Writer Words

Five Things You Don’t Know About Me

I’m tired today. It’s been a long week for some reason, I think because the kids had a long weekend because of a snow day last Friday, and they have another one this weekend, and I’m just tired.

I decided to do something a little fun today since I’m struggling to keep my head off the keyboard. Hopefully this will get me writing! If only I had one of these…

But since I don’t have a CREATE button on my keyboard that magically does things for me, I’m trying this!

I’m a pretty private person. I don’t like to talk about myself because, honestly, I don’t think I’m that interesting. I’m normal. I’m not anyone special, no more than the next person. So I figured there were probably a few things you didn’t know about me. I wanted to share some of them with you.

  1. I’ve been to 24 states in the US. One of my life goals is to visit all 50 states. I’ve only lived in two of them (South Carolina and New York), but I’ve visited 24 of them. And no, I don’t count it if I drove through but never stopped and did something there, which is why Kentucky isn’t on my list. I’ve been through it a bunch, but never *went* to Kentucky. One day. I’ll hit them all one day.
  2. I used to be a wedding planner. It was short-lived, but after I planned my wedding, I decided I wanted to do something like that for other couples. I enjoyed working with people, but it wasn’t an easy job, and I didn’t love it. I quit after a very short time, but it helped inspire me to write the Opposites Attract series. Who doesn’t love a wedding!
  3. I’m not a morning person, and even worse, I don’t drink coffee. I’m a night owl. Always have been. When I was young, my brother and sister would have to sit in front of the Christmas tree for hours before my parents would let them wake me up. Even the enticement of new toys from Santa (yes, this was that long ago) didn’t get me out of bed early. I went to afternoon kindergarten because my mom knew she’d never get me up for morning. Now, I get up at 5 am most days to get work done before my kids are up, but I don’t love it. If I drank coffee, I think it would be better, but the caffeine from one cup in the morning makes it hard for me to fall asleep at night so I gave it up years ago. I suffer through, and it isn’t always fun!
  4. I still use a paper calendar. I’m a visual person, so a digital calendar never worked for me. I tried, but it frustrated me that I couldn’t see everything that was going to happen. For my family, I hang a paper calendar to a file box and color code everyone’s activities so I can see at a glance who has what going on. For work, I have a desk calendar for each month and a wall calendar for the year. And yes, they’re both color-coded, too!
  5. I started listening to country music because of a boy! I love country music. If you’ve been here a while, you know that. I have it playing right now (I love Music Choice on my TV – no commercials!). When I was in middle school, I had a huge crush on my friend’s cousin. He liked country music and listened to it all the time. I started listening to it, too, because if he liked it, it had to be good. I found I liked it. My high school friends used to tell me their parents listened to the same music as me, but I didn’t care. I loved it. And 25 years later, it’s still the music I primarily listen to.

Did any of my ‘secrets’ surprise you? Did you know all this about me?

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Breaks are a good thing

Well, mostly. Broken bones aren’t great, but giving yourself a break is. That’s what I’m doing.

If you’ve been hanging out with me a while, you know that I’ve been writing like a crazy woman. I had a revelation this year that almost knocked me on my ass. Yeah, it’s only been a week since I proudly declared my goals.

Guess what? I’m changing them already.

It’s hard for me to admit when I was wrong. I’m not sure if that’s a female thing, or if it stems from having two kids who think they’re always right. Which means I’m always wrong. My kids are great kids, but I think hubby and I did too good of a job teaching them to think for themselves. They challenge everything we say, and like to argue and tell me I’m wrong, even when they’re trying to agree with me.

Anyway, I was wrong.

That was tough to say. But it’s true. I decided to write eight books in 2018. One release every six weeks. For months I’ve been debating backing off a little. Releasing fewer books. Giving myself more time to do all the little things that come along with writing (you know, like marketing and editing and cover design, little things like that). I resisted because I was scared.

You know I’m a big chicken.

I’m getting personal here. I hope you don’t mind.

In 2015, I was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Six months, six rounds of chemo, a bone marrow biopsy, and lots of stress later, I finished treatment. Two years later, I’m a year in remission, but I haven’t stopped living with the fear.

