schooled” promotion in September because it’s topical, and it’s the first book in my series–the bait I use to hook new readers.

Today I didn’t do any writing on my fourth Lexy Cooper book, but the time I spent on the business end confirming schedules with my editor and proofreader, updating, making a blog post on Goodreads, and scheduling announcements and promotions through the end of the year is well worth missing a creative day. You can be creative AND strategic!



Novel Experiment Day 2 – The trouble with S and hella words

I decided “Hiatus Experiment” doesn’t really make sense, ergo “Novel Experiment.”

Rush Maya BanksDay Two research involved the book Rush by Maya Banks. In contrast to the Rafe MacKade book, the sex was not lukewarm. Nope, not at all. It was hot. Here’s my Goodreads Review for Rush. “Pretty well-written. The author believes that manly men say “damn well” a lot. The sex is definitely hot. I don’t find butt plugs even remotely romantic. Ending (HEA) was massive cheese. Rush is the first book in a trilogy, but I’m going to move on and try to get a broad spectrum of romance titles.

Still haven’t watched any romantic movies. Unless Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood counts? Didn’t think so.

As for the day’s actual work, I looked at that 4,285 number (of words I’d need to write in order to hit 60k at the end of the two weeks) and despaired. There’s no way. I think I wrote 4k words in a day once when I was on a roll with my first Lexy Cooper book. And recently I wrote 11,000 words in a week. But 4200+ in a day? Never.

Except, I did it! I felt completely wiped out at the end of it, but I managed to do it and I lived to tell the tale. Day Two BnG

Problems I encountered on Day Two:

  • I gave a character the name Lucas. Cool until I gave Lucas a job and a house and private jet. Then I had to deal with the mess of Lucas’s jet, or is it Lucas’ jet? Annoying.
  • In describing the first meeting of my hero and heroine, I was at a loss as to how to describe a stripper’s…moves. “And then he shook his ass” just isn’t cutting it. Prescription: Watch Magic Mike again.
  • My heroine works for a company that I’ve named Parker and Stowe. She’s recently been promoted to Vice President. She wears conservative work clothes and makes a lot of money, but what does this company do? What goods does it produce or service does it provide? I have no idea and I’m not sure my reader will care.

Stripper Fun:

RIP Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley

SNL strippers

The Care and Feeding of a Muse

nga-calliope-allI absolutely believe in the muse. Not literally a daughter of Zeus, but the creative inspiration that comes from “out there.” Muse is as good a way to describe it as any. Sometimes she comes as an idea appearing in your mind like a bolt of lightning. Sometimes she draws your attention to something: a news article, a scent, a flavor, an overheard conversation, or the way that guy is edging away from the woman with a shopping cart at the bus stop. And once in a while the muse will sit down beside you and whisper words in your ear and you’ll have to scribble or type like your fingers are on fire to keep up with the flow of language.

Each visit from the muse is a gift. And like most gifts you must remember two things: don’t expect them, and be grateful for whatever you get.

The other thing to know about the muse is that she’s willful and unpredictable and nothing pisses her off more than being taken for granted.

If your plan is only to write when the muse inspires you? You ain’t gonna write. To wait for the muse is to disrespect the muse. You need to meet her halfway. You do this by sitting down at your weapon of choice—keyboard, legal pad, voice recorder—and getting down to business.


Think of it like this. You know when you’re a kid and you go to the playground and no one’s around or everyone is already involved in their own games? If you stand there on the peripheries with a glum expression, no one will invite you to play. People want to join in when you’re doing something fun. Remember the long summer evenings when a couple of kids would start playing Kick the Can and before you knew it the whole neighborhood was out? The muse is drawn to creativity like kids are drawn to fun. So sit down, start creating, and see what happens when she comes around to investigate.

Of course, she won’t always gift you while you’re in prime writing position. Oftentimes you’ll suddenly have the answer to that dicey third act problem while you’re in the shower. Or wake up in the middle of the night with a character name you’ve been struggling with on the tip of your tongue. With me, it’s almost always in the car.  Here’s the solution: always always keep a pen and notebook close by. Trust me, do whatever it takes to capture what the muse gives you; you will not remember it later. There is the equivalent of the lost library of Alexandria of great ideas, jokes, and plot twists that authors have squandered for the lack of a damn pencil.

If you want a visit from the muse be respectful, be prepared, be grateful, and be ready to work.

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