“Tennyson. That’s your name, yeah? He gave you that name...But you picked your last name, and you picked Fox. You picked my name...And you’re at least half my blood. You’re half that old bastard Devin. So listen to me."
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
Wednesday, May 11, 2022
It’s done! I did it! It’s finished!
Ah, the short-lived giddiness of finishing a manuscript…before reality hits and you remind yourself that you’re many, many manuscripts behind, there’s millions more words to write, and nothing will ever be enough. Lovely.
Still, you take the little victories where you can, no matter how little. After more than a year of writing – which, admittedly, was filled with long stretches of not working on it at all – The Wild Charge, Dartmoor book nine, is finished. I posted the last chapter on Wattpad yesterday, and, after it’s edited, I’ll post it up for sale on all the sites soon.
Spoiler-free post-writing thoughts ahead.
I said before I wrote it, and while I was writing it, that I didn’t want to write The Wild Charge. The end result is one I’m pleased with, one I’m proud of – one that I think brings something new and interesting and engaging to the series without being a rehash of a previous book with names and hair colors swapped. There are series that do that, to quite successful sales figures: series that are more or less the same story over and over, the same characters, the same conflicts, only it’s Bobby and Jane instead of Robert and Sally, etc. While I understand that this is a smart formula, it’s one to which I cannot adhere because, to put it bluntly, that sort of repetition would leave me so bored and contemptuous of my own work that I wouldn’t be able to continue an ongoing series. The risk, then, in trying to keep things fresh, is straying too far from the earlier works that readers enjoyed more. So am I pleased and proud? Did I accomplish what I set out to with this book? Yes. Do I still wish I hadn’t written it? Also yes. Because it strays too far from what’s been decided upon as the standard “MC romance” subgenre setup, and I can already hear the Goodreads disappointment in the back of my mind.
Speaking of “MC romance”…
I’ve never considered myself a romance author – not because , as I’ve had suggested to me, I hate women or don’t wish to support them (I am a woman; I tend to read mostly women authors, and I have yet to understand why a woman is somehow “more,” “better,” or “the right sort of woman to support” because she writes romance as opposed to sci-fi, fantasy, or mystery; riddle me that one, Batman) but because romance, as both genre and subgenre, are constrained by an incredibly rigid set of writing rules…rules that I don’t wish to adhere to while I work. It’s a matter of classification. Similarly, “MC romance” as a subgenre holds no special significance for me on its surface. It’s a cool aesthetic, but the motorcycles and the tattoos aren’t the reason I’ve written well over a million words in that universe. The MC scene, just like the medieval scene, like the vampire/werewolf scene, the Viking-inspired dragon fantasy scene, the heaven vs. hell scene, is appealing to me because it provides otherwise impossible opportunities for exciting stakes and character growth.
I do so love a cozy story. A Rosamund Pilcher novel full of warm Aga stoves, toddies by the fire, cottage gardens and soft, gentle love. But despite this, and despite being the most sinfully boring person on earth, as a writer, I like to play with big emotions; I like the peaks and valleys, the scary, everything-on-the-line emotions, and you can only get to that through elevated stakes. The motorcycle club setting offers those sorts of stakes: a group of people living on the other side of the law, making their own rules, battling for supremacy against other underworld forces. That automatically lends itself to action, violence, difficult decisions, and skillsets honed in moments of crisis. A setting that allows us to go on much wilder adventures, with life-or-death stakes that bring out the best and the worst in the characters.
I first introduced Reese in American Hellhound. He began, in the early drafts, as a means of explaining Badger’s depravity, a walking testament to this rival club’s brutality. But by the time I’d finished the novel, he’d become, for me, a chance to write a whole new type of character into the series. A new challenge, and a chance to work with a whole new sort of internal, personal struggle within the overall narrative: that of someone raised as a weapon searching for a sense of personhood. Because character is always my main focus, I knew it would be a slow and gradual process, that Reese had much to learn.
There was a moment, writing Prodigal Son, when I leaned a little toward pairing Reese with Cassandra. But the more I considered the idea, the less I liked it. I love a good age gap, but the gap between Reese and Cass was less about age and more about this massive gulf between their lived experiences. There was no way Cass could relate to him in any way, and no way her innocence and youth would help him better understand himself, or the real world into which he’d been plunged. It was a case in which opposites could not and should not attract, the more I thought of it. I hated the idea of Reese being “saved” in any way. I wanted him to learn. And to do that, he would need to learn alongside someone in a similar situation.
