Celebrate BOOKSing Day with a New Book (or Two)!

Boxing Day?  Try BOOKSing Day!  (Yes, I’m excited enough to write really bad puns!)

All of Your Business launches today, topping off another fantastic year of writing & publishing for the Greene Team!  This is Book Two in my contemporary romance series, Richer in Love.

To celebrate this big event, we’ve dropped the price of its “older sibling” – She Hates Me Not – to just 99 cents through New Year’s Day.  Two eBooks for two bucks?  Happy New Year, indeed!

And if you’re a member of Kindle Unlimited, you can download both books right now.

These eBooks are available through Amazon, and even though they’re published only in the Kindle format at this time, Amazon’s free app for non-Kindle devices works great!  I use it on my iPhone all the time.

Paperbacks of both novels are available, too, if that’s how you roll.  Click here to visit my Amazon Author Central page with all my books in various formats.

However you choose to spend it, enjoy your Boxing Day, and thanks for reading!

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Countdown to Book Launch! 10…9…8…

Just 10 days until All of Your Business arrives at Amazon on Boxing Day! (That’s December 26 for the Yanks.)

This contemporary romance picks up six months after She Hates Me Not.  The special pre-order sale price is just 99 cents!

All of Your Business is especially near and dear to my heart because of its smart and hardworking heroine, Didi Velasquez.  Didi was raised in San Antonio (where I lived for 14 years), so I got to revisit the puro spirit of a city I adore.  Viva Fiesta!

Didi is also my first Latina protagonist.  Researching her vibrant, family-oriented culture was an absolute delight!  Quinceañeras.  Telenovelas.  Concha blancas.  La chancla.  As with the Cajun culture in She Hates Me Not, my awareness of and respect for the Hispanic community deepened while I wrote this novel.

Pre-order your copy to join Didi on her first visit to London as she brings her buena cara energy to Ben Richmond’s all-business world.

Free free to share this post, and thanks for reading!  #gratitude

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Does Your Brain Get in the Way of Editing?

One of my favorite editing techniques is to read my manuscripts as Amazon intended: on my Kindle.

I’m not a fan of any particular e-reader.  I happen to own a Kindle, and I still love to purchase the printed word.  (My bookshelves are proof of that.)

Love ’em or hate ’em, e-readers are here to stay.  So, I do my readers a service if I edit my book in all possible formats – electronic as well as print.

Throughout the writing process, I’ll email my manuscript (formatted in Microsoft Word) directly to my Kindle. By “changing the frame” of how my eyes see the words, I’m more likely to notice sneaky typos, clunky sentences, and draggy paragraphs.

Why does this matter?  Click the link to read a scientific explanation.

My Beta Readers received Beta Buckets with a printed proof copy of All of Your Business around two months before publication

Familiarity breeds mistakes.  The brain is a bit too smart for its own good – at least when writers try to edit their own work.  The brain swaps letters and plugs in the holes that need to be unswapped and unplugged.

So what happens when my own eyes aren’t enough?

When possible, I hire a professional editor.  It’s expensive but worth every penny.

I also distribute proof copies of my manuscript to my team of Beta Readers.  These are folks who read in my genre and have the time to consider a series of broad content questions.  I also ask them to hunt for typos.  (When editing 100,000+ words, it absolutely takes a village.)

For me, Beta Readers are invaluable.  They bring their own unique perspectives and skills, and my novels are better because of them.

This wraps up my answer to the original question: “What’s your writing process?” For those of you who’ve followed this blog series, thank you for your time and attention. With two more novels currently on my authorial plate, look for future posts about writing, book launches, sales, and more!

And to all those who made it through #NaNoWriMo: CONGRATULATIONS!  Even if your novel isn’t finished, you’re off to a great start.  And starting is often the hardest part!

 

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Are you ready for NaNoEdMo?

If November is National Novel Writing Month, does that mean December is National Novel Editing Month?

Editing gets a really bad rap.  And probably for good reason.  It’s the polar opposite of the free-flow creative process where the brain gets to play without restraint.

Editing requires attention and time.  It involves rules and demands humility.

After writing eight novels, here’s what I’ve learned:

Editing isn’t about finding mistakes.

Editing is about finding the magic.

