Category: writing

I’ve fallen in love with Fallen

I’ve had the most gloriously relaxing last couple days. I haven’t gotten much done around the house other than reading, editing, and writing, and I feel guilty…but oh so right.

After a few hours writing yesterday (I broke through the Chapter 17 hump!), Bailey assumed his usual position:

He was probably wondering what took me so long to slide back into our daily groove. He didn’t seem to have as many problems cuddling right up to his position beneath my chair. Doesn’t he look content?

After writing an accidental 5000 words (when, really, I was just editing and cleaning scenes up and adding little things here and there), I decided to take a break and read a bit.

I picked up this:

Isn’t that the most gorgeous cover you’ve ever seen? (Other than mine, of course. *Ahem) (WHICHREMINDSMEDARKTIDERISINGCOMESOUTINONEMONTH!ONEMONTHPEOPLE!AHHHH!)

Sorry. Back on track.

I had never heard of Fallen until I walked by the gorgeous cover in Borders a few months back. I stopped in my tracks. Picked up the book. Stroked the cover. (Oh yes I did.) And then I put it back on the shelf. I was still deep in the conflict of Immortal, Beloved and I can’t usually read any one else’s work while writing my own. I thought I’d pick it up again once I was finished writing my own novel.

But the premise of the book stayed with me. The idea of a guy (later known to be a fallen angel) walking the earth for eternity, waiting miserably for his soulmate to return to his arms is so…romantic. Torturous, yes, but those times they get to be together? Heaven. The idea that they CAN’T be together, yet are still pulled to each other like magnets was enticing. Soulmates. I can tell that they’ll be together eventually, and just can’t wait to see how that plays out.

I’m already IN the story and I haven’t even picked up the darn book.

So guess what? I asked for the second book in the series, Torment, for Christmas.

(Equally beautiful cover, don’t you think?)

You might be wondering why on earth I asked for the second book as a gift instead of the first…well, as it happens Fallen sneaked into my shopping bag when I was leaving Borders a few days before Christmas. (YES I paid for it! I just didn’t mean to buy it. I mean, I was buying presents for other people! It’s Christmas! I wasn’t supposed to buy for ME. But I did. And it felt great.)

Imagine my surprise when I actually got Torment! Using the few days after Christmas as wonderful vegging/de-Christmasing time, I picked up Fallen and glided through its pages. It’s so lovely in so many ways but the connection between the hero and heroine are what had me hooked. Ever felt pulled to a person and have no real reason behind it? Like the middle school crush on the jerk that you know isn’t going to play out but you can’t stop staring at him over your lunch table? Yeah, that’s what these two are all about.

I read the book in two days (all 460 pages) while still managing to plug away at my own novel (which was a first for me). I put down Fallen. I picked up Torment. And now I can’t wait to read Passion, the third book in the series, when it comes out this summer.

I’m about 50 pages from the end of Immortal, Beloved. The heroine has been kidnapped. Vampire elders have already been slain. The hero just realized his destiny…and hers…and realizes that although he’d give his life fighting for her in this final battle, once she’s safe they can’t be together. Steep price to pay for the sins he’s committed. And the hero and heroine from the third book in The Crimson Bay series, creatively titled “Third Book in the Crimson Bay Series” have just met. Sparks are flying. She hates him. He’s hooked.

Ah, I love this writing gig.

Hope your holidays were great!

How I Landed My Agent

I got an email the other day from a blog reader (love love love those). She said she’s on the agent prowl for her urban fantasy novel and asked a ton of questions about how long it took to find my agent, The Call, my path to submission after signing, etc. I thought this information might be a useful blog post–after all, I love reading other “How I Landed My Agent” stories.

I wrote Enemy, Beloved in the Spring of 2010. I edited, critiqued with a handful of writers and readers and rewrote problem scenes. I wrote my query letter. I revised my query letter. I revised it some more and asked friends to read it and tweak it. I wrote my synopsis. I revised my synopsis. (See a pattern here? You’ve got to nail all three!)

Around May of 2010 I sent out fifteen queries. Of those queries I received two partial requests and one full request. The full request led to an offer of representation.

