When you realize that your villain is actually your main character

You know, Dirk was never even supposed to have a relationship with Tori. That just sort of spontaneously happened in the scene where they found out they were counterparts because I realized that a guy like Dirk would actually kiss her during that scene.

And then suddenly he had these strong feelings for her for the rest of the series that were driving his actions.

Sometimes characters do things like that.

But really, I think I was in book 3-4 before I realized that Dirk is actually the main character of the series. Because he’s the one who does the most changing. He’s the one who decides the fate of everyone else. He’s the one who has to decide whether to be loyal to his father or his friends. He’s the one who has to decide whether a better future for the country is worth spilling innocent blood for. (Weigh in: would you start a revolution if you knew the country would be better off afterwards?)

And in case you haven’t guessed, the climax revolves around Dirk.

I hadn’t originally planned that either.

This was a story where the climax came to me first. Originally it was going to be a story about losing your entire support system and having to face your dragons alone. All of the Slayers were going to lose their powers except for Tori. The dragons weren’t going to come until the group had graduated from college and had lost track of each other. (Dr. B was going to die of a heart attack or something in this version, and without camp and the supplies/ practices the kids move on with their lives.)

Tori was going to get a job and be surprised to find that she was working with Jesse–and then be even more surprised that he’d forgotten everything.

I had imagined this very funny scene where she was trying to tell him what he really was and he thought she was crazy.

And then the dragons would start attacking and she would have to make the heartbreaking choice to fight them alone, knowing she’d most likely be killed.

But then Jesse’s powers would be turned on and he would realize that she’d been telling the truth and he would join her, saving the day.

Yeah, that doesn’t happen now.

Part of the reason it changed was because years ago when the idea first occurred to me, social media wasn’t a thing. Now it would be harder to believe teenagers would lose track of each other. A bigger reason the plot changed was because I sold the series as young adult, and I didn’t think teens would be happy if I’d made the characters 25 at the climax.

And the biggest reason it changed was that Dirk took over the series.

And that’s why you should never use Dirk Benedict in any of your books. He will do things you didn’t expect him to do. Thanks, Dirk Benedict. Thanks.

Slayers 5 New Year’s resolutions

First off, my file became corrupted (Who out there is corrupting vulnerable young files?) and I lost a week’s worth. And then I couldn’t work on the manuscript for a day because I felt so sick about losing a week’s worth. Could I have backed it up and saved myself all of this?  Do I usually back it up and never need the backup? Yeah–that’s why I was so upset.

Anyway, first draft should be done soon and then it will go out to beta readers.  But here is my resolutions regarding the book.

I will not paint any rooms, cabinets, or anything else in my house until I finish the first draft of this manuscript. Even though, trust me, it really needs it.

I will not organize any closets, despite the fact that I’ve seen two episodes of the Netflix series Tidying Up and have a sudden desire to go through them.

I will not watch any TV or Movies (unless I’m on the treadmill) until the manuscript is winging it’s way to the beta readers

I will not cook any meals that take more than 45 minutes to prepare until I’ve typed The End.

And I won’t clean my bathroom…or maybe that’s going too far…Any chance I could convince my husband that he needs to do it?

Maybe this whole not doing housework thing could work out for me…

Answering the question: When do you find time to write?

I just got this question from a new writer who noted that errands take up a lot of time that should be devoted to writing. She wrote:

How do you manage your writing process (do you have set hours or a word count to reach each day)? How do you keep yourself accountable to getting the work done (spreadsheets? an accountability partner)? Has any of that changed now that your kids are older? How do you balance novel creating time with your other tasks, like editing, marketing, blogging, attending events, etc?

The short answer is: not well. I write really slowly. While other people are banging out two thousand words in an hour, I’ll get that much done in eight hours. So how do I find time to write? Here’s the long answer:

When my children were little I had specific times that I wrote. Namely when the kids were napping, when the kids had a favorite show on TV that would keep them occupied for an hour, playdates, and preschool.  I wrote during soccer games and ballet lessons. I wrote while nursing babies. I wrote whenever I could. One page a day adds up

You’re right that errands take up a lot of time. And when the kids get home from school you’re busy with them. I try not to schedule any errands on Mondays so that it can be a dedicated block of writing. Then I try and have a day or two in the week that is also dedicated to writing and I run errands on two days a week. Very often errands take more time than two days. (And I have found, alas, that no matter how much I wish for it, the house doesn’t clean itself. Or paint itself.)

