Tuesday, July 22, 2014

NOW AVAILABLE: General Misconduct

General Misconduct is now available from Samhain Publishing! Note that while this is a sequel/spinoff to Conduct Unbecoming, it can be read as a standalone. Currently available from Samhain, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I'll add additional links to my website as they go live.


Ensign Aiden Lange is taking a hike—and it’s not for the pleasure of seeing Okinawa’s Hiji Falls. It’s in the hope that claiming he took a fall on the rocks will cover up the fact he was beaten up in a gay bar. Not a place a Naval Academy grad wants to get caught, not if he’s serious about his career.
At the end of the trail, a surprise comes with the scenery. A gorgeous young guy in swim trunks.
Connor didn’t come up to the falls to find a man, but he’s instantly intrigued by the ensign with the bandaged eyebrow. A hike turns into dinner, and before he knows it, he’s up to his heart in love with the gentle, infinitely patient Aiden.
It’s a small world, though, and an even smaller island. It’s only a matter of time before they’re caught by a man who’s more than just Connor’s overprotective father. He’s also Aiden’s high-ranking boss. Someone with the power to force Aiden to choose—Connor, or his naval career.
Warning: Contains two adorable guys who don’t give a damn that the deck’s stacked against them, plenty of sex on the beach, and the hottest application of sunscreen you’ve ever read.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Quick Update on the Rolex Contest

The contest to pick Rolex's name has closed, but Aleks and I are still debating names. Also, Aleks will be starting a new job very soon, so his writing time (and headspace) will be limited for a while.

Rest assured, we'll pick a name soon, and Rolex's story will happen. It just might take a bit more time as Aleks settles into this new chapter in his life.

Stay tuned for updates!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Conferences: How NOT to Lose Your Mind

Conference season is in full swing. Having attended a couple this season, not to mention several in previous years, I decided to write up a post on how to go to cons without going insane. Because let's face it: they're stressful. I've previously blogged about whether or not you should attend them, but let's assume you've made the decision to go, and talk about what lies ahead. I won't be getting into things like how many books you should bring, or how you should travel, or what kind of swag. This is all about managing stress.

Right off the bat, I'd like to invite authors, readers, publishers, etc., who've attended conferences to post their own advice/experiences in the comments. Nothing about this post is intended to scare anyone away from cons, but rather to be open and realistic about what they're like and how to cope with them. Everyone's experience and coping methods are different, so there's no way I can cover everything. If you have any advice for attendees, please feel free to comment.

Moving on...

The vast majority of this comes down to two things:

  1. Know Thy Limits. You, better than anyone else, know how much (and what kind of) stress you can cope with.
  2. Take Care of Thyself. It is 100% okay to do whatever you need to do in order to manage that stress.

Writing conferences tend to be heavily populated by introverts. If you're concerned about social anxiety cropping up at a con, you'll be in good company. Trust me, nobody at a conference like this is going to judge you for it, because chances are, well, we've all been there. (And if they do judge you, they're jerks.)

I've observed two things that help people cope with social anxiety at conferences:

  1. Don't overbook. Conventions are busy. There are usually multiple events going on at any given time. You don't have to go to anything, and you do not have to be at an event at all times. I think I attended two panels at RT this year. The rest of the time, when I wasn't off getting a tattoo, I hung out in the bar or checked out the vendors upstairs. I even disappeared up to my room to write for a little while. Of course you should go to the panels and such you want to attend, but if you find yourself sweating over the schedule or sprinting between events, take it easy. You don't have to attend everything, especially not if it's going to stress you out.
  2. Have a bunker buddy. Have someone there who "gets" you. Someone who knows your limits, and knows when you've reached them. Aleksandr Voinov and I tend to be joined at the hip at cons, and it's not just because we're partners in crime. He knows before I do when I've reached saturation, and vice versa, and at every single con we've attended together, there's been at least one moment where one of us has dragged the other away from an event or situation before someone cracked. 
Remember that the vast, vast majority of people at these cons either experience some level of social anxiety, or know people who do. Also, remember that at any time during a convention -- even during The Big Party That Everyone Is Attending -- it's okay to disappear to your room with a book and a bottle of wine. I assure you, at any given time, there will be other people doing the very same thing.

Speaking of The Big Party That Everyone Is Attending -- It's okay not to go. Seriously. I've been to eight conferences in the last three years, and have blown off at least one major event at every single one of them. Why? Because by the time the party starts at 7pm or later, I've already run myself ragged, overloaded myself, and just need a break. There's a very good chance that when The Big Party That Everyone Is Attending is in full swing, you'll find me in the bar or lobby playing Cards Against Humanity with a few other social refugees. Feel free to join us!

The thing is, not everyone likes big noisy parties. Not everyone likes dressing up or wearing costumes. Not everyone likes to dance. (No, really.) No one will think less of you if you prefer to slip away with a small group of friends (or by yourself) for a quiet dinner, a card game, or even just a long bath with the door locked and three Do Not Disturb signs hanging from the handle.

And speaking of going back to your room...

Choose Thy Roommate(s) Wisely.

Most people at cons share a room. Roommates can mean the difference between a $1,000 bill and a $500 or even $250 bill, so it only makes sense. That said, it's a good idea to really think about who you'll be rooming with for upwards of a week.  I've had disastrous roommate arrangements, and I've had roommates who were sanity savers. There's a reason Aleks and I room together whenever possible -- we keep each other sane!

