First Draft… but wrong book, as it turns out.

My first drafts are always messy.

There are multiple kinds of writers in the world, but most of the time you can divide them into two groups: the writers who like to plan out their stories in detail, with outlines and guidelines and complete synopsis with bullet points included. “And here they will meet, and here they will kiss, and here they will be locked in a closet together during an air raid!”

And then there’s the writers who dive right into the story, without any idea of what’s happening and maybe only a dim idea of where they’re going. “It’s a romance, obviously there’s a happy ending – but how?!?!

When I was younger, I definitely was more of the second type of writer. Now that I’m older (and have less free time), I absolutely see the benefits of the first. Take the book I wrote for this past year’s National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo). I had only the barest of ideas for a plot, and so on November 1, I dove right in.

I ended up changing the plot and character’s backstories so many times in that first week – sometimes mid-sentence – that I’ve had to scrap nearly 15,000 words of the completed first draft just trying to get everything back in line.

It’s not that I don’t like what I scrapped – but it doesn’t fit the story anymore. I have every intention of using what I’ve had to pull out in another story later on. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t delete anything. Every story I’ve ever written has an accompanying document named “Outtakes.” Sometimes the outtakes runs for dozens of pages. Once I deleted a full 42 pages of a story, straight out, because it wasn’t working.

The file for Omega Nanny’s outtakes. It’s about a quarter the size of the finished book!

It sounds like I’m super cold-blooded about the process. There’s a popular phrase about how writers are always killing their darlings. (William Faulkner originally; Stephen King was paraphrasing him.) It’s completely true; somehow, all my best jokes and sexiest lines seem to be right smack in the middle of a scene or moment that ends up in that Outtakes file. Sometimes they make it back into the story. Most of them, not.

One of the scenes that bit the dust from the most recent Nano novel is – as it turns out – the opening scene. It’s rough, but I love this opening, because I think it really lays out Bryce’s personality and the conflict that was originally going to be a driving force for the plot. The problem is – this was the plot that I ended up dropping from the story in favor of one that was clicking a lot better. I still love this opening, and I still love Bryce’s interaction with his mom – and truth be told, I still like the plot as I originally imagined it, so I’m thinking I might end up giving it its own book next.

Here’s the original opening to my Nano book. Read it, and tell me what you think!

It was exactly the conversation that Bryce hadn’t wanted to have when answering the phone on his desk first thing Tuesday morning.

“No, Mom,” he groaned with the phone tucked under his ear and bitterly regretting that he’d ever given his mother his work number. At least his boss wasn’t in yet. “My cell phone’s fine, I just paid it up last week.”

“Well, I’ve called a dozen times in the last four days and you haven’t once returned my calls,” complained Alicia XXX. Even over the phone, Bryce could imagine the hands on her hips, her eyes looking anxiously at her bullet journal where she’d undoubtedly underlined Call Bryce again! “Are you sure it’s working? Jessie! Jessie! Call Bryce on his phone, I want him to tell me what happens when he has an incoming call.”

Shit, thought Bryce, and scrambled to shove his phone under the thickest file folder of accounts payable he could find in the deepest drawer of his desk. And of course the damned drawer had to stick, the way he always did when there was someone in the office watching him with a raised eyebrow, undoubtedly judging Bryce and wondering how the hell Padma Chatterjee, Assistant Director of Accounts Receivable and Bryce’s boss, put up with him.

“Are you sure you want this one?” the old bat running the typing pool had said when Bryce had been called up three years before. “You know he’s—”

“Yes,” said Padma Chatterjee, and that was that.

He had to kick the drawer to close it, but hopefully his mother wouldn’t hear the tell-tale ring over the open landline.

“Do you hear it? I don’t hear it,” demanded Alicia.

“Mom, you know I’m at work, right?”

“I know, Brycie, but the—”

“Please don’t call me that!”

“—wedding’s in two weeks and you haven’t said if D.B. is able to get off work.”

Bryce looked frantically around the office, quickly determining that it was still thankfully empty. “Mom!” he hissed, lowering his volume and reaching up to cradle the phone in his hand while turning in his chair, as if it offered some degree of privacy. “I told you, I can’t talk about D.B. at work!”