Fear of death. Fear of life. Fear of not having enough time. Fear of not finishing what I want. And yes, fear that it’ll come back and somehow I won’t notice. Again.

I’ve been writing like crazy to try to get everything done. I didn’t want to miss out. I didn’t want to leave this Earth with stories left to tell. I’ve learned that’s likely to happen no matter what. But a new fear has started to take over.

I’m watching my life fly by. I’m not living it.

I push myself. I take on too much. I rarely say no. Unless it’s to myself. I’m really good at telling myself no.

So I’ve decided to tell myself yes. Yes, I’m going to focus on my health. Yes, I’m going to take weekends off. Yes, I’m going to enjoy watching TV at night with my hubby. Yes, i’m going to enjoy snow days (like today) with my kids.

So I’m backing off. I’m giving myself a break. I’m still going to release new books. But after May 1, they will be eight weeks apart instead of six. And I won’t release anything around the holidays.

As always with me, this could change. I might decide I hate it next year, but I’m feeling relieved about it right now. I already feel less stressed out. If only it was that easy to lose weight!

What are you going to give yourself a break about this year?

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Looking Forward to 2018

Every year, I set goals. Personal goals, professional goals, even family goals. I feel like setting goals is a roadmap for my year. I choose a word for the year and set goals and move on from there. I love it.

My word for 2018 is productive. Maybe that seems like a weird word, but I have a lot going on in 2018. A lot that needs to get done. Which means I need to be very productive in order to make it all happen. I also need to be organized and focused and not procrastinate.

Aside from writing, which I hope to move forward, I’m an officer for my local writing chapter, co-chairing a contest, and always have personal stuff going on. Setting goals allows me to keep things in order.

So what are my goals?

  1. Publish 8 novels and 2 boxed sets
  2. Pay off debt
  3. Eat, exercise, and lose weight
  4. Publish audiobooks and app
  5. Develop 3 workshops
  6. Stick to a budget
  7. Save

The first one is fairly easy for me. I know I’m going to do it. I still have it on my list because I always want to make sure I’m paying attention to how much I’m putting out there.

We all have debt, right? My husband and I struggle with long-term money. We’re quick to spend, not so quick to save. So items 2, 6, and 7 all work together. Pay off debt, stay on budget, and save. If only doing it was as easy as writing it down!

Speaking of not so easy, I think losing weight is always on my list. My husband joked that he’s going to make one of his New Year’s Resolutions to gain 50 pounds. I said I should do the same because then I’ll be more likely to lose weight since I always do the opposite. I still couldn’t bring myself to put it on the list, but I thought about it!

Audiobooks and an app. Are you getting excited? My app is mostly done with a few tweaks and changes. Audiobooks are a whole new adventure that I’m looking forward to.

I’ve been thinking for a while about teaching workshops. I have my first two this year, but I want to develop more to include that option in my offerings. I want to share what I know and what I can do with other authors. I’m really excited about it!

I know more will happen, more will come up, in 2018, but these are the things I will focus on. The biggest things for me. The most important things. The things that will help me get the life I want to have.

Do you set goals? Any you want to share?

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Writing Tips: Creating Conflict

For you aspiring authors out there, I wanted to give you another quick lesson on making your own go at being a writer. Read on for some advice on conflict!

In every story, there’s always conflict. Sometimes it’s big and in your face, like a bad guy chasing someone with a knife. Other times it’s subtle and a little bit hidden, like a person who thinks they know what they want but really has no clue.

The best stories have a little of both.

It’s been three years since Chubby & Charming came out. If you haven’t read it yet, grab it now for free so you can understand everything I’m talking about here. I like examples, and yes, there are spoilers here.

Mandy tells herself she’s happy. That she doesn’t need a relationship to make her happy. We don’t need men, we have each other. She does believe her words, but she wants a relationship. There’s that distinction. She doesn’t need it, but she wants it. She convinces herself that because she doesn’t need a relationship that she doesn’t want one either. There’s your subtle conflict.

When Mandy meets Xander, her past experiences with attractive men bring in a new conflict. She thinks he’s going to dismiss her since she’s not model thin so she dismisses him first. She pushes him away before he has a chance to push her away. That’s a little more obvious of a conflict.