While sharing a room with your BFF might sound like a good idea on the surface, there are some things to think about. Is the person going to be getting up at 8 am and running a hair dryer while you're sleeping off a hangover? Do you see the room as a place to escape the chaos and decompress, while your roommate would just as soon install a revolving door and bring in people you may or may not know at all hours of the night? (Don't laugh -- I've experienced that.)  Is one of you hyper while the other is incredibly mellow? This can work or it can be disastrous -- just be aware of how you feel around the other person and how that will work if one of you is stressed.

Establish rules upfront, and don't be afraid to enforce them. Make it clear whether or not other people can come back to the room. Make a decision about charging things to the room (room service, food at the restaurant, alcohol) so nobody has a heart attack when the final bill comes out.

If at all possible, have a backup plan -- someone you can stay with if things turn sour or if you and your roommate(s) just aren't compatible.

And finally, if you can afford it, don't be afraid to room alone. You are not obligated to take in roommates if you know you'll be saner and happier on your own. It's okay to say no, and you don't have to justify it. Some people even room off-site so they can completely escape the con (and save some money).

The bottom line is, conferences are hectic and stressful enough without roommate drama. Your room should be the place you can go to catch your breath and decompress -- if that room is a stressful environment, you're going to be in a bad spot. Be proactive about minimizing that drama, and you'll be fine.

Shifting gears entirely for a moment...

Let's talk about book signings.

Most conferences include a mass book signing. Rows of tables are set up, and every author within a hundred mile radius sits down to sell and sign books. Even at small conferences, these signings get pretty crazy. At the big ones like RT? Utter madness. I understand RT set a world record this year for largest book signing, in between having the fire marshal losing his mind because of the sheer quantity of people in the room, so that should tell you something.

I want to preface this by saying book signings are a  lot of fun. And they're great for authors -- you get to meet your readers, you get to sell some books, and there's also that "OMG I'm a for real author" feeling that comes with sitting at a table at a book signing (or maybe that's just me, but whatever). Please don't take any of this as "book signings are scary and should be avoided at all costs."

That said, I'm not going to beat around the bush: Book signings are stressful.

They're crowded. They tend to get hot. They are LOUD. Having a line of people in front of your table is as stressful as having no one stopping at your table. You will probably forget something (I forgot PENS at a book signing). You have to be "on" the entire time -- not necessarily interacting with people, but ready to interact with them. By the time it's over, you will probably be exhausted.

Way to go, Lori. Let's make book signings look like an utter nightmare.

I promise, they're not. But it's better to know this stuff upfront than to find out the hard way, and with this info in mind, you can better prepare yourself.

So how do you prepare for a book signing?

1. I highly recommend attending one as a reader first. My first convention ever was RT in 2012, and while I attended as a published author, I declined to get a table at the signing. Instead, I went in as a reader and just checked it out. Got a feel for the crowd, the noise, etc. You will not have wasted a con if you elect not to sign -- you can always sign at the next one when you're better prepared. Or you can choose not to if you find that environment overwhelming.

2. Have a support system. Riptide Publishing came up with the brilliant idea of survival kits for their authors. At RT, they brought everyone cool little lunchboxes with munchies and water, and that can make a huge difference. It also helps to have a friend who isn't signing come by and check on you from time to time. They can bring water if you need it, or talk you down if you're starting to get overwhelmed.

3. Don't make plans after the signing. Unless those plans include "chill in my room" or "low key lunch away from the con with like 3 people who don't stress me out," just...don't. Expect to be exhausted. Expect to be at social saturation. Give yourself some time to decompress. If you're the type who can bounce back and go to a giant, noisy event right after a signing, then by all means, do so. But most authors who I've talked to find that they need some downtime after something like that. I know one author who will disappear up to her room and sleep until dinner. Another won't speak until she's halfway through a bag of throat lozenges. Myself? I usually spend 15-20 minutes catching my breath in my room, then go eat with a small group of friends. It's up to you to know your limits and know what you need to do, but the bottom line is to accept those limits and do what you need to shift gears after a signing.

4. Remember that, like anything at a con, book signings are not mandatory. If the mere thought of walking into a book signing makes your heart race, don't. I won't tell you to "just relax", because I know a lot of people reading this are socially anxious, and "just relax" is about as helpful as telling someone with a migraine to "just ignore it." Hopefully my tips above can help some people have a less stressful time at a book signing, but it's up to you to know your limits, and if the phrase "book signing" makes you think "NOPE"...don't.

One last thing about cons... do not underestimate the bar. I don't drink, but I spend a significant portion of every con hanging out in the bar. Why? Because that's where people go to relax and let their hair down. That's where you can go chill with your readers or your favorite authors in a low-key environment. Plus it's where the most hilarious stories are usually told, so...win.

In closing... 

So now I've made conferences sound incredibly terrifying, but I promise, it really is just a matter of knowing what to expect and knowing how to minimize or cope with it. Cons are great fun and an awesome place to network, but they are stressful. So...

With the authority granted to me by absolutely no one except myself, I hereby grant every author, reader, publisher, blogger, reviewer, etc., permission to do whatever they deem necessary, within the laws set forth by whatever city is hosting the conference, to manage their own stress level without having to justify it or apologize for it.

Never, ever feel obligated to stress yourself out for someone else. It is absolutely 100% okay to say "I've had enough" or "I don't want to go." If anyone gives you crap for bowing out of an event, don't hang out with them, because they're buttheads.

And if you're at a con, and you can't find a group to socialize with or you're afraid to approach a group, come find me at the bar. I'll be the one with glasses laughing my head off while playing Cards Against Humanity, and there's always room for more players.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Who Is Rolex? We're Asking You...

So Aleksandr Voinov and I are spiraling closer to writing the Market Garden book that we know a lot of you have been waiting for: Rolex's story.