“I know, darling, but—”

“I don’t know, but he should be able to give me an answer today.”

Click click click went the tell-tale sound of Padma Chatterjee’s shoes against the marble floors. Bryce winced.

Shit. He quickly straightened and turned around – and yup, sure enough, there was Padma, dressed in a bright purple suit with a paisley pashmina over one shoulder, and holding the customary tray of mochaccinos from the coffee shop downstairs. Her hair was in a large, low bun at the back of her head. There were a few wisps of gray in her otherwise jet-black hair, but otherwise she didn’t look a day over thirty-five, though Bryce knew for a fact she was close to fifty.

Padma looked extremely interested in the phone call. Bryce smiled weakly at her, and pretended as if he was very busy rummaging in his desk, shuffling papers and opening drawers.

Riiiiiinnnng.

Double shit.

“Oh, good, your phone is ringing!” said Alicia. “I was so worried.”

“I know,” sighed Bryce.

“I’ll call you back later tonight. I’m so excited, Brycie! You have a good day, take the world by storm!”

Alicia hung up without waiting for Bryce’s response. He dropped the receiver on the phone’s base and let his head fall against his desk with a groan.

“Ah,” said Padma Chatterjee. “Not about the Whippleton account, I take it.”

“My mother,” said Bryce to his desk.

He heard the soft thunk of the coffee tray being set down on his desk, followed by the squeaking sound of a paper cup being wrested from the cardboard tray. “Hmm. Lucky for you, the salted caramel is back in stock.”

“Oh, thank God,” groaned Bryce, lifting his head and taking his cup from Padma. It was exactly warm enough to feel comfortable in his hands, and he breathed in the scent.

“As you like,” said Padma, amused. She picked the tray back up and carried it back into her office. “Your phone is still ringing!”

“What? Oh.” Bryce reached into the bottom drawer, shoving the file aside to grab his phone. “Dad, okay! You could have hung up when Mom heard it ringing, you know.”

“I’m allowed to talk to my son once in a while,” said Jessie XXX.

Bryce sighed. “I’m sorry. Hi, Dad.”

“Did you watch the game last night?”

Bryce eyed his coffee longingly. “Yeah, but I would have appreciated it ending without overtime.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” said Jessie. “When Parker hit that ground-out to right field…”

“Dad,” said Bryce, “can we talk about this later? I’m sort of working?”

There was a chuckle from Padma’s office. Bryce resisted the urge to spin around in his chair and stick out his thumb at her.

“Of course. Don’t let your mother hound you about D.B. too much, okay?”

“Okay.”

Bryce disconnected the call and dropped the phone back down in the drawer, which closed smoothly on its own, as if it’d never posed anyone trouble in its entire existence. He took a long drink of his coffee for fortification.

It wasn’t that talking to his parents was a bother – most of the time, anyway. Alicia could be somewhat overbearing and demanding, but Bryce’s father Jessie was as easy-going an alpha woman as they came, and she had been the one to teach Bryce to take the much more headstrong, determined omega Alicia in stride.

At twenty-seven years old, Bryce could handle any storm his mother created.

It was handling his own storms that was the issue – and the storm that was brewing now was entirely Bryce’s fault. A storm named Hurricane D.B., Bryce’s erstwhile boyfriend and the current epicenter of all of his problems.

You’ll just have to think of something, Bryce told himself firmly. Come up with another excuse to explain D.B.’s absence.

So that was the original opening – it’s a lot different now!

What do you think? Keeping in mind it’s only a first draft – and the new opening is very different – would you want to keep reading, and learn more about Bryce and D.B. and what Bryce’s parents have planned? Or do you think this darling deserved its untimely death?

I swear, it’s not an obsession, it just looks that way.

I admit it: I have an obsession with my word count.

But it’s not exactly about how many words I’ve written at the end of the day.