I edit both during and after I write.  Not all authors do this, and many avoid editing at all costs.  Why?  Because the creative brain and the critical brain are like chocolate and broccoli.  Although both have their benefits, I wouldn’t want them mixed together on my dinner plate.

But who am I to judge?

Since I’m a “weekend writer,” I often have to make space for both writing (chocolate) and editing (broccoli) in the same day.  I can enjoy both parts of the process if I cleanse my palate in-between.  Fix lunch.  Run errands.  Do something else for a while.  And hopefully forget what I’ve just written so I can judge it with a critical eye.

To do that, I print a hard copy of whatever I’ve written and take it for a walk.  Armed with pages, pens, and my iPod, I stroll along the neighborhood footpaths, evaluating and making notes as I go.  Something about being in motion helps the chocolate-to-broccoli transition.

When I first started doing this, I felt self-conscious.  No one else was reading while they walked.  I stopped caring as soon as I realized how well it works for me.  Plus, I’m getting fresh air and exercise.

Isn’t editing about typos and run-ons and stuff that drives English teachers crazy?

Absolutely.  It’s about that, too.  If storytelling is a sort of magic, then mistakes break the spell.

That’s not to say there won’t be any.  Even traditionally published books often contain an “oops” or two.  However…

Editing isn’t about what a writer gets wrong.  It’s about focusing on what’s right.  Enhancing.  Improving.  Chipping away like a sculptor at a block of marble until the story’s final shape appears.

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The Final Phase of Writing: Not Writing

mom-face-writerShould a writer write every day?

Many authors will shout a resounding YES! I have no quibble with them.

I also don’t hold myself to that standard.  I try to practice moderation (except where chocolate is involved).  I believe it’s okay not to write for day, a week, or even a month.  If I don’t rest between writing projects, my creative inkwell runs dry.

julie-creativity-memeAnd if writing is an act of will, then storytelling is a state of mind.  Both are magical, and neither perform on command.  Creativity on demand feels counter-intuitive to me.  Discipline is important to cultivate, but when forced, the magic can become manic.

Some days, I feel compelled to step away from my writing.  The process should be a joy, not a chore.  Instead, I might read books by other authors who inform and inspire me.  Robert McKee’s Story.  Annie Dillard’s essays.  Poetry from across the ages.

jcam-booksOne writer who restores me is Julia Cameron.  The Artist’s Way arrived in my life at exactly the right time.  I’ve since read four more of Julia’s books which are designed as interactive studies for creative types (which, according to Julia, is all of us).

Even when I’m not writing, I’m creating.  Just because I close my laptop doesn’t mean the magic fades.  It settles in a different part of my brain – kind of like a storytelling Crock-pot.  There, the narrative simmers while I’m doing other stuff.

I applaud all the writers who continue to strive to write an entire novel this month.  (#NaNoWriMo2016)  It’s the creative equivalent of climbing K2.  In a snowstorm.  Without boots.

Will I be writing today?  Probably.  And if not, the storytelling goes on…

However we each choose to spend it, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!

happythanksgiving

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When Does Your Brain Wake Up?

bird-worm-2Early bird or night owl?  Most writers I know seem to be one or the other.

Some of us have brains that come alive just as the sun is setting.  Others do their best work between sunrise and brunch.  I’m the second kind – an early bird writer.

Right now, my writing hours are limited.  Every day, I report to a full-time job around 6:45 am.  I work my eight hours.  I run errands afterward, and I take a long walk almost every evening.  Somewhere in there, I eat dinner and oversee the business of publishing.

When I try to write in the evening, I end up frustrated.  It’s just now how I’m wired.  Only brainstorming works for me after sunset because it’s free-form and messy and for my eyes only.

On weekdays, I could wake up around 3 am to score a few hours of writing time.  While I was writing my By Eyes Unseen series, I did this for more than a year.  But it’s tough, and long-term sleep deprivation does little to improve an author’s work (or job performance or social life).

books-for-researchSo, on the weekends, I embark on marathon writing sessions – four to eight hours at a time depending on when I wake up.  If I’m in the zone, I can crank out an entire chapter and review it after a late lunch.