We know his story. We know who we're going to hook him up with. (It's going to be hot, y'all. So hot.)

Yesterday, we were pondering what to call Rolex, since presumably his parents didn't name him after a luxury watch brand in hopes he would eventually become successful and develop a taste for the finer things in life. And it occurred to us that we could turn this into something fun for you, our readers.

So.

Here's how it works:

Rolex needs a name.  I guess in a way he's kind of like the childlike Empress in The Neverending Story. The story can't go on until he gets a name. Except he's not childlike, not an empress, and no fantasy worlds will actually fall apart if he doesn't get a new name. Though I suppose he does live in an ivory tower of sorts. (This is what happens when I write blog posts before I've had caffeine.)

Anyway. Where was I? Right. He's an American businessman, and his name could very well determine things about his background. We're hooking him up with a guy named Jason, so...we can't name him Jason. I mean, we could, but it would be really confusing, and Aleks and I are easily confused as it is. So no Jasons.

What's in it for you? A dedication in Rolex's book, plus a signed copy of If It Drives or Capture & Surrender (winner's choice) and an ebook off each of our backlists.

What do you have to do? Name Rolex. It's that easy. Comment on this blog with a name -- as many as you can think of -- and we'll select the winner. It's entirely possible that we might pick a first name from one entry and a surname from another, in which case both winners will receive prizes and a nod in the book. If there are a bunch of really awesome names and we remain undecided, we might even have y'all vote on the finalists! (And if you seen an entry you really like, feel free to comment to that effect!)

Deadline for entries: June 11, 2014.

Judges: Aleks and L.A., with the possibility of voting if there are numerous awesome entries.

Go forth, brave readers! Name the man we all know as Rolex!

Monday, May 12, 2014

NOW AVAILABLE: Hostile Ground

Hostile Ground, a suspense novel written with Aleksandr Voinov, is now available from Riptide Publishing!  Also available on AllRomance, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

After the deaths of three undercover cops investigating a drug ring in a seedy strip club in Seattle, Detective Mahir Hussain has been sent to finish the job. He joins the club’s security team in the hopes of finding enough evidence to bust the operation before the men in charge find a reason to put him in a shallow grave.
To protect the strippers, only gay men can work the club. Ridley, the cold and intimidating head of security, knows exactly how to test potential new hires—including Mahir. From the minute they meet, Mahir and Ridley engage in a dangerous dance of sex and mind games. Mahir needs to find his evidence before Ridley figures out he’s a cop—and before they both grow too close to betray one another.
As the game goes on, Mahir burrows deeper into the operation, where he learns there’s much more happening than meets the eye . . . and why every cop who made it this far has been silenced with a bullet.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

So what's going on with Wilde's (aka The Distance Between Us)?

On Tuesday, the newest Wilde's story, No Distance Left to Run, will be released. I've had a few questions recently about how this book fits with the others in the series, what's going on with the series, etc., so I wanted to take this opportunity to answer them.

The Wilde's series, which is generally called The Distance Between Us series because it all started with the book by that title that was supposed to be a standalone but then... wasn't. A.J.'s Angel came along after that, and Kieran made a little cameo. And then he got his own story in The Closer You Get. And then recurring side character Dale got his own story in Meet Me in the Middle.  So as you can see, it kind of took on a life of its own.



Basically, the series has evolved into something not unlike Tucker Springs. They're all set in the same world (specifically in Seattle, with the night club Wilde's featuring heavily), and sometimes characters cross over into each other's stories, but aren't necessarily related outside of the night club. Wilde's actually made its first appearance in the standalone book, The Best Man, and I guess I was kind of attached to the place, so I keep going back to it. (What can I say? They have awesome Kamikazes...)

Which brings us to No Distance Left to Run, the first co-written Wilde's story, having been written with the other half of my brain, Aleksandr Voinov.


This book does have some cameos by previous characters. Liam is still the shift manager. Kieran is still tending bar. But Chris and Julien? They're new characters entirely. No Distance Left to Run is a standalone (though it will have a sequel), it just takes place in the Wilde's universe.

Will there be more? It's hard to say. Like I said, I keep gravitating back to Wilde's, and now that my co-author extraordinaire has joined me there, it's a safe bet that we'll revisit the place together.

Hopefully I didn't just make it even more confusing. LOL  I hope Wilde's fans will enjoy this newest installment and the new set of characters... and stay tuned for news about the sequel!

No Distance Left to Run is available May 13th from Samhain Publishing.

Monday, April 28, 2014

NOW AVAILABLE: It's Complicated

The seventh book in the multi-author Tucker Springs series, It's Complicated, is now available from Riptide Publishing, as well as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomance.

After their umpteenth breakup, Brad Sweeney and Jeff Hayden are living apart and starting over from scratch. The morning after a promising first date, they’re more optimistic than ever that they can make it work this time . . . until Jeff’s ex-wife and business partner calls to announce she’s pregnant with Jeff’s baby. Brad’s already competing with a demanding business for Jeff’s time. Now there’s a baby on the way, and worse, he’s afraid Jeff is still carrying a torch for the woman who’s carrying his child.

Jeff is desperately trying to keep his life together, but before he can even get his head around the news that he’s going to be a father, his ex announces that she wants to leave Tucker Springs. Now he either has to take over her role at the shop while ferrying the baby back and forth from Denver, or move the business—and himself—with her.

Brad and Jeff knew reconciliation wouldn’t be easy, but they’re rapidly running out of room for compromise. And sooner or later, something has to give.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Winners! Finally!

So apparently if you hold a contest, it's customary to not only select winners, but announce them. In my defense, there's been a lot going on behind the scenes lately, and my brain has been, shall we say, preoccupied. (And, well, let's face it -- I have the attention span of a hummingbird)

ANYWAY.