Kids have dentist appointments and doctors appointments and orthodontics appointments. Friends need help and church members need help. Am I ever going to tell a friend in need that I’m too busy to help them because I have to write fiction? Some writers do, but it seems wrong to me. Which is why a lot of my writing time gets done after 10 pm. No one calls to ask you to do things then. It’s hard to run errands–although, I have been known to go to the 24 hour Walmart. (Note: working late is only effective when your kids are young. When they’re older, they will indeed call to talk to you at midnight because they know you’re up.)

This nighttime schedule has only worked because my husband has been willing to help get kids off to school in the morning. I’ve told people on occasion that I’ll never leave my husband because he drives the carpool. I’m only half joking. Driving the carpool makes up for a myriad of sins in the romance department.

I’ve found that on some days, my older or married children still need a lot of my time. So the mom job never really ends. (Sometimes I feel like I’m my son’s unpaid personal assistant.)

As I write this blog on finding time to write, I’m planning to take a repositioning cruise that will last 14 days. The reason I’m taking it is that I will have no errands, no cooking, no cleaning, and no one will ask me for anything. I won’t even have internet–just days of uninterrupted writing time.  I’m hoping to get a huge chunk of Slayers 5 done.

So what I’m saying is that if I need to pay a lot of money and hide out on a boat in the middle of the ocean for two weeks in order to get writing done,’m not the best at finding balance.

I’m not sure that answer helps you much. In fact, right now you may be weeping. I am a little on the inside too…

Back to real life-motivation and guilt

I’ve just been to the LDStorymakers Midwest conference. (Or as the hotel called us: LD Storymakers. I say that stands for Lonely Divas, although some suggested it actually meant Loves Dessert. Both work. You choose.)

It’s always so fun to see old friends and meet new ones and basically hang out with people who get you. There is always something new to learn. I come back from conference motivated to do all sorts of marketing and writing with all of its associated guilt because I know I’m only going to get a small fraction of my good intentions accomplished.

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, screen and indoor

In this conference I found myself in Mary Gray’s romance class up in front of everyone with Lisa Swinton blocking out an ill-fated kiss that takes place in a maintenance shed in Arizona with scorpions and only a weed Wacker for protection.

I also got to talk with other writers over dinner.

Them: Life gets so busy. Sometimes it’s hard to find two hours in which I can knock out 5000 words.

Me: I hate you all.

Because I have never written 5000 words in two hours. 5000 words would take me approximately 14 hours because I write somewhere around 300 to 500 words in hour. I am the slowest writer I know. I can tinker with the paragraph for half an hour.

So one of my goals is to utilize text to speech more and write faster. We’ll see how that goes. Usually when I use text-to-speech I end up sounding drunk and questionable. But hey, maybe that will make for more entertaining reading


Not dead yet…

I just realized it’s been over a month since I posted. Ugh! Since I’ve been busy working on screenplays for the last five months (and life… how does anyone ever get anything accomplished in the middle of doctors’ appointments and dentist check ups and teens who insist they need to go to Target–RIGHT NOW for (fill in the blank) and laundry and shopping and should people really expect me to cook? No. And yet they do.)

Anyway, when I haven’t been writing screenplays, I’ve been reading or listening to courses on writing screenplays. Go ahead and ask me about Greek tragedies influence on cinema. I know things now.

Every once in awhile I get emails asking when the next  Slayers book will come out. And then I weep.

So… that’s been my life. It sort of feels like I’ve dropped off the face of the writing world, but I haven’t.

Answering three questions about becoming a writer

Sometimes people email me for school assignments or other types of assignments where they need to learn about how to become an author. I just got one such request and thoughts I would post the three answers I gave an aspiring writer.

1. What are your job responsibilities?
 As a writer, it probably won’t surprise you to find out that my main responsibility is to write books. Sometimes I have a deadline from the publisher and have to hole up like an unwashed obsessed person, trying to wrestle words from the air and pin them on the page. Other times, the deadlines are all internal and then my children get fed dinner once in a while. Publishers also expect you to do a large amount of marketing for your books. I hadn’t expected this when I got my first contract and I foolishly forgot to get a degree in marketing.  If you want to become a writer, the more you can learn about marketing, the better.
2. What training or education did you obtain to do the job?
 The nice thing about being a writer is that part of the education is reading a lot of books. However, you’ll also need to read books on writing and get some sort of a critique group that will give you feedback on your writing. If you can’t find a group near you, try an online critique group. Or you can also find critique groups by genre. Romance writers frequently join RWA etc.
Since you will also be receiving high degrees of criticism and rejection, I suggest you train for the job of a writer by going to high school. Every time you’re snubbed, you can tell yourself: That ain’t nothing. I can take it. I’m going to be a writer.
 3. What contributions does your job make to society?
 As a writer, my main contribution to society is to convince girls and women that there really are hot awesome guys around who are both romantic and witty. This may be a total lie. I’m not sure. I’m married to an electrical engineer. But because people need entertainment, it’s important for authors to provide good uplifting novels that readers don’t have to feel bad about reading. Hopefully, I do that too.