During this phase, the research continues with lots of fact-checking, map-reading, and synonym-finding.  I enjoy this aspect of the process as much as any other.  For me, writing is a symphony of actions.  Every moment contributes to the momentum.

Writing is a solitary, even sacred, experience – one I cherish and protect.

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Ink Stains, Cookie Cakes, and Digging for Story Gold

Writing Phase Two: Bedtime Medimagining

What puts me to sleep faster than anything?  A notebook, a flashlight, and a ballpoint pen.

There are ink stains on my pillowcases and countless pen caps scattered beneath my bed.

At the end of the day, I’ll concentrate on one chapter – not by writing but by letting my imagination play.  It’s a meditative practice, unstructured and soothing.  I envision a scene’s events like a movie in my brain, and sloppily I jot down whatever I hear or see until I pass out and end up with smears of ink on my forehead.

Medimagining, I call it.  If I don’t know where to start the process, I begin with these prompts:

1. What questions need to be answered?

Story notes from The Best Left Questions

Unanswered questions keep readers turning the pages – even if the book isn’t a mystery.  Some questions are asked and answered within a single chapter.  Others last for the length of a novel.

Everything in a story works for or against its questions.  Even if we know that a story ends happily, and the lovers unite, and the heroes win, it’s the journey – not the outcome – that sustains our interest.

Answering questions too soon kills the suspense.  Not answering them cheats the reader.  My approach is to pose a variety of questions at the start and answer them gradually throughout the narrative.

2. What secrets have not been revealed?

If a character has a secret, make it a BIG one.

I can’t remember where I first read this advice, but it’s 24 karat gold.

Little secrets are like cookie crumbs – tantalizing yet unsatisfying.

BIG secrets are cookie cakes.  They ramp up the tension and raise the risks.

At the nail-biting climax of The Empire Strikes Back (when Luke and Darth Vader square off), imagine if Vader’s secret confession had been:

“Luke, I am your third cousin twice removed.”

Not quite as impactful as what actually happened.

Do all my “medimagining” ideas make it into my novels?

Thankfully, they do not.  One of my favorite creative mottoes is: “My first idea is my worst idea.”  I don’t know who gets the credit for saying that, either.  I do know that it’s true.

So I prefer to drain my brain of ideas (good and bad) as I’m drifting off to sleep.  Hopefully, buried somewhere in all that iron pyrite is storytelling gold.

November SALE reminder!  She Hates Me Not (e-book) is on sale for only 99 cents from November 16-23 as part of an Amazon Kindle Countdown special.  (It’s also available through Kindle Unlimited.)

No Kindle?  No problem!  Amazon has an app that works on lots of devices including iPhones.  Click here to download the Amazon app.

 

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Tiny Digestible Bites

Novel Writing Phase One:  Stuffing the Cornbread

Trying to write a novel is like trying to stuff the cornbread with the turkey.

Authors have a buffet of stories swirling within us.  Beginnings.  Endings.  All the bits in-between.

While many people move through their days living one moment after another, writers simultaneously inhabit countless places on a complex narrative timeline.

Imagine living the next thirty minutes, hours, or days all at once.

Now imagine living multiple lives in the same way.

That’s a snapshot of a storyteller’s brain.

How do I deal with this cornbread-and-turkey conundrum?

Tiny digestible bites.

When I taught journalism, I advised my students to think of stories like food on a plate.  Readers deserve manageable portions.  They don’t want to gorge on too many words – no matter how fabulous those words might be.

Every paragraph.  Each sentence.  Tiny digestible bites.

In novel writing, the manuscript becomes the meal.  Chapters become courses, and paragraphs are forkfuls of food.  While a magazine article might be 1,000 words, and a novel can exceed 100,000, the same reader is consuming them both.

After I’ve crafted my overall three-act story arc, I zoom in on the first part of the story.  First, I’ll sketch the events that happen over three or four chapters.  Then I’ll break the foremost chapter into three “mini-acts.”

My favorite technique is to fold a piece of paper into columns and organize before I write.  Viewing each chapter as its own “mini-story” keeps me from freaking out about the turkey-stuffed cornbread.

Although I do not write for my readers (as in trying to guess what I should write instead of trusting my own creative voice), I always keep my readers in mind as I write.  Whatever the Muse whispers in my ear must be digestible for my readers – and me, too.