There was a contest.

And these are the winners and the silly titles which earned them the title of winner (it's like winception...):

Andy - That Doesn't Go There
K Nac - Weresnails Do It Longer
Nicole - Purple Pussy Eater
Jen CW - Her Thing Has Teeth
Kelly - 8 Simple Safewords

Winners, if you haven't heard from me already, please e-mail me to claim your prize! I need a mailing address and your title of choice (plus a second or third alternative, just in case I'm out of your first choice). If you will be at RT or the UK LGBT meet up, let me know, and I will bring the books to give you in person.

Thanks for playing, everyone! There will be more silliness and prizes in the future.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

NOW AVAILABLE: Roped In (written with Marie Sexton)

So Marie Sexton and I have joined forces, and the result is a kinky little contemporary cowboy novella called Roped In. The book is available now from Amber Allure, and will be on sites such as Amazon and AllRomance soon. 


Graham and his roping partner Jackson have ruled the rodeo scene for ten years running, but lately, Graham’s heart isn’t in the game. He’s tired of the bruises, the cowboy mentality, and the animal rights activists who picket every event. And then there’s Jackson. 
Graham and Jackson have been friends since they were boys. But ever since their drunken sexual encounter the year before, things have been awkward. Graham’s accepted that he might be gay, but no matter how attracted he is to other men, he always panics and runs when the clothes start to come off. 
Then Graham has a run-in with one of the rodeo protesters, and everything changes. Kaz is young, idealistic, and sexy as hell. And Kaz has an idea for getting Graham past his nerves and into bed. 
All they need is a bit of rope.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Writing Out of Sequence Without Scrambling Thy Brain Matter (Or 'How Some Scenes Are Like Stopping at a Rest Stop So Batman Can Pee')

At some point, during my early writing days, I started writing out of sequence. In the beginning, I wrote chronologically like most sane, reasonable people, but then I started skipping ahead. A scene would catch my attention and refuse to let me sleep, so I'd write that part, and then go back to writing the rest of the story in order. Over time, this madness evolved until my only inclination to write even remotely chronologically was to start with Chapter 1.  I still do that. After about 100 words, I'll probably flit over to Chapter 17 for a little while. These days, it's a rare occasion when I write a paragraph in order. This blog post? All over the place.

So how the hell does it work, anyway?

Before I get started, I want to throw this out there to anyone who's curious about out of sequence writing: If you have any questions about specifics, anything you want me to cover that I've completely neglected to, please put them in the comments of this post. Out of sequence writing is pretty much second nature to me now, so I'm not always sure what other writers want to know about it.

That said, I'll cover as much as I can in this post. I've covered a lot of this ground before, having blogged about these techniques here, here, and here. So I'll probably repeat myself a little bit, but we'll just blame that on the ADHD and move on.

Let's start with a little bit on how to write out of sequence, and then I'll get to why, advantages/disadvantages, Batman, etc.

How to Write Out of Sequence

There's no one way to write out of sequence. If there was, that would mean this was a sane, reasonable technique employed by sane, reasonable people, but it's not. So, I'll offer tips and pointers based on how I do it, but please take them all with an entire mine full of salt. Should you try any of them and find they are disastrous on an "invade Russia in the winter" level, then by all means, reject them.

First, let's talk about documents and files. Most people I know who write out of sequence swear by Scrivener. I have a copy, but haven't learned to use it yet, so I can't speak with any authority about how well it works. I know several authors who love it, though, especially if they're not chronological writers.

I'm a creature of habit, and I write in MS Word. Each chapter is its own document, and when a chapter is complete, it's dropped into a folder creatively called "Finished Chapters."

But how in the world do I keep track of what happens in those chapters?

Well...

Okay, we all know what's coming. I know this is going to make a few people hit the brakes and yell "NOPE!", but hear me out, y'all.

If you're going to write out of sequence without losing your sanity, you'll probably want to at least consider outlining. I know some authors do this without an outline, but I have no idea how they manage it, and if I tried, my brain would melt out of my left nostril. In the interest of keeping brain matter out of my sinuses, which have already been mercilessly ravaged by the brutal Nebraska winter, I'm going to let those people do their thing while I do mine. So, let's talk about outlining for a moment.

I know that word is enough to make some authors break out in hives or have flashbacks to high school English. This is because high school is a powerful thing that can turn Shakespeare into something as exciting as dried peanut  butter and reduce World War II to a dull landscape of names and dates. So let's start by evicting everything high school ever taught us about outlines. I hereby grant each and every one of you permission to forget everything your English teacher beat into you about outlines. There are no rules. There are no requirements. You don't have to use letters, followed by numbers, followed by Roman numerals, followed by...you get the idea.

You also do not have to stick with your outline. As I've mentioned in many previous posts, my hard and fast (hehe, hard and fast) rule of outlining is that if the characters and outline disagree, the characters always win. If you deviate from your outline, no one is going to flunk you or leave snide comments in the margins. Remember that your outline serves you. Therefore, it should be written, formatted, and adhered to only inasmuch as it helps you, the author, write your story. If you work best with a strict, detailed outline, then that's your style. If you work best with something vague and brief, there you go.

All of that being said, I'm one of those vague, flexible outliners. Each chapter gets a one-line summary so I remember what's supposed to happen there. It can be as simple as "They meet."  Notice how there's nothing indicating where, how, why, or if there's a malfunctioning cotton candy machine involved. That's because my outline is not there to dictate every detail of the scene. Rather, it's there so I know at a glance the order of events. Do the characters meet before the Corvette incident, but after the fishing trip? Awesome. Now I know whether or not they can make comments about the rabid bass they caught, or if the love interest already has the imprint on his forehead from the Corvette symbol. So basically, the outline helps me keep the story's chronology straight so I can write out of sequence without creating continuity errors.

