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Yesterday, I went to a workshop my writers group sponsored, and it was so much fun. The presenter mainly talked about motivation. As in how a writer can use encouragement or habits to put their butt in a chair and write every day. Otherwise, you will never get that book, short story, or article you’ve been dreaming about done.
One exercise I enjoyed the most. In any book a person reads, the first line in the first chapter is important. It should be able to draw a person in to read more. The presenter gave us a choice of several first liners. One was “It’s so huge!” You can imagine that was a favorite. Anyway, I picked the one you’ll see below. Hope you like the itty-bitty short story.
**be aware that I use naughty words**
Sliding down the stripper pole isn’t as easy as you might think. When I took the bet from my friends. I was already down six beers, and really should know better than to take their dare. The asshats.
Everyone claps and hoots, trying to encourage my rhythm as I dance around the pole. Playing the part, I yank off my shirt and twirl it above my head. The servers and dancers laugh and shout their advice.
Kid Rock’s Cowboy blasts through the speakers. Grabbing the steel pole, I jump up and try my best to hold on with my jean-clad legs, but I slide inch by inch down the slippery bastard. And who knew the fucking thing rotates by itself? I tighten my grip and lean back. Lifting my arm as if I won the lottery.
More shouting reminds me I need to move with the beat. So I thrust my hips and swing around the pole. The colors and sounds swirl by and my head feels light. A little cross-eyed, I fall to the stage, and the pounding of the music vibrates through my body. Not letting my friends get the better of me, I jump up, sway, regain my feet, and begin a bump and grind. Dollars rain around my feet.
Fuck the pole. I’ll just dance around and make a few bucks. Then I can buy another beer when the song stops. I do every dance I can remember from what Mom taught me. Two stepping, I trip and my buddies catch me, helping me to stand as the song ends.
“You win, Luke. I never thought you would do it.” Rich hands me the fiver he had promised if I show the girls I could do it too.
I always love a twist and not just on a stripper pole. HA!
Some years ago, I had an interviewer to ask me, how does it feel to compete with established writers? I thought you might like to see my answer.
Wow! That’s really a good question. I guess I’ve never really thought of my becoming published as a competition with other authors. Maybe because I’m aware of the vast opportunities to take one story and turn it into a hundred directions. Over the years, I’ve heard we basically have a certain number of plots to write. Seven to ten are the most common quantities given. A good link to go to that explains this is HERE.
With those basic plots, we have an indefinite number of stories to tell. Since everyone has their own way of speaking, in this case, writing a story, we can have thousands, even millions of authors and never hear the same story, especially word for word. Plus each reader has their own special need inside that drives them to purchase certain type of stories. I personally love forced marriage plots, contemporary or historical, along with anything involving spies and assassins. The last two are why I wrote CIRCLE OF DESIRE, my debut book. Most authors do write what they want to read. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Readers want their need fulfilled more than once a year. Some have a monthly, weekly, and for those fast readers, a daily addiction. My addiction can be seen in the stack of novels waiting in my shelves to be read and the same number downloaded on my iPad.
What I’m getting at is there’s room for many authors. Some who will be an instantaneous best-selling author (al la Stephenie Myer) and others who’ll take a few years to reach that same point of success (the fabulously talented Sherrilyn Kenyon). Of course, the publishing world has room for all of us in between authors.
Lately, I’ve been struggling with my writing time. So much going on in my life. Nothing bad, just a lot of things and several changes. One is that we’re moving this summer out of our home of twenty-four years. Plus the summers are crazy at the day-job. Lots of overtime. And I need to learn to say no with volunteer work, but I love helping people.
I’m not sure when I’ll finish the book I’m working on. Only ten chapters left before I write the two most beautiful words in an author’s work: THE END. Luckily (oddly), no editor is waiting for it, but my agent wants to see it.
Funny, but I rarely talk about my current manuscripts, not because of superstition. It’s because I don’t want to hear someone say, “Oh, that’s like so-and-so’s book.” That always pisses me off. No one writes a book like I write. Yes. I do understand what they’re saying. The book is similar in a key point of the plot, character(s), or location of the other author’s. I can tell you most authors don’t want to hear that. We all think our books are unique. In one way particularly. Our voice. That is, our word choices and rhythm.
But, here I am writing a blog post, and telling you about a book I listened to. Another time suck, but one I love to do it. Side note: this isn’t a review site, but I love books. That’s why I love to read (or listen) and write them. So I figured when I especially enjoy one, I would pass on a little recommendation.