Definition courtesy of abrakadrabble.com

If you’re a writer, and you spend any amount of time in online writing communities, you are all-too-well acquainted with the all-mighty word count. Whether it’s the precise definition of a drabble (100 words exactly!) or the theory behind writing a set amount of words per day, every day (see 750words.com), it’s really hard to escape word counts.

For the last four or five years, at the beginning of every year, I’ve signed up for a community that focuses on a yearly word count. During the first two weeks of the new year, you pledge to write a set amount of words before December 31 – there’s set pledges ranging from 75,000 words to 500,000 – and then they offer support and cheerleading for you to do just that, with monthly check-ins and Word Wars and the like. There’s no penalty for not making your word count – but you are held accountable for checking in every month with your current word count, and those numbers are posted for all to see.

The first couple of years, I had trouble making my word count. I’d miss it by 20,000 words or so. But then something clicked about three years ago, I figured out the secret to getting those words flowing, and both of the last two years, I nearly doubled my pledge. (Last year, I wrote just over 500,000 words. Half a million words. I’m still astounded.)

So being able to write a ton of words isn’t my problem. Nor is forming a writing habit, which is the other goal of the community. I love writing – I love the process of sitting down and just letting the words flow out, of the discovery in finding out what my characters are going to do next.

What is my problem is keeping on task – and that’s why I tend to focus a bit on word count.

One, two, three words! Ha ha ha ha….

Have you ever gone on a long vacation, and then when you turned on the faucet in the bathroom, the plumbing seemed a bit wonky? The first couple of seconds, the water spat and gurgled and struggled with getting the water to flow – and then it flowed just fine?

For me, that’s writing. Some days, I have to struggle with the first 800 or 900 words before they really start to flow – but once I get those words, I’ll never even notice the three or 4,000 that come after that.

I know this. I’m fully aware of this. But some days… I just don’t want to do it. I write 200 or 300 words and think, It’s not flowing, it’s all terrible, I should do something else! Everything that isn’t writing seems so much more important. Ordering that stuff on Amazon, or checking that I’ve done the dishes, or looking to see where the cat’s napping, or adding things to the grocery list. Who has time to write?

But I have that goal, you know. I have to write a certain number of words every day, and at the end of the month, I have to report how many words I’ve written. Miss three months in a row, I get kicked out of the community. I haven’t written my 822 words today – better keep going.

So I keep writing. And the next thing I know: it’s the end of my writing time and I’ve got 4,000 words to show for it.

Isn’t it fun when you use psychology on yourself to make you do stuff?

Of course, the irony is that I’m not going to make word count this month – the flu hit me hard the second week of January, and it’s only the last couple of days that I haven’t felt like death warmed over. I’ll be lucky if I finish the month with 15,000 words, much less the 25,000 I should have.

But that’s okay. 822 words at a time – and all the words that come after. I’ll get there.

 

 

Resolutions and Indecisions

I’ve decided that my New Year’s resolution is “Be Better About Blogging.” I’ve also decided that waiting until the actual New Year to try to implement this resolution is stupid, so I’m going start now and maybe by the time New Year’s actually rolls around, I’ll be in the habit of doing it. A girl can hope, anyway.

 

(Note: I’ve been reading George R.R. Martin recently.  It’s interesting comparing the book to the show; just as with the show, I find Tyrion and Arya to be my favorites, though I like Book-Sansa much earlier than I liked Show-Sansa. I promise, I don’t actually refer to myself as “a girl”. Too often.)

 

We’re traveling for the holidays this year, which is always entertaining when you figure in trans-Atlantic plane trips and time zones and naps denied from the 2yo, who tells me he is Big and does not need them and then falls asleep anyway. Mostly I’m looking forward to shopping at Trader Joe’s and buying a very large industrial-size bag of brown sugar.

 

At the moment, though, I’m trying to decide what the writing priority should be. I have, sitting in my Documents folder, my 80,000 word Nano novel, which I’ve steadily ignored since November 30. It needs quite a lot of work – I kinda changed the plot and character motivations as I wrote. Also their job titles and personal histories. Sometimes mid-sentence, even. So there’s a whole bunch of rewriting in my future for that book.