And to reiterate: If the characters and outline disagree, the characters always win. So if you find yourself working on a scene in chapter 13 that illuminates a fatal error with chapter 4, run with it and change chapter 4. If chapter 7 actually needs to come after chapter 17, rearrange, renumber, and continue.

So basically...

  1. Have an outline or at least a vague plan unless you're one of those human-alien hybrids who can do this on the fly.
  2. Let thy characters guide you.

Also, precisely how out of sequence you write is entirely up to you. Some people write entire scenes. Some people write a few paragraphs here and there, and eventually sew them all together into a cohesive scene. Me, I'm all over the place. I usually have at least 300-500 words in every chapter of a book before I ever finish one chapter. Then I'll just add 100 or so here and there, and eventually...it's done.

So there really isn't a particular method for out of sequence writing. The biggest thing is just to keep yourself organized enough to know what to write and where, but not so strictly outlined/planned that you suffocate yourself. I know, that doesn't sound terribly helpful. "Just do what you want and try not to get lost."  But that's pretty much what it boils down to.

Okay, but why? It sounds kind of complicated.

So...

What are some of the advantages of writing out of sequence?

A lot of the pros/cons have been covered in the previous blog posts I linked above. Preventing continuity errors, ridiculously easy foreshadowing, etc. A couple of things I'd particularly like to highlight in this post:

  1. Some scenes are a pain in the ass to write.
  2. Some books are a pain in the ass to finish.
Let's face it: Even the easiest book that's just rocking its way out of your head via your fingers is going to have its moments. It's kind of like being on a road trip with awesome friends and Batman. You're flying down the interstate, having the time of your life with your friends and Batman, listening to the radio and Batman's stories and totally not questioning why a) you haven't seen a cop for the last 100 miles or b) Batman's even hanging out with you, but...

...sooner or later, someone will have to stop and pee. I'm not naming names or necessarily saying Batman's the one who's gotta pee, but one way or another, you're eventually going to have to start watching for a gas station or rest stop, slow down, pull into a parking space, and come down from your high-while-sober euphoria of fun to peruse a dirty convenience store's snack aisle while you wait for Batman to come out of the bathroom. Then it's back on the road for more fun and Batman.

Which is an incredibly long and belabored way of saying...sometimes you stall or hit a not-so-fun-to-write part of the book. Sometimes there's a scene you just don't feel like writing. I've argued many times with people who think that if a scene is difficult or troublesome to write, it's probably going to be difficult or troublesome to read. If I don't feel like writing it, the reader won't feel like reading it. I disagree. Honestly, every single one of my books has at least one scene that I beat my head against before it finally came together. There are some scenes that were so difficult to write for whatever reason, I would literally add 2-3 sentences, then go work on something else. For weeks.


The thing is, not every exciting-to-read scene is exciting to write. And sometimes, in order to get from one exciting-to-write scene to another, you need another scene in between that is necessary and interesting to read, but for whatever reason, excruciating to write. Writing that scene is the Batman pee break of the road trip: like it or not, it's gotta happen.

For  me, the Batman pee breaks are usually sex scenes and car chases. Car chases are seriously the bane of my existence, and for reasons I'll never fully understand, I find sex scenes incredibly difficult to write. But since I write erotic fiction, they are obviously necessary.

But what in the name of all that's good and unholy does this have to do with writing out of sequence?

Everything, my dear friends. Everything.

Imagine, if you will, that you're on your road trip with Batman. Now imagine you're like fifty miles from Vegas, and you are itching to sit down at the baccarat table and out-baccarat James Bond. And a hundred miles after that, you're going to visit Area 51 and are guaranteed to witness an alien abduction complete with televised anal probing.

What if you could teleport ahead, skip the miles of desert and the OMG Batman seriously another freaking pee breaks, and park your butt at the baccarat table? And once you were done with that, you could snap your fingers and be in your front row lawn chair at Area 51?

Guess what?

YOU TOTALLY CAN.

Skip ahead. Write the baccarat scene. Then skip ahead again and write the Area 51 scene. While you're at it, jump back to the pre-baccarat driving and write in a witty, foreshadowy snippet of dialogue that you hadn't thought of before. When those are done, time warp all the way to the end and write the wicked cool epilogue involving a reincarnated Joan of Arc and a disembodied owl brain.

See? Words are flying! The scenes are landing on paper, and they're awesome! A few more scenes, and you're done with this bad boy!

Which of course brings us back to Batman and his temperamental bladder.

Yes, we can skip around and write all the exciting-to-write scenes, and knock out all the scenes that just wanted to happen right now, but sooner or later, you're gonna have to suck it up, pull into a rest stop, and let the dude do his business.

In my case, this usually means going back and writing at least one or two of the sex scenes, or going back and finally finishing that car chase which is currently nothing more than a dozen or so sentences scattered throughout an otherwise blank document because OMG car chases are going to be the literary (not literal!) death of me.

So... really? Now we have to sit down and write the scenes that are really hard to write? Now that all the cool scenes are done?

Yes.  But look at it this way: those scenes are the only thing standing between you and a finished book.

Just last week I was wrapping up Razor Wire, my lesbian  military romance. That book had been flyyyying out of my fingertips, words hitting the page like... like... okay, let's just let this one go before I find a way to bring it back to Batman stopping and peeing again. Point being, Razor Wire was flying.