CAKE by J. Bengtsson (Audio)
For the blurb, click on the link above. As many current contemporary romance books, the hero and heroine are 23 years old. The girl is sweet and pretty level-headed. No diva attitude or oversexed heroine. Considering my heroines are very demanding sexually, that’s saying something about the author’s writing. HA! For it held my attention. And if you’re wondering, the hero wasn’t a horn dog. They were very likable. Great sense of humors for both.
Overall, I would recommend this for anyone who enjoys a soft “rock star” book (pun intended). No drug use by main characters, no drinking, or too crazy groupies. Light on the sex. It played with how to have a relationship with a celebrity. How people have certain expectations from those who are famous, including expecting they do not deserve privacy.
A thread in the story included that the hero had a horrible trauma when he was a young, and it comes up throughout the story, but not in a heavy angst-y way. In fact, I thought the author handled very well.
Only negatives were, their families were near to perfect. If you read any of my books, you know my heroes’ and/or heroines’ families were more like real ones. Neurotic, self-centered, demanding, in general, big pains in the butt. Or is it only my family? Hmm.
By the way, it does not end in a cliff hanger though you will think so at first. Good twist. I don’t consider that a spoiler. For I freaking hate cliff hangers. I was getting mad, and so I searched on the review site to see if someone talked about it. There wasn’t one, so I continued on and was very happy with the ending.
I checked out the second book in the Cake series. It’s the middle brother (though the blurb mentioned he’s a younger brother). Looks interesting, but I think I want a hot book next. I can take all the sweetness between the two and their families only so much. Maybe I’m jealous of the couple.
Almost forgot, the narrators did a great job. Once again, I was so happy to come across a male narrator who didn’t make a woman sound whiny.
The things you learn when you double check something you’ve never really thought about such as the difference between button-down and button-up shirts. I’ve always called a dress shirt (besides dress shirt) a button-up shirt. Well, it turns out that’s wrong. A button-down shirt includes the button on each collar to hold it in place (that’s the button-down part). The button-up does not. AND a dress shirt will always have the buttons on the collar. Thus always a button-down shirt. The things authors have to know.
By the way, my mom would always correct me as a kid when I referred to my top as a shirt. She said boys wore shirts, girls wore blouses. I can see that except when it’s a t-shirt. (Of course, the spelling of t-shirt is another argument. ) HA!
This still applies and maybe will help others to understand the need to continue and be dedicated in becoming published with a traditional publisher or in finishing a novel and becoming self-published.
When is enough enough? I’ve thought about this a lot the last couple years. My first submission was sent out in 1992 and I didn’t send anything else out for ten years. Partly because I had no self-confidence and partly because life got in the way. In 2002, I decided I wasn’t getting any younger and if I really wanted this, I had to find out what I was doing wrong. Nothing has been as important to me to accomplish since I wanted a second child. She was born eight years and 12 hours of labor after the first one. This delivery was a hell of lot longer.
I worked on improving my grammar, bringing out my voice and learning how to pitch to editors and agents. I practiced writing query letters, talking to an editor and agent at conferences, and being the best I could be as a writer. For the next nine years, I drank, ate and slept writing. Am I perfect? Oh, goodness, no! But I have ten books to prove my perseverance. Being at my RWA chapter meetings helped and encouraged me to keep trying.
One evening at a conference, I had the pleasure to relax with Sherrilyn Kenyon in her hotel room, and we were talking about what it takes to be a published author. Sherrilyn’s road to publication and staying published was a hard one. If you ever get a chance to hear her talk about that road, do so. It’s scary but also an uplifting story. Anyway, she mentioned how sad it was that a friend of hers had given up on writing. She’d read her work and hadn’t understood why an editor hadn’t snatched it up. She encouraged me to keep trying.
Since I couldn’t quit my day job, I gave up watching television, having floors I could eat off of, and reading one book after another. All my spare time was dedicated to what I wanted most. To be published. But my rejections continued to come in.
So the question is still how to know when enough is enough?
I believe it is when you can say, I quit it all. When you no longer have a story nagging at the back of your mind, or you read a book and say I can write better than that or I wish I can write a good story like that. When you don’t imagine dogs and dragons in the clouds or hear words of mystery and intrigue whispered in your ears by the wind. When you can close your eyes at night and don’t feel the presence of someone looking over you (good or bad). When you can ignore the wide-eyed pleads of your children or nieces and nephews to repeat the stories of your childhood or the made-up scary ones. Then that’s enough.