I signed with that agent. I revised about a month on his suggestion to make the novel “darker and hotter.” I did. He sent Enemy, Beloved to one NYC publishing house. I received a rejection about a month later from that house.

This past September I parted ways with my agent due to his opening of an e-pub. I had already contracted my romantic suspense with The Wild Rose Press, and didn’t want to sign my paranormal Enemy, Beloved, with another. It’s not that I have anything against e-pubs, it’s just that I have a *feeling* (or hope against hope) that this one will go further.

So (against Husband’s advice) I sent out another ten queries right away. (He thought I should take some time, revise some more and finish writing the second in the series. I was angsty and roaring to go!) Of those ten queries I received two partial requests, both of which led to offers of representation.

The Call came on Halloween–BEST HALLOWEEN EVER!! Nalini Akolekar of Spencerhill Associates and I talked about dogs, writing, home life, Dark Tide Rising, etc. It was very comfortable right away–a great fit. I asked a few questions. (I was so nervous!) I asked for a day to consider her offer. (Although I knew at that point she was the agent I wanted to represent my book.) I called the next day and accepted her offer.

Since then, Enemy Beloved has gone on submission with three houses. I haven’t heard back yet, but it’s the Holidays and with that comes being patient as all heck. I’ve heard that the publishing industry comes to a screeching halt the month of December. They weren’t kidding.

So that’s where I stand. If you’d like to read the query letter that got the requests, it’s pretty much the blurb found under the “Books” tab above. On the actual query, though, I had the genre, word count, correct salutation and brief bio.

I would absolutely love to hear other “How I Landed My Agent” stories, so if you’ve got one, please share! Hope that answered your questions, blog reader! If you have another, don’t hesitate to comment away or send another email! *grin

Natural storyteller, I was not

One of the most asked questions of a writer is “When did you first know you wanted to be a one?” For the longest time, my answer made me feel a little embarrassed. I didn’t know I wanted to write until a few years ago. I didn’t write as a child…at least not anything anyone thought was good. I wrote the typical short story project in high school and it was easy to write, but somehow didn’t measure up to my standards. I got good grades, but my friends’ stories were so much stronger. I wrote many things for my English classes in college…but my stories were often dry and flat.

So when a story struck me two years ago, I seriously thought I’d be crazy to write it down. Now that I’ve written four books in those two years, and have managed to pump up the story lines while finding my voice, I realized I’ve been a storyteller all along.

No, I’ve never published in journals or anthologies or have stacks of childhood journals stocked away.


I played Barbies. And I played hardcore; all hours of the night, long after my friends were tired of the same ole story lines. Barbie play always started the same–at least in my world. Barbie had an awesome life with an awesome two-story house and an awesome pink convertible (who could ask for more???)…but something was missing. Her other-half (whom was never named Ken, fyi) would come around either as a gardener, new neighbor, cabin checker on the Barbie Cruise, etc, etc, corny etc.


They’d fall in love at first sight. They’d be swept away into dances, dates, dinners, first handholds, first kisses, marriage and children. I’d create their happily ever after, just to sit back and smile…then do it all over again the next night.

I was seriously addicted to Barbies until an embarrassing age. Ask my friends. Okay don’t.

Looking back at those stories I created, I don’t think it’s such a stretch that I’ve become a writer. I simply didn’t have the tools at the time (or the confidence) to put the words to paper.

And now as I sit back and watch my daughter LOVE Barbies, I can’t help but smile.


Not all story tellers start the same. Not everyone’s journey leads them from logical point A to logical point B. Sometimes the greatest stories are developed between two friends dressing up Barbie for the ball well past midnight.

Tuns out I was a story teller all along…just not the “typical”. What about you? When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Was it something you always knew? Or was it something you recently discovered?

Beginnings

Hook the reader from the first page, first paragraph, first line.

Catch an agent’s attention from the get-go–they don’t have time to read until the action pics up after chapter five.

Everyone knows you have to SMASH your beginning. You should start out with a scene that evokes emotion, shows not tells the important traits of your main characters, and sets up the conflict for the rest of your book. But you also have to start with a scene that is true to the rest of your story. You should clue the reader in as to what kind of a story they’re going to be reading.