Except for the second sex scene. I was flitting all over the book, adding 100 words here and 500 there, but every time I came to that scene...crickets.

I couldn't take the scene out because it was necessary for the story. There was nothing wrong with the scene, I just...didn't feel like writing it. It was that simple. Sort of like the car chase scene in The Given & The Taken. It was absolutely necessary to the story, and when it was finished, my betas were thrilled with it and fortunately couldn't tell that writing it was word dentistry.

With both the car chase in The Given & The Taken, and the sex scene in Razor Wire, I found myself in the same situation: the entire book was written except for that scene.

Now, it was still a struggle to finish those two scenes, but it made a huge difference knowing that once they were finished, the book would be finished. It was decidedly less daunting to approach those scenes knowing I'd be done with the entire manuscript, rather than "Okay, now on to the next 50,000 words..."

Bottom line, which I probably could have summed up in far fewer but considerably less entertaining words:

  1. Writing out of sequence allows you to write the scenes that your brain wants to write without a) blowing through the less interesting ones just to get to the good ones, or b) completely stalling out because you can't get past the less interesting ones.
  2. Writing out of sequence can also put you in a position where the less interesting scene is the only thing standing between you and a finished book.

A few points about that:

1. When I say "less interesting" scenes, I don't mean less interesting to read. Some scenes are just tougher to write, or aren't as exciting to write, but are still mission critical and absolutely interesting to read. Make sure you know the difference. Is this scene just tough to write? Or is your reluctance/difficulty a sign that there's a problem with the scene?  Does Batman really have to pee, or is he just being a jerk?

2. For some people, writing all the exciting stuff first can backfire. For me, it's like chapter peer pressure. All the other chapters are done, and they're glaring at chapters 15 and 23 like "WTF, dude? Get your head out of your butt," and that's enough to motivate me to pound out those chapters.  For others, once the fun stuff is done, they don't feel like writing the less fun stuff, and the manuscript stalls. Know thy mind, know thy limits.

As with anything, if a technique or explanation doesn't work for you, toss it aside and ignore it. Part of this game is figuring out what works, and there is no 'one size fits all' on this particular rack.

Hopefully at least some of this made some sense. If you have particular questions about out of sequence writing, please do put them into the comments, and I'll address them in a future post.

And I make no promises about whether or not Batman and his overactive bladder will appear in that future post...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Writing Fast While Maintaining (Some Of) Your Sanity (Or 'For the Love of Brackets and Grandmas Who Won't Shoplift)

I started writing at speed during NaNoWriMo 2008, and pretty much haven't stopped. My output is roughly 80,000 words a month, give or take 10-20K depending on what else is going on in my life. As such, I get a lot of questions about it, mostly "How?"

So, I decided to write up a post with some tips for writing faster. There's also some general commentary on not driving yourself crazy (and stalling out) with your story because in a lot of situations, the key to writing fast is knocking over some mental obstacles in your writing technique. i.e., spending less time banging your head against the keyboard and more time tapping your fingers on it.

First, I want to preface this by saying that writing fast does not equate to writing better. I can't write slow because I get frustrated and impatient. Other writers are solid and consistent at a few hundred words a day, and that's a comfortable pace for them. Please don't take anything in this post as a criticism against those writers. This is simply to answer the questions of people who want to understand and possibly adopt some of my techniques.

And as with everything, your mileage may vary. These techniques will not work for everyone, and that's perfectly okay. Please also bear in mind that I'm a full-time writer with no kids and very few obligations outside the home. Things like kids and day jobs obviously have an impact on how much time and headspace you have available to write. Hopefully some of these techniques can help you get as much written as possible during the time you have available.

With that out of the way, ONWARD!

How do I write fast? Basically, I...

Write out of sequence. There will be a post specifically about this soon, and I've blogged about it before (here, here, and here), so I won't go into lengthy detail here. Point being, I flit around from chapter to chapter and write bits and pieces, and when a scene really crystallizes, I'll fill in the gaps, sew all the little pieces together, and have a nice cohesive chapter.  More on that soon.

Obsess about word counts. This is how NaNoWriMo really helped me: With daily semi-tangible goals. By the time I was finished with NaNo in 2008, I had fallen into a rhythm of aiming for specific word counts every day. Before long, I had a spreadsheet that calculated how much I'd written that day and how much I had left to meet my goal.

That's not to say word counts are the end all, be all of writing. It goes without saying that quality trumps quantity. BUT... when I'm trudging along and hit one of those "I could call it a day" moments, and I see on my spreadsheet that I'm almost to the next 1,000 or 500 milestone, it's enough motivation to keep me writing until I hit that milestone. And more often than not, whatever I've written to hit that milestone is enough to give me a second (or third, or fourth) wind, which gets me almost to the next milestone, and so forth. It can mean the difference between a 900 word day and a 5,000 word day.

Related to that...

Set goals and keep them. I set daily, weekly, and monthly word count goals. And yes, there's a spreadsheet involved. How do you determine how much you should write every day?  Figure out what's easy for you, figure out what's doable with extreme effort, and find a goalpost in between. For example, I can write 1,000 words pretty easily. If I really push hard, I can write 10,000, but that's not a sustainable daily pace for me. So my daily goal is 5,000. It's a comfortable enough pace that I can sustain it, but also requires enough work that I have to push for it.

Word Wars. If you're competitive and have a writing buddy who's game, do some speed challenges. See if you can both hit 500 words in half an hour. Aim for 1,000 words in an hour. First one to 2,000 words gets a $0.99 song gifted to them on iTunes. Whatever floats your boat, but if a little friendly competition gets your fingers moving on the keyboard, do it.