I came close, but thanks to the Good Lord, I wanted more.
This post was written just after I had gotten my first call from HarperCollins. Now it has been three books with HC and two books with Random House (Loveswept). So see, hard work pays off. Keep trying and decide what you want and be willing to change. Goodness knows, the publishing world changes often, and as an author you need to be willing to do that too.
When I think of Jack Drago in Circle of Defiance, I think of how different he is from all the other heroes in my books. He loves cats. In fact, owns a white one named Kinky. His best friend is a female (Marie from Circle of Danger), and strangely, considering how he falls in love with unavailable women, he never touches her sexually. And he recites poetry when he’s amorous (fancy way of saying horny).
Though his brother hates his guts, he has a soft spot for the big guy (Rex from Circle of Deception). Hey, he made sure that his brother and his brother’s sweetie reunited. No one knows the real Jack. Totally misunderstood by all who hate him and that’s a lot of people in The Circle. Bless his heart, he even ended up being dumped in Sand City, Alabama drunk and in trouble with the organization that should be looking after him. But one woman understands him, better than he’s comfortable with. She doesn’t have a sweetheart or husband, but I imagine Jack believes she’s unattainable because her dad is the head of a dangerous syndicate. The same one that hung his brother naked by the ankles in a warehouse (Circle of Deception). To Jack, Katerina is merely a challenge. He loves challenges.
Here’s the beginning of the novella.
The sharp smell of blood and alcohol penetrated the cool air as the glass door closed behind Katerina Savalas. She hesitated and scanned the unfamiliar surroundings. Being in the less than safe side of town, she wanted to get her business done and over with as fast as possible.
Never in her wildest nightmares had she imagined stepping into such a place. When her dad kicked her out of the house, she’d sworn she’d find another way to express herself. Too many people believed it to be the perfect way to protest. Instead, it became a rebellion that led to a habit. Not her. No way.
Looking at an intriguing drawing on the wall, she shook her head. Maybe it was a tiny bit tempting.
“Hello, pretty little girl, what can I do for you?” The man smiled and his skin pulled at the black swirling pattern covering one side of his face. A chain connected his pierced nose to a large spool in his ear and jingled when he moved around the counter. He stopped a little too close.
She swallowed, trying to keep her stomach from turning upside down. Just thinking about a needle sinking into her skin gave her the willies. Taking another deep swallow to settle her stomach, she forced her legs to stiffen and hold her up.
Wrenching her gaze away from the maltreated chunk of fat and skin, she looked over his shoulder to regain her composure. “I was told Jack Drago’s here.”
“Who told you that?” His tone was threatening.
“Phil at the Sandbox,” she answered, straining to see around a curtain in the back of the room.
Whoever named the bar had thought they were cute, playing with Sand City’s name. She agreed the place was pretty decent as it sported a couple pool tables in the back and a small stage for local bands. Even on Tuesday nights, families gathered and enjoyed an old movie shown on a drop-down screen. A person could call the atmosphere homey, for a bar. She’d visited it several times since moving into the small town. But then again, the Sandbox being the only bar in town limited her choices.
The owner had told her to hang around until late that evening. Jack often showed up by nine. The problem with that was she didn’t want to waste any more time. So he’d suggested checking at Lonnie’s Place.
From what she’d seen so far of Lonnie’s, she preferred the Sandbox Bar and Grill.
“Phil’s going to get his ass beat, if he ain’t careful. He knows better than to give out info about Jack.”
“So he’s here?” When the man’s brow wrinkled in confusion, she added, “Jack. Is Jack here?”
The Mike Tyson wannabe leaned close, his onion-loaded breath bursting across her face. She moved back a step and pretended to scratch her nose. Anything to block the smell.
“Whatcha going to give me?” He grabbed her arm. “Everyone pays a toll.” The leer told her what he expected.
Without thinking, she pushed forward and brought her knee up hard. He hit the floor with a scream so high-pitched it came out more like a squeak before he curled into a ball. Thanks to her brothers’ endless roughhousing, she’d learned that little trick a long time ago. She grinned and stepped over his body, heading toward the large red satin curtain separating the back of the room. He’d think twice before placing a hand on her again. Nevertheless, she’d better find Jack quick before the man recovered.
Pausing for a second to take a deep breath, she then fisted the soft material, yanking it across the pole, making the large metal rings clank. She gasped.
Stretched out on a recliner, head shaved, broad chest bare, jeans and black underwear around one ankle with a large smirk on his face, was Jack Drago. A shapely blonde sat between his legs with her head bent over his groin.