 

But also… a friend prompted me with a holiday story for some of my fanfic, and once I got started on that… I realized that I was essentially writing such an AU of the original ‘verse that I might as well break it out and make it wholly original. And I really, really want to try doing that, especially now that I’m surrounded by holiday anyway so it’d be easy to feed that into the story. (Granted, I’d end up sitting on it for a full year before publishing it, but I’m okay with that.)

 

It’s extremely tempting to ignore the editing and write the holiday story the way I’d like to write it. But that would mean putting off work on a story that should undoubtedly be published earlier. And considering I’ve had a lean year in terms of publishing, I’m not sure how much I should be putting it off. And scrubbing fanfic is hard work – I did it once, many, many years ago, and it was tremendously difficult. I’m not sure I was entirely successful, and I haven’t done it since. Granted, we’re talking about a 5,000-word story that I’d rewrite into a 50,000+ word story… so it wouldn’t be quite as tricky. But the challenge is still there. (And don’t let anyone tell you it’s as simple as running a search-and-replace on names. Unless you’re exceedingly lazy, it’s much more work than that.)

 

Maybe I should flip a coin…

 

 

 

 

 

The Prince and the Omega: look at these cuties!

I liked my cover for Christmas Caroling so much, I’ve decided to go with Amourisa Designs again for The Prince and the Omega – and I couldn’t be more pleased! LOOK AT THESE CUTIES. Just look at them! We had a devil of a time finding the right model for Gus (our prince, he’s in the foreground) but I love the final product. I especially love the castle background, and the crest at the bottom is just a bonus.


So I’ve found myself in a funny situation at the moment.

I have two books more or less ready to be published.

Okay, granted, I was in this spot back in November with The Country Alpha, but that had been intentional. This one isn’t.

The Prince and the Omega is set to go out later this month. I’ve spent all morning polishing it up, formatting the pages, inserting links, and writing the front and back matter. It’s a lovely thing and I’m very proud of it, and I’ve even decided on a release date: May 25.

Camp Lake Omega is my summer camp story, and as such, it’ll come out in July. (Mostly because I think my dad wants to watch the process.) It’s in great shape at the moment, too – it’s going through the final beta, and then it’ll be ready for all the bells and whistles.

What’s throwing me off is that I’m ready well in advance of when I thought I’d be. I could very easily release P&O next week if I wanted – most of the reason I’m waiting is because I’m going to indulge in a bit of advertising for it, and late May works better for the various companies I want to use. I could probably start sending out ARCs tomorrow… but that’s too early, reviewers would forget what they read by the time it came to write the review for Amazon (which doesn’t allow reviews to be posted until the book is released).

I have to keep telling myself that being ready with this much advance time is a good thing. Especially for Camp Lake Omega – I could actually get it out to the review blogs well in advance of its publish date, and maybe those reviews would coincide with the release! I could pick and choose my release date and ARC dates based on when I think is best, not what works best for the calendar! I could have less pressure getting the book to be pretty, and more time sitting by the pool while the kids splash each other.

(Okay, let’s be honest. I will be inside the air-conditioned house while my mother watches the kids in the pool splashing each other. Grandmas are awesome like that.)

This is so weird, guys. I’ve never been someone to wait until the night before the project was due to complete my work, but I’ve never been the kid who did the whole damn thing the weekend after it was assigned, either.

It’s so weird I find myself balking at stupid things. Should I create Goodreads pages for the books now? (Answer: probably yes.) Should I go ahead and make a pre-order for Camp Lake Omega on Amazon now? (Answer: maybe? I could at least start the process.) Should I start shopping both of them to review blogs? (Answer: OH HELLS YES.)

For the moment, I think I’m going to bask in the glory of having a book ready to go — or nearly; I’m sure I’ve forgotten something. I’m equally sure that I’ll remember exactly what it is at 3am.

When in need of a pick-up…

half-ton-truck-1

…Okay, not that sort of pick-up.

I’m feeling a little bit down today, so I thought I’d share the summary I’ve been writing for my next book, The Prince & the Omega. I’ve fallen into the royalty trope – you know, princes and princesses and the like. (I blame Lilah Pace’s His Royal Secret and the sequel, His Royal Favorite. Neither are O’verse, and oh my, they’re fabulous reads. If you enjoy royalty romances, definitely go and treat yourself with these.)