Multiple Works-in-Progress. This is definitely an area where your mileage will vary. I used to be strict about writing one book at a time, but after some deadlines coincided, I ended up writing two at a time. I don't recommend more than that, but I've found two at a time is a good pace. Reason being, if I'm stalling on one, I can work on the other. If I can't get words out on either book, that's a pretty reliable sign that I'm burned out and have probably forgotten (again) to take a day off for like two solid weeks.  If one book is flying and the other is stalling, then at least something is getting written, and once I finish working on that one for the day, I can devote some time to figuring out what's wrong with the other one.  And then there's the best case scenario: Two books that are absolutely flying. I love it when that happens, and can usually knock out 7-8,000 words a day without much trouble and make headway on both books. Win.


Okay, so that's all well and good for output, but what about the actual writing? Because obviously, quality is important here. 

Don't sweat the little details (or, How I learned to love [brackets]). This is a technique I picked up from author Aislinn Kerry, and it's worked wonders for me. Let's say your character is a wine connoisseur, and is selecting a bottle to go with a particular meal, but you don't know quite so  much about wine, so you're not sure what he'd select.  You're on a roll, though. Do you stop and open up wikipedia or google it? Do you crowdsource on Twitter or Facebook? You could. I've done it.  But what if you have to wait for an answer? What if your expert-in-waiting is offline? Like when I need my husband to answer a military question, or I've e-mailed Aleks, who inconveniently lives on the other side of the world?  Do you stop completely until you know what kind of wine the character would select? 

Bottom line, do you really want to lose your momentum over a relatively minor detail? I don't. In this situation, I write, "He grabbed a bottle of [wine] off the rack," and move on. 

Or what if my character is driving a distinctive sports car, brought to him by the unimportant-to-the-story-but-named valet at the party?  "[valet] brought the bright red [model] around to the front."  My recent military romance is full of "[rank] [name] turned to [name2]..." and "she boarded the [C130?] cargo jet..." because the story was just flying, and I didn't want to stop to figure out names, which cargo jets flew out of Okinawa, what rank this or that person would be, etc.

Then, when there's some downtime -- after I've finished the scene, made the day's goal, finished the entire book, or what have you -- I do a search for "[", and correct them all. It does sound a little time-consuming, but it's really not. Razor Wire had over 50 sets of brackets, and it took me about ten minutes to resolve all of them. I would much rather do the googling/crowdsourcing/etc after the book is finished than stall out while writing it.

Please note this is not limited to single words. As an example, I was recently working on a chapter of Dark Soul, and came to a scene where the characters were pulling up to a house that's described in detail in one of the original books. I was on a roll and didn't feel like looking up the details, so I just wrote: "They pulled up to the house. [more details here]" Later, I added a paragraph or so of details, but the point is, I didn't have to stop writing the scene to fill those in.

When you sit down to write, have a plan. This does not mean you have to outline. Aleks and I don't outline when we co-write, but we usually know what's going to happen in the next 2-3 scenes. Half the time, we're wrong, and somebody throws a giant curve ball that neither of us saw coming, and that's okay! The point is that when we sit down to write, we have at least an idea of where we're going with the next scene. It's kind of like deciding to go out for a drive. It's a lot more fun to jump in the car and go than it is to sit in the driveway debating whether to go right or left. You don't have to have a destination in mind, but it helps to at least have a direction. Just get in the car, get on the freeway, and haul ass, and if something looks interesting along the way, stop and check it out. 

By the same token...

...don't plan things to death. In my fledgling writer days, I wrote a horrible epic fantasy novel three times over the course of about ten years. Each actual draft took about 4-6 months, depending on what else I had going on in my life. So why the hell did it take ten years? Well, a lot of that had to do with getting derailed and sidetracked with other things like jobs and school, but there were some very long periods in there where I planned. And planned. And planned. I outlined. Re-outlined. Built the world. Outlined again. Burned the world to the ground and started over. Filled out countless character interviews/forms/dossiers/bios. For every hour I spent writing that bad boy, I probably spent at least five planning it.  (And it still sucked. Go figure.)

Point being, at some point, you have to put down the blueprint and start building the damned house. You can measure and re-measure every angle and beam, but you'll still have nothing but an empty lot until you actually start pouring some concrete and building the frame. 

Be flexible. I'm an outliner, but I outline pretty vaguely. I know what the characters' motivations are, what they're going to do and why, and when things will happen. But invariably, those things change. Constantly. The rigid outliner in me -- you know, the one who's never forgotten high school English -- still wants to break out in hives at the idea of deviating from the outline that's been written in blood, carved in stone, and notarized twelve times over. But the side of me who's always rebelled against my high school English teachers and doesn't like to be told what to do has no qualms about adjusting an outline to fit the story.

How does that help with writing at speed?  It prevents two things:
  1. Time and energy wasted trying to shoehorn a story into an outline it doesn't like.
  2. Time and energy wasted rejigging the outline down to the last detail because the story rebelled.
Common denominators: wasting time and energy.

If the story deviates from the outline, go with it. This is kind of like improv. If another actor throws a monkey wrench into the scene in front of a packed house, do you stop in the middle and ask him what the hell he's doing? Or do you take his cue and run with it?  Of course you run with it. For me, writing is kind of the same thing. And if a character throws me a curve ball, chances are, he knows what he's doing, so I let the scene go and see what happens.

I have one set-in-stone rule when it comes to writing, and it's one of the things that helps me write faster because I don't let myself stall out for the above reasons. That rule is:

If the characters and outline disagree, the characters win. Always.

Hasn't led me astray yet.

Now, a little bit of a tangent here about writing in general, which may or may not help you with writing speed, but feels relevant... 