Personally, I like dark romances with super-protective alpha males who aren’t afraid to fight for what they want and paranormal creatures who feel real…but I still have to be able to sleep at night without thinking I’m being stalked by something that could actually be lurking in the shadows behind my door. Know what I mean? (I want to be swept away to another world when I bend back the binding, not living in my own with creepy creatures.) If I open a book in a bookstore and skim the first few pages yet read nothing about a vampire, shapeshifter, or some kick-ass magic wielded by some kick-ass hero or heroine, I’m going to pick up another book and try again.

Yesterday someone asked me, “How did you know where to start your book?”

I said, “Start from the moment your hero or heroine’s life changes. Throw in some major conflict, possibly introduce them (and me as the reader) to the other leads in the story. And let the reader know what style of story (and style of writing) they can expect from the rest of your book.”

The person said, “I have this idea…(then went into the idea which I’m not about to share here *wink), and the beginning is rock solid. After that, though, they have to go on this journey (think Lord of the Rings without the focus), and then the action picks up again later…about a third of the way through.”

Let me say, firstly, that I’m one opinion…and I’m not even published yet so I don’t know how much my opinion counts anyway. Secondly, I think their idea was good. They could easily start at the third point in the book, when the characters are flush into the action, and weave backstory in as they go. Their book wouldn’t feel like a let down. (Meaning: If I started a book with a kick-ass action scene teeming with conflict, that’s what I’d expect all the way through. If I came to a hundred page hiatus with nothing but a single character’s journey, I’d probably put down the book and push it aside.)

So YES beginnings have to be good. YES, beginnings are important. YES, you should spend time crafting your beginning so that you can catch the attention of that coveted agent, then that coveted editor.

But this is true for the rest of your story. You should put just as much time into the last two-thirds of your book as you did making the first-third shine.

Now I have to put my own words to use. I’m working on the last 20K of Immortal, Beloved right now. The climax is approaching. All my characters are joining together to fight the impending evil. Oh, I’m excited. Someone’s going to try to unleash creatures from hell…and he’s going to succeed to a certain degree…but my characters will put up one hell of a fight. Some will die. Some will live. All will love.

Today, put your beginning aside. Stop mashing it up. Take a look at your middle and grow from there.

Silent Sunday

I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all. ~Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977

*I’m on a mission to hurl at least 5000 words at the WIP today. I’ll be up all hours of the night. Wish me luck.

Research, Fort Point, and a Giveaway Reminder!

Many people see the Golden Gate for what it is. A stretch of beautiful bridge that spans San Francisco Bay. A landmark that’s often blanketed in curtains of fog.

But many people fail to see what’s beneath it. No, I’m not talking about the goliath ships that sail beneath it’s frame. Nor am I talking about the whales that visit the inland shores.

I’m talking about Fort Point.

The fortress stood strong, protecting San Francisco harbor from attack during the Civil War. (As it turns out, Confederate ships were on their way into SF Bay, ready to attack the Fort and control the west, when they discovered the war had ended. Only a few weeks earlier and there might’ve been a battle between the South and the West!) During World War II, Fort Point was used to keep a watchful eye on the anti-submarine net that stretched across the mouth of the bay and back.

Now, it’s a National Historic Site. An awesome one. It also happens to be the scene for my kick-ass climax of my work-in-progress. I researched the heck out of the place online. I tapped into every resource I could find. (Mainly Google, Wikipedia, and the Fort Point site itself.) But for some reason, my vision fell short.

I didn’t just want to know about the Fort. I wanted to see it with my own eyes. I wanted to feel it. The fading brick and mortar walls. The dusty stone floor. I wanted to know if chills would creep up my neck when I descended down one of the three steep (and very dark) staircases. I wanted to feel that unforgiving San Francisco wind bite at my face when I traipsed along the roof.

And boy, did I get what I asked for. All that, and then some.

Take a gander…


*The drive over the Bay Bridge


*Can you see Fort Point? It’s the tiny building under the Golden Gate on the left.


*A closer view


*The courtyard


*Me behind bars.


*One of the MANY cannons.


*And me again, conquering a stack of 128-lb cannon balls. These deadly puppies could skip over the ocean waves and blast through the hull of a ship from a whopping two miles away!