Layering in both elements adds depth to the story. If Mandy just convinced herself not to go for a relationship, or just had issues with cute men, she could get over them and move on. But having both, she’s fighting herself every time she turns around.

Of course, in the Big & Beautiful series, friends also add an element of conflict. Her friends are amazing, but they don’t always fit right in to what Mandy wants and needs. Claire has even more distrust of attractive men than Mandy does and warns her. Sam and Addi are a little more supportive, but at the end, when Mandy runs, none of them are willing to give Xander the benefit of the doubt until he shows up at Mandy’s house.

Xander’s conflicts are a lot more subtle in this story since we aren’t in his point of view. He has never felt like he truly connected with anyone he’s dated. He’s always thought there was something missing. That’s why he goes after Mandy. She’s the first woman he instantly had a spark with. He doesn’t give up because he wants to keep that feeling alive. He’s willing to do anything for her, but he needs to prove that since she’s timid.

Adding in conflict in romance can be tricky, depending on what kind of romance you write. Since this is a contemporary story, a lot of the conflict is internal, meaning within the character. I like to add in external conflict, like Mandy faces with her job and her coworker, Melody. It’s a somewhat minor subplot, but it works to show who Mandy is and push her to stand up for herself.

All conflict needs to be resolved. Anything you throw at your characters, you have to be able to fix it. With Mandy, her external conflict was partly resolved by her internal conflict. Being with Xander for a few months, she believed in him and how he felt. She convinced herself that he was being truthful about how much he cared about her. It gave her confidence she didn’t realize she was missing and the strength to stand up for herself when Melody accused her of threatening her. She didn’t need Xander, but having him changed her. Even when she thought he was gone.

Which brings me back to the internal conflict. She didn’t want him. She didn’t need him. But once she had him, she knew her life wouldn’t be the same without him in it. She couldn’t be with someone who would laugh at her, but she loved him. It was too late. He was the guy she thought he’d be, but she was blown away. Months of dating didn’t reveal his true nature, and Mandy was more hurt than she ever expected.

Of course, she was wrong when it came to who Xander really was. Claire convinced her to give him another shot, and she learned the truth. Conflict resolved.

Obviously, it’s a lot more complicated when you’re threading it into a story, but those are the high points. If you want a really good reference that goes into a lot of detail about conflict, I highly recommend Goal, Motivation, Conflict by Debra Dixon. It’s a great book to read to really understand how the three fit together and how to make it work in your story.

This is basically a new column for me on this blog. I want to ask if you have any questions, about writing or anything else. If you do, feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you. Enjoy writing your conflict!

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Get to know Sawyer!

I thought it was a good idea to reintroduce Sawyer to you. He made his first appearance in Round & Ravishing and was a bit of a jerk to Tara. There’s a lot more to Sawyer than it seems though.

What was your favorite toy when you were growing up? Maybe the one thing you always wanted for Christmas?

An airplane. I had a travel bug from a young age. My parents felt bad that they couldn’t take us on vacations like I asked for every year, but one year I got a plane. It was one of those big model planes and I had to assemble it myself. I spent almost a full year working on that plane. I kept it on a shelf above my bed forever. Shit, I wonder if my parents still have that.

When you’re stressed, what lesson from your past gets you through it?

I think I’ve learned more recently about how to deal with stress, but if I had to pick a lesson from my past, I’d always say that things will change. That might not be good, and it’s definitely not always bad, but it’s different. And different is the most important thing when the shit hits the fan, so to speak.

Is life black and white? Or are there shades of gray in between?

There’s a rainbow of gray out there. I used to think life could be pretty black and white, but there’s too much ugly shit in my past to tell me anything is simple. Nothing is simple. Nothing is easy. Nothing except love.

We know you’re a good guy, but when you lie, what gives you away?

Kiana says my eyes. I used to think I was a pretty good liar, but she can always tell. I can’t keep a secret from that woman to save my life.

Who has the power to hurt you the most and why?

Kiana, definitely. She’s my world, and she could destroy me if she really wanted to. Lucky for me, she loves me as much as I love her.

Order vs. ChaosOrder vs. Chaos will be out December 26!

Preorder it today!

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