Writing summaries is challenging. After all, I’m trying to condense all the best bits of a 30,000-word story (or longer!) into something that’s only a couple hundred words long – or less! Let’s face it – if book covers (which are the bane of my existence) are the first thing that gets someone to notice my book, the summary is going to be the deciding factor in whether or not that someone actually buys it.

That’s a whole lot of pressure on just a hundred words or so.

Especially when I always leave out the parts I like the best. I don’t get a chance to tell you about Rowan’s awesome knife-wielding sidekick, or the half-brother who isn’t all that he seems. There’s not much chance to explain how Rowan and Celia are best friends from when they’re tiny, close enough to be siblings, or how Gus’s sense of duty drives everything he does.

Then again… maybe there’s ways to shove all that in there and still end up with something that’s not so clunky!

So here’s the summary for The Prince & the Omega. What do you think? Would you buy this book?

 

Omega Rowan Thornton’s best friend might be a princess, but he’s happy to wait for Mr. Right instead of Prince Charming. So when Princess Celia asks Rowan to find a paramour at the ball celebrating her arranged marriage to a foreign prince, just so she can live a romance vicariously through him… well, that’s what best friends are for, right?

Prince Gaspar – better known as Gus – isn’t the type of alpha to fall in love at the drop of a hat – or at the staged farce of a romantic ball. He’s agreed to an arranged marriage because it’s his duty – not his desire. When his half-brother suggests he take a last chance at having what he really wants before getting tied down to a foreign princess, Gus has no intention of following through… until he runs into trouble, and the only person who can help him is the handsome omega commoner with the adorable smile.

Gus and Rowan both know that being together a bad idea – but they can’t help themselves. One night of giving into their passion has consequences neither of them anticipated… but will it destroy any chance of their countries remaining at peace? And will one courtier’s jealousy end up destroying them both?

 

The Prince and the Omega is a stand-alone m/m mpreg omegaverse non-shifter romance with an HEA ending. It has secret passageways, loyal friendships, garden labyrinths, and a prince in disguise.

(Be warned, though – while I’m totally cool with you saying “no” – after all, not all books are right for all readers – I might want to know what turned you off of this one.)

Once I have the summary just right – and I know the one above probably needs additional tweaking – I’ll be able to create the page for it on Goodreads. It’ll likely come out toward the end of May.

In the meantime, I’m busy thinking about what comes next: the last book in the Downing Cycle, or another feel-good fun-paced tropey sort of story? What would you rather see?

Okay, I admit it…

…I am terrible about the blogging thing. Part of it is that my computer time is seriously limited with a two-year-old running under foot, and when I do manage to get the computer and a little quiet time to myself, I’m so busy trying to get my characters’ words down, I neglect my own.

 

I need to be better about blogging, I know. For one thing, I’m letting my sons’ lives go undocumented, something I know I’ll regret as they get older and the memories of these days become dimmer.

 

The problem is that I’m never sure what to write about – I know a lot of other writers blog about the writing process, but that’s not something that’s ever interested me. Writing is a very solitary thing – like Neil Gaiman says, we writers like the quiet, we like the dark. There’s a Monty Python radio sketch where an audience and commentators watch a writer start a story like it’s a golf tournament. It’s absurdly funny because of course watching someone write a story isn’t half as interesting as reading the story afterwards. (At various points, the writer doodles, scribbles his name, scratches out everything he’s written, and starts daydreaming. The only reason he doesn’t go on Tumblr is because Tumblr wasn’t invented at the time of the recording.)

 

Anyway.

 

At the moment I’m preparing two books for publication in the next couple of months. I’m very pleased and excited about both of them. I’ve been having fun writing to various tropes lately, and both of these books fit the mold. The first book is about a prince, an arranged marriage/bonding, and a secret pregnancy. It was a lot of fun to write, and I’m more than in love with the secondary characters who might end up stealing the show.