One thing that always comes up on writing forums is the idea of characters hijacking the story. Some writers insist that it's true, that characters are basically living entities who can't be controlled, and the author is just along for the ride. Others think it's utter hogwash and THEY are in control of everything. Personally, I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Imagine someone you know really, really well. You know their quirks, their history, their morals, their preferences, etc. Now imagine writing them into a story. Think of something that person absolutely would not do under any circumstances.  Let's say Grandma would never in a million years steal a wrench from the hardware store. Not a chance.  With that in mind, try writing a scene where she's stealing a wrench from the hardware store, feeling completely justified about it and not considering any alternatives. Doesn't work, does it? 

Characters are the same way. They are a collection of quirks, traits, and morals, and at least in  my experience, sometimes those quirks, traits, and morals become clearer as I'm writing the story (versus when I wrote the outline). Then I find them in a position where I'm asking them to do what the outline says, but I just can't get the words to come out. I thought I knew how this character would behave, but then I got to the scene and realized there's no way in hell I'm going to make Grandma steal that wrench. But she still needs the wrench, right? Instead of forcing her to do what the outlines said, it's time to rethink the scene according to Grandma's quirks, traits, and morals, and how she -- your 3-dimensional character -- would acquire the wrench.

What does that have to do with writing speed? Well, allowing some flexibility and giving your characters room to come to life means the story has some breathing room to flow and do its thing, while Rigid Outliner is banging on the Backspace key trying to figure out how to make Grandma steal the goddamned wrench already.

So...don't stall out. Let her find another way to get her hands on the wrench. She'll be truer to her character, will probably come up with a more interesting way to acquire it, and...you'll be writing instead of stalling. (See? Told you it was relevant.)


In closing, it really boils down to:

  1. Time management. Spend your writing time actually writing, rather than fighting with a flawed outline or over-planning.
  2. Balance. Have a plan, but don't write it in blood.
  3. Maintaining momentum. Don't stall out because you had to stop and look up a minor detail.
  4. Use the Force. Hey, if you've got it, you might as well.

So there you have it. A few of the weird techniques I've picked up over the years that help me write faster than I did in my early days.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

NEW RELEASES: If It Drives, Guarded, and For The Living

It's been a busy week -- three new titles launched! I didn't want to do a post for each release because that would just clutter everything up, so I've rounded them up for a single post.


Cat Grant and I are pleased to announce the release of our kinky rock star novel, Guarded, available on Amazon, AllRomance, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords.

 On the surface, rock star Jordan Kane has it all. No Rules is burning up the charts and headlining a world tour. His bodyguard doubles as his hot, kinky boyfriend who knows just how to push all his buttons. But behind the scenes, he’s suffocating. 
Jase never imagined he’d have a shot at bedding the larger than life rock star, never mind dominating him, but now he’s worried he’s in over his head. Jordan’s kinks run deep, dark, and sometimes dangerous, putting Jase’s desires to both pleasure and protect him at odds. 
They might have a fighting chance at finding the safe, happy medium between what Jordan needs and what Jase is willing to give, but there’s one problem: Daniel, Jordan’s childhood best friend, the band’s talented guitarist—and the volatile, hard-partying drug addict. Jordan is determined to save Daniel from himself, but Jase has been there, done that, and desperately wants to protect Jordan from the inevitable heartache of watching an addict self-destruct. 
When Daniel goes off the rails again, Jordan calls off the tour to get him help. Tension within the band skyrockets and pressure from the record label sends Jordan into a dark spiral. Now his band—and his life—are balanced on a knife's edge, and Jase is the only one who can pull him back... but only if the echoes of his own tragic past don't push him over instead.
Aleksandr Voinov and I have been busy too, and we're taking you back to Market Garden in the seventh book in that series, If It Drives, available from Riptide PublishingAmazon, AllRomance, and Barnes & Noble.
If it flies, drives, or fornicates, it's cheaper to rent it. 
After driving James Harcourt, his wealthy banker boss, around for a year and a half, Cal isn’t surprised by much anymore. Not even James’s regular trips to Market Garden, London’s most elite gay brothel. 
But when James leaves the Garden alone one night and turns to Cal instead, Cal’s floored. After crushing on his boss for ages, it’s his wet dream come true . . . until the awkward morning after. Cal still has a job to do, but he wants to offer more. Yet James doesn’t take him up on it; he keeps Cal at arm’s length and continues his chauffeured jaunts to Market Garden. 
As Cal learns what James needs from the rentboys, he tries to fill that need himself. But there’s more to James’s penchant for rentboys than Cal realizes, and it may be one role that Cal can’t fill without overstepping his duty.

And finally, I've re-released my novel, For The Living, and it can be found on Amazon, AllRomance, and Barnes & Noble.

For the last year, Jay Warren has struggled to find the nerve to tell his wife he’s gay. Every time he gets the chance, though, he freezes up. He’s ashamed of hiding it all this time and he doesn’t want to hurt her, and the guilt has been almost unbearable. 
Then his wife dies suddenly, and Jay’s conscience threatens to eat him alive. 
Funeral director Scott Lawson deals with the bereaved every day, and he’s all too familiar with the inside of the closet. He offers Jay some much-needed compassion and understanding, and from that connection comes a friendship that quickly—perhaps too quickly—turns into something more. 
But are grief, guilt, and loneliness the only things tying them together? Or will Scott get fed up with being used as an emotional crutch before Jay realizes what he has? 
This book was previously published.
 Stay tuned -- Roped In (written with Marie Sexton) is out later this month, as is the seventh Tucker Springs book, It's Complicated!