Update on…everything

I had planned to finish Slayers before I did anything else. The story is so close to being done. Well, at least the rough draft is close. The finished, polished story is far from being done since revisions take months. But my agent called me the end of March and told me he wanted me to turn three of my books into screenplays.

The first problem with this instruction was that I don’t know how to write screenplays. It’s sort of like telling a comic creator to do a watercolor. Some of the principles are the same but it’s completely different medium. So I’ve been reading screenplay writing books and working on Just One Wish, and All is Fair in Love, War, and High School. When I’m done with those, my agent wants me to turn My Fair Godmother into both a screenplay and a pilot for a series. In case you’re wondering, writing series pilots is different then screenplays so I’ll have to learn another new skill.

In some ways it’s been good for me to work on something so different because it reminds me that learning is a process and I should have more understanding and patience for people who haven’t learned the craft of writing yet. Just because you tell people a rule and even give examples doesn’t mean they’ll know how to implement it. I’ve been told in screenwriting books to avoid overwriting, and I’m still not sure what that looks like.

It takes a lot of hours to learn a craft and I’m just at the beginning of that journey.

Part of me wants to stop with the screenplays after I finish All’s Fair and get the fifth Slayers done. Another part of me realizes that I have an agent for a reason, and I’m supposed to listen to his advice. Strike while the iron is hot, and all that. I might be able to make a decent wage as a screenwriter whereas I know I won’t make that working on the last Slayers book. Harsh truth, I know. But these last books have been a labor of love and not profit.

I also have been working on my novella: Covertly Yours, which is in the With a Kiss anthology. I and some amazing authors put this anthology together as a fundraiser for Rob Wells. It will only be available for six months so grab your copy now. (Amazon says it’s 666 pages. Apparently one of us should have written one more or one less page.)

Click here to buy With a Kiss

I’ve been at Storymakers and Phoenix Comic Fest where I filmed a whole bunch of episodes of So You Think You Can Write with amazing guest judges. Standby for episodes with Shannon Hale, Melanie Jacobson, Sarah Eden, Donna Hatch, Lisa Mangum, Ben Grange, Brandon Mull, James Owen, and Brandi Stewart (From Changing Hands). I’m probably forgetting someone. But trust me they were all awesome.

Those episodes will be coming out in the next month months.

And that’s what I’ve been doing and why I’m behind on everything, or at least behind on Slayers, which feels like everything.

A New Release: My Fair Lacey & A Perfect Fit

I grew up watching My Fair Lady. Loved it. Still do. In fact, I can sing along with several of the songs. (My personal tradition is to sing the I’m Getting Married in the Morning song to anyone the night before their wedding.)
There was only one thing wrong with the movie: not a good romance.
So it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that I wrote a modern-day version with a hot guy. If you like My Fair Lady, you need this book for your collection.
After I wrote the story for the 3rd Echo Ridge Anthology, I knew I needed to write a story about Jojo, Lacey’s roommate too. That novella appeared in the 4th anthology.
Now you can have the two books together. I think they’re a perfect fit, if I do so say so myself… Here are their descriptions:
Lacey has dreamed of opening a restaurant for years – but first, she needs a loan. When Garrett Halifax, her roommate’s Harvard-educated brother, offers to help her clean up her appearance and manner to impress the bank manager, she jumps at the chance. She makes mistake after mistake, and perhaps the biggest mistake is falling for sexy Garret.
This modern retelling of My Fair Lady offers all the humor of the original movie with a splash of romance thrown in.
Jojo Halifax, Lacey’s roommate, believes that winning Echo Ridge’s float competition is just what her fledgling art career needs. And if that means giving her ex-boyfriend, Anthony, a second chance so she can be a designer on his team, well, she’s willing to make the sacrifice. But when a lost bet leads to a blind date with her brother’s friend, Wyatt, she begins to have second thoughts about second chances. Wyatt is handsome and charming and just might have been paid to make her forget about Anthony. Is falling for his charm worth the risk or should she take Anthony back again?
Romantic comedy lovers will eat these two novellas up!