 

The second book is the summer camp book I wrote too late last summer for a reasonable release. I’ve held onto it until now, and it’ll go out sometime in June or July. When I finally picked it up for a re-read a few weeks ago, I was delighted to discover that it was just as much fun as I remembered it – and one of my main characters, Jim, is a hoot and a half. I am so looking forward to introducing everyone to him.

 

Maybe writing to the tropes is a bit more conventional than I’d otherwise intended – but they got me over a writing slump at the end of last year. Well – that and a hefty dose of binge-watching Yuri!!! on Ice. There are few things in this world that adorable romances between adorable boys cannot solve.

 

I have two months left before the end of the school year, and then my life will be in upheaval again as the boys and I head back to the States to stay with my parents for the summer. It’s a better option than staying here, where there aren’t any activities for kids over the holidays, and it’s too hot and humid to venture outdoors. At least this way, the 7yo can go to camp, and the 2yo can play outside without getting heatstroke. (And I’ll have Grandma and Grandpa to help me entertain.)

 

In the meantime, it’s rounds of final edits and coordinating with designers for the book covers. I’m writing the summaries for the books now, and when they’re ready I’ll post them on Goodreads. One good thing about having the summer camp story written so early is that I can maybe do a really good push on it, pre-publication, for a fantastic release. That’d be nice – I’ve never managed to do it before, so it’ll be an interesting experience to say the least!

 

That still leaves what to write here though, and apart from occasional excerpts from upcoming books, I’m not sure what to write about! What kinds of posts do you enjoy reading? What would you like to see me put here?

A Christmas Surprise!

It’s official… I’m going to publish a Christmas-themed story next week! I’ve been trying to write something since August, and I’ve discovered that it’s really difficult to write something for one holiday when you’re on the other side of calendar. But after November, I needed something to cheer me up – and for some reason, writing a flirty, funny, sexy little Christmas story about two guy who fall into love fit the bill exactly.

A Christmas Caroling is with the betas now, and I’m tweaking a few things here and there. I’ve also been scurrying to get all of the other details that go along with publishing a book set – such as writing the blurb, setting up the Goodreads entry, and ordering a cover. I was thinking I’d give premade covers a try this time – but it’s surprisingly hard to find a Christmassy cover that features two guys. WHO KNEW. I ended up commissioning a cover from Amourisa Designs, and I couldn’t be happier with it. Look at my men! Look at the pretty Christmas lights! Look at the gorgeous font for the title! I love it.

The last thing alpha Rudy Mitchell wants to do is spend the evening caroling with the local community center – especially since he’s been paired up with the omega dork wearing the ridiculous Christmas sweater. But when the omega is injured during their walk, Rudy’s protective instincts kick into gear – and he finds himself singing a whole different song.

Omega Harry Chen just wants a little Christmas cheer before he leaves on a six-month-long apprenticeship on the other side of the world. He doesn’t plan on falling on some black ice… or falling in love with his caroling partner. Now Harry’s half a world away… and wondering how he’s going to tell Rudy about the Christmas surprise neither of them anticipated.

When Harry’s apprenticeship is over – will Rudy greet Harry and their surprise with open arms? Or will next Christmas feature solo acts only?

A Christmas Caroling is an alpha/omega non-shifter mpreg romance. It features horrible Christmas sweaters, beautifully painted glass bottles, and an HEA ending.

it was nice to write something so quickly like this – the story’s much shorter than anything else, somewhere around 22,000 words. Light, sweet, sexy, and a guaranteed happy ending all around.

Of course, the tricky part is getting all the pieces together… especially since I’ve recently become enamored with Yuri on Ice, a Japanese rom-com anime about a male figure skater and his male coach falling in love. It’s adorable. It’s my first foray into anime, and I’m absolutely loving every minute of it. I highly, highly recommend watching if you haven’t already! Just be sure you don’t have any projects due, it’s kind of addictive. 🙂

I don’t have an exact release date just yet, but I suspect it’ll be toward the end of next week. It’s such a sweet little story – I’m sure you’re all going to love it, and Rudy and Harry, as much as I do.