Face hot, Katerina took one step back but hesitated, squashing the desire to turn and run. She needed his help, and she couldn’t put it off any longer. With her decision made, she forced her gaze to meet his, not caring about whatever she intruded on. Light blue eyes examined her with lazy, licentious interest. No matter how uncomfortable his stare made her feel, she refused to look away.
The man was still as gorgeous as she remembered with his grid-defined abs and huge muscled arms on full display. Some type of Celtic design covered one shoulder to wrist. Piercings through his nipples, one brow, and a loop in his lip made him look like a pagan god while the woman worshiped his . . . staff?
Warmth spread across her face and neck.
“Hey, you look familiar,” he said in the deep gruff voice she remembered. “I know.” He lifted a stubborn chin. “You’re that Savalas girl. Kristina. No. Katerina. Yeah, that’s it.” He slung a beefy arm over his head; his relaxed pose displayed muscles and toned body like a romance novel cover. “Come over and tell me how she’s doing. She claims to be a pro at it, but I think I’m her first.” He chuckled as he lifted a bottle of Devil’s Cut in his other hand and guzzled a third of it.
Shaking her head, Katerina held up a palm. “No. No. I’ll pass. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
The blonde huffed and leaned back. “I’ve been doing this for ten years, and I’m a hell of lot better at it than the fellow in Atlanta you were telling me about.”
Fellow? Eyebrows raised, her gaze returned to his face. He swung both ways? Then a mechanical humming stopped. What in the world? Unable to resist any longer, she peeked over the blonde’s shoulder.
She breathed a sigh of relief on seeing the artwork the woman worked on. Feeling a little stupid ― it was a tattoo shop ― she eyed the design.
On the left side of Jack’s groin, a large black ink pattern depicted a fallen angel with wings curled over a bowed head and around a bruised, bloody body. Dark feathers brushed Jack’s abs and ended where his thigh and torso met. The design was beautiful and poignant.
When Jack’s cock twitched, she realized where her gaze had drifted, and her face heated again until it probably looked like an overripe tomato.
She twirled around, giving him her back. “Uh . . . I need to talk with you. After you pull up your pants.” The image of his cock would be seared on her brain for the rest of her life.
Be on the lookout for the paperback book with the novellas, Circle of Dishonor and Circle of Defiance, coming out soon!
Being a published author is like being Dorthy going to the Emerald City. You want to get to that beautiful, magical place of where your wonderful story will be presented to the world. But you have to go through trials and detours. Scary things like flying monkeys trying to hold you back and witches trying to stop you, but when you finally arrive, it takes your breath away. It’s more than you ever imagined. You’re fascinated by all of the exciting activity, and how everyone wants to make your story pretty as possible.
And then you go to see the wizard (booksellers and reviewers). Still a little scary, but you know this is what you want and you’re determined to show how brave you are. Then with a lot of clanging and smoke billowing, you find out the truth.
It’s what is in you that makes you successful. Not all the hoopla or even the polishing, your writing is all that counts and will bring you to where you should be. So simple, yet so difficult.
[As you can tell, I quite often relate writing to movies. My post is from the one I did for the Romance Magicians’ blog on January 15, 2016, but changed a little.]
Yes. I’m revisiting old blog posts from my stint at the Romance Magicians’ blog. Here’s another favorite from May 28, 2006. It still applies.
What you can learn from Batman Begins, and how it applies to writing.
1) If you want something bad enough, you’ll climb mountains for it. (If you wish to be published, don’t expect it to be easy. Plan to improve on your weaknesses and exploit your strengths.)
2) You have to hit rock bottom before you can look up. (Rejections of all different types can push you down, but they can help you appreciate the successes.)
3) Be prepared to change course. Be flexible. (Though you have THAT certain publishing house or special editor in mind, keep your eyes open for other opportunities.)
4) Have plenty of back up. (Keep writing. Build up your library, and at the same time, improve on your experience.)
5) It doesn’t matter what others think. It’s more important what you think of yourself. (This is the hardest lesson of all, but we need to believe in ourselves. Believe in yourself and your writing.)
6) When we fall, we must learn to pick ourselves up. (Again, rejection can knock you down, but keep writing. An editor cannot publish a book you haven’t written. No one can write your book for you.)
7) You can’t do it alone. (Surround yourself with supportive people. Join a RWA chapter and be active.)
8) Even regular looking guys look good in black leather. (No explanation needed. See picture above.)