*One of those creepy hallways I knew was there. My camera lit up the halls pretty good, but in reality they were DARK. Such good material. I’m gonna use the heck out of every spooky nook and cranny.


*View of the light tower from the roof. It was SO COLD. I couldn’t stay up there longer than about five minutes. I can’t imagine what it would be like in winter…at night.

Overall, I’m glad I went. My huge climactic battle scene is going to have so much more dimension than it would have before. It’s one thing to read about Fort Point’s haunts online…it’s something else entirely to experience it first hand.

**Side note: Don’t forget Sophie Littlefield’s book giveaway ends tomorrow. I’m going to choose a winner randomly from the people who commented on that specific Author Spotlight post. If you’re interested in entering, you can find information on the giveaway under “Labels” and “Sophie Littlefield” or “Pararomance Contests”.

COVER ART!

Major squealage over here! I’m jumping out of my skin! I’m so excited to finally be able to share my cover art for Dark Tide Rising…

Here it is…

You ready?

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Love the anticipation? Yup. That’s how I felt when I loaded up my email this afternoon. Isn’t it beautiful? A sea facing cave…dreary Humboldt weather…rocky Northern California shoreline…red letters bleeding into gray…my name on the bottom! (See how I sneaked that last part in there?)

It’s. Absolutely. Perfect.

I couldn’t have asked for a better cover.

HUGE thanks to Kimberlee Mendoza, the talented-beyond-words-I’m-going-to-squeeze-her-if-I-ever-meet-her cover artist, and Rae Monet, the cover art coordinator at The Wild Rose Press.

I don’t have a release date yet, but that should be coming soon. My grin is lighting up the night sky…can you see it?

Run your race

I’ve been thinking a lot about my running progress…well, more like focusing on the pain as I push through yet another grueling session. I still can’t push myself further than about a mile before I start to think my knee is going to explode. But as of today, my lungs feel fine. It didn’t take me as long to recover as it did two weeks ago. And that’s awesome.

As I sat in a hurdler’s stretch on my front lawn this morning, so happy that I managed to minimally limp on my run, the fifty-something guy down the street blew passed my house like he was going for Olympic Gold in the 100m dash. I picked my jaw up off the concrete. He lives, like, 2 miles away for goodness sake! I reigned in my death glare. He looked at me and waved. I waved back, very unenthused and still sweating bullets. Just before he passed my house he yelled, “Have a good day!” He wasn’t even out of breath. You can’t imagine the profanity that flew through my head.

I went from feeling like this…

…to feeling like this, in two seconds flat…

My good day was shot. The old dude was gone on his run for over an hour. I know because I watched out my window with a big ass bag of potato chips. He jet by the house on his way back, too. He still didn’t look winded. I started wondering how it’s possible that a guy like that is able to make me feel like I’m not even moving. I’m not going anywhere. I’ll never get to that point–it’s so far off the horizon for me right now. I can barely drag my feet around a mile loop!

I got to thinking…

I’ve felt this feeling before. I’ve been feeling it all week actually. And I’m not only talking about my pathetic runs that make me feel like I should invest in canes and walkers right now. I’m talking about my writing journey.

I got my first rejection from a New York editor yesterday. It hurt. Much more than I thought it would. I think I’ve got pretty tough skin for a writer. I take almost everything constructively. The rejection, although coming from a very nice person with very good intentions, didn’t come off so nice. It was brief. Too brief to make me think I can make it in this industry.

I drowned my sorrows in my current read, Carnal Sin. I got to thinking that I’ll never reach Allison Brennan’s status. If an editor who KNOWS this business thinks it’s not good enough, then maybe I’m far off base.

More than a mile off base.

It was after I took a day (or two) to have a mini-pity-party that I realized everyone has a different race to run. I don’t know how long Brennan wrote before she was published or before she hit bestselling status. I don’t know what kind of rejections she got or what they said. And I shouldn’t care. Not one bit. I should be focused on my journey. Some people reach success faster with seemingly little strife (damn you all), and some have to work and fight and toil and bubble for their success, for every little inch.