November SALE reminder!  She Hates Me Not (e-book) is on sale for only 99 cents from November 16-23 as part of an Amazon Kindle Countdown special.  (It’s also available through Kindle Unlimited.)

No Kindle?  No problem!  Amazon has an app that works on lots of devices including iPhones.  Click here to download the Amazon app.

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The Character of Where

Novel Planning Phase Four: Location, location, location.

Where is one of my favorite characters.

No, that’s not a question.  It’s the truth.  I love to ask “Where does this story happen?” and give the Where a persona of its own.

Places that I know and love become characters in my novels.  London.  Stratford-upon-Avon.  Kenilworth Castle.  Places I’ve lived or frequently visited underscore the backstories of my characters, too.  San Antonio.  South Louisiana.

When it comes to the Where, I go with the known.

Even if the Where is entirely made-up, like in my By Eyes Unseen series, I base it on a familiar place.  I follow universal rules (like weather patterns and gravity).  If I break the rules, I break them consistently.  And if I make up my own rules, I follow those, too.

Early sketch of the castle featured in the By Eyes Unseen series

If a significant amount of my story takes place in a specific building, then I design a blueprint of the space.  In my notebooks, I’ll sketch floor plans and add furniture.  Or I’ll print the plans of actual buildings and tweak them to meet my needs.

Why do these facts matter?

Because details reinforce authenticity – for the author as well as the reader.

As Robert McKee writes in Story: “Authenticity does not mean actuality…. authenticity means an internally consistent world, true to itself in scope, depth, and detail…Authenticity has nothing to do with so-called reality.”

Case in point: Harry Potter.  Hogwarts is a perfect example of the character of Where – enchantingly magical yet completely accessible to readers young and old.

netherstone-hall-floor-planFor The Glorious Governess, I’m in the process of fleshing out Netherstone Hall which is inspired by Coleshill House, an actual English manor that was destroyed by fire in the 1950s.  In my novel, Netherstone is located in Warwickshire County, an area of England that I know well.

Next, I’ll sketch Netherstone’s grounds and then the nearby town of Kingshill.  Almost all of the novel’s chapters take place in one of these three settings.

My job as an author is to make a setting authentic – not make it all up from scratch.  And if that means even MORE trips to England… bring it!

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Great Fires, Feminist Writers, and Exploding Toilets

Novel Planning Phase Three: When Fiction Is Fact

My personal motto as an author?  Never guess.  Always check.

For me, research happens throughout the writing process.  I call what happens before I start writing the presearch because it’s as much about finding inspiration as facts.

Since one of my series involves time travel, I do a ton of historical digging.  What were people wearing?  Eating?  Reading?  Singing?  How did they travel?  Spend their free time and money?

Did anything cool get invented – like the first flush toilet in 1778?  (It didn’t work well, but it worked.  It also, on occasion, exploded.)

Resource materials are best when they’re fresh – as in written during a specific era.

For The Best-Left Questions, I read Samuel Pepys’ diaries because he describes, first-hand, the Great Fire of London in 1666.  I also read a “Gentleman’s Journal” from that same decade along with poetry and lyrics to hymns.

I just finished re-reading Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.  Published in 1792, it’s surprising relevant to our current state of affairs.  In its day, it was considered both feminist (not a compliment) and scandalous (also not a compliment).

The heroine I’m preparing to write – Miss Rose Price – has her own special copy of Vindication which she’s read cover to cover at least twenty times.  When The Glorious Governess begins, much of Rose’s personal motivation is based on Wollstonecraft’s observations.

Details like these reinforce authenticity – for settings, characters, and plot.

img_0578In All of Your Business, the heroes ride the London Eye.  So, what did I do last summer?  Ride the Eye while I was in London.  (It’s a tough job, I know, but someone’s got to do it!)

My job as a writer is to get it right – as much as I possibly can.  And if getting it right means yet another visit to England, then I’m all in!

November SALE reminder!  She Hates Me Not (e-book) is on sale for only 99 cents from November 16-23 as part of an Amazon Kindle Countdown special.  (It’s also available through Kindle Unlimited.)

No Kindle?  No problem!  Amazon has an app that works on lots of devices including iPhones.  Click here to download the Amazon app.

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