I was hoping to be the former. Looks like I’m just gonna have to keep pushing around that mile loop until I can sprint it without my knee giving me so much as a wince. I don’t know how long it will take me…but I don’t know how long that old dude has been running either. Maybe his six or seven mile sprint is off base from what he thinks is “good”. (In what universe, right?)

Likewise, I have to run my race with this uber-critical writing biz. I have to find an agent who believes in my work as much as I do–one that’ll offer to run with me on this journey.

I don’t know if this is going to fall on deaf ears, but if you’ve ever felt like you’re racing to catch up in this business…like everyone seems to have it so much easier…or everyone is one step ahead…remember they’re not. Everyone is running a different race with different motivations and different end goals.

Just run your race. Focus on your end goal instead of the success of those around you. I know I am. From here on out.*

*Except if I see old runner dude tomorrow I’m gonna have to bite down on my lip to keep from kicking dirt on his damned sweat-free shirt.

True Colors

I have a new issue in my writing. It’s attributing color to my character’s hair, skin, eyes, etc.

In the FIRST DRAFT of my WIP, I wrote that my heroine has one blue eye, one brown. (Think Kate-Bosworth-esque)

When the hero first sees her, he remarks her eyes, and says there’s more vibrance in them than a lush river valley. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking. *slams hand to forehead.

I must’ve been looking out over this as I wrote the line:

Seriously, that’s the view I have when I write…no wonder a lush valley came to mind, huh?

Or maybe I was thinking about the beauty of this:

Which is where I golf…if you can call double-bogeying every hole golfing. Side note: I think the way I play should be called something like “woman whacking at ball with metal rod”.

Anyhow, thanks to my critique partner Lisa, I realized that’s a HORRIBLE way for the hero to think of the heroine’s eyes. Now, this is when the epiphany hit me.

Saying a heroine’s eyes are as colorful and lush as a fertile river valley wouldn’t be so out of place if the hero is a farmer/cowboy who works valley land and appreciates its beauty. But my hero is a kick-ass shapeshifting assassin who’s lived in the city his whole life.

Do you see the difference? I didn’t at first. I do now.

Issue x2: My heroine in Enemy, Beloved is a chocoholic. (Who has absolutely nothing in common with me. Nope. No way.) Anytime I’m in her POV, and I’m describing something brown (ie: hero’s hair color, hero’s eyes), instead of using something bland like auburn, I use types of chocolate…his hair is mocha brown. His eyes are melted dark chocolate.

That’s a hell of a lot better than using mahogany for that character or simply saying brown, don’t you think?

This is my challenge for Immortal, Beloved. All colors must be true to character. No cop outs.

And you know what? If I had to pick a color for myself this morning, I’d pick Scattered Sienna. Yup. About sums up my morning…and this post. Pardon me as I bury my head back where it belongs–in my WIP. *dives back into action sequence where I describe secondary character’s gray eyes as gunmetal gray. heh.

Fun Friday!

Howdy from Barnes and Noble!

I decided to leave my brand new desk setup (which I’ll post pictures of next week–I tried yesterday but they didn’t come out right) and seek writing shelter in a local bookstore. I thought delving into Chapter 2 might flow easier away from home.

Not to mention I just HAD to buy Kiersten White’s Paranormalcy

…and Monica McCarty’s The Hawk.

(Edited to add: just look at these covers! How could I resist?)

How’s my writing going, you ask? How thoughtful of you…

Dark Tide Rising is still waiting on a release date and final edits from The Wild Rose Press.

Enemy, Beloved is still on submission in New York. (And believe me, as soon as I hear ANYTHING I’ll post here.)

Immortal, Beloved is…well it’s…um…let’s just put it this way: I’ve written three different versions of Chapter 2 and none of them feel right. Something is missing. And as long as something is missing I’ll keep reworking it.

I don’t know why, but the first three chapters are always the hardest for me. Some people write like a top. (Remember those little spinning toys?) They get an idea, spin that story and are off at super-high speeds until they fall off their chair from exhaustion 400 pages later.

I’m kind of like a train. It takes a whole lot of effort to get up to speed, but once I’m going, I’M GOING. From there, top speed is within reach and I can speed through the ending rather smoothly.

Speaking of a train and smooth writing, I have to get back onboard and write!

Have a great Labor Day weekend!