Their story together begins in Lone Star and comes to fruition here, all told a tale that takes three books to unfold. TWC is bloody, violent, and, like every book in this series, ultimately an examination of family in all its forms. I enjoyed getting to write both boys, but Tenny has cemented himself as one of my favorite characters in this series. This book marks the first time I got to play inside his head, and it was the sort of creative challenge I find most enjoyable. Writing book nine in a series that long ago lost its shine for me, I found my favorite installment yet, and hopefully the mental energy to stretch the road out a little farther ahead.
I have no idea how the book, when it’s published in the next few weeks, will be received. Some are going to hate it because it doesn’t have the right tone or vibe or what have you. Some will like it. I can’t say “thank you” enough to those of you who came along chapter by chapter. I wrote this book for Tenny and Reese, and for you guys, really. Anything else positive is just gravy, I suppose.
Look for the final version on sale in the next couple of weeks. Up next, I’m diving back into The Winter Palace, Demon of the Dead, and hopefully starting a new standalone with yet another, entirely different vibe.
Monday, April 4, 2022
You know how I've been sharing random future Dartmoor tidbits on Facebook? Unfortunately, this one has a whole multi-part story attached.
The gate closed with a loud clang behind them, and Rally settled with a quiet snort; ready, but calm, like the good boy he was. Violet stroked his neck and readjusted her position in the saddle; reached down to set her toes more firmly in the stirrups.
Sunday, March 20, 2022
After the All For The Game trilogy, I was definitely in need of another sports romance fix, so I picked up Coming In First Place by Taylor Fitzpatrick. I read Thrown Off The Ice last year, and really enjoyed it, and Fitzpatrick's writing style, so I already knew I'd enjoy this one, too. As good as Thrown is, it ends on a tearjerker, and First Place is thankfully a little more hopeful at the end. Supposedly there's a book 2 coming, also 👀
One of my favorite tropes is "Character A is so emotionally oblivious they have no idea Character B is a total goner for them" and this book has that in spades. Our POV protagonist, David, is pretty hopeless. Very strapped-down, withdrawn, rightfully nervous, given he's in the NHL, and emotionally constipated in general. He's an unreliable narrator in that sense, and it's at times funny and painful reading about the way he sees himself and the world.
My favorite thing about Fitzpatrick's narrative voice is its understated sense of reality. No overblown melodrama or purple prose fits of passion. There's doubt, and awkwardness, and a day-to-day sincerity about the way life unfolds that feels grounded and accessible.
A quick read, entertaining, touching, and one that kept me up past my bedtime.
Friday, March 18, 2022
Greetings from a very rainy and stormy Friday here on the farm. I'm getting new followers across all my SM accounts, and am frequently asked about my series: reading order, number of books, content, that sort of thing. I thought I'd create a master post for organizational purposes. So, in no particular order, here's the 411 on (almost) all of my books:
By far my most popular, this series is an ongoing saga about an outlaw Motorcycle Club based in Knoxville, TN. Book one is an intentionally sprawling character epic told in a meandering, lush manner reminiscent of the classic Southern authors of decades past. But, centering around a criminal enterprise, it's full of action, graphic violence, and explicit sex. A family saga at its heart, though, each book features a central romance - or two - and a plethora of family drama and interactions. It has a three-book spinoff series, "The Lean Dogs Legacy Series," that ties back into the main storyline in book seven, and is included below. Each book is meant to be read in the order of publication date, as follows:
The series must be read in order and the books are not standalones.
This series is my big, loud, freaking stressful baby that I love so much. It started as a collection of drabbles in the margins of my high school algebra notes, and turned into over a decade of research, dreaming, and finagling. It finally premiered in 2017 with book one, White Wolf, and it's safe to say this series was not what my established audience was expecting from me. Book five is taking five forevers to write, but it's still my favorite series.
I call it "paranormal fantasy," because it's a blend of paranormal and urban fantasy told on the grand scale of an epic fantasy series. The books are fat, unhurried, and very character focused. The premise, in short, is that certain important figures from history - Romulus and Remus of Rome, Rasputin, Alexei Romanov, Vlad Tepes, Richard I - are vampires, immortal, still living (some of them anyway), and werewolves and mages serve as their Familiars. Vlad Tepes, his brother Val, and their merry band of misfits are on a (somewhat) reluctant mission to save the world from the machinations of their Uncle Romulus. The main action is contemporary, but there are lots of historical scenes; the stories of how our immortals found their way to the modern world is every bit as essential as the overarching plot.
While the series definitely can't be classified as genre romance - don't come looking for another BDB - the slow-burn love stories throughout the series are important and focused-on. M/F, M/M, be prepared for explicit sex and darker themes, like sexual abuse, child slavery (Ottoman Empire, you know?) and bloody, gory violence in general. The series leans hard into the paranormal elements, with all the erotic blood-drinking, brain-washing, and wolf-shifting you could want. It's ongoing, with at least eight planned books, though I'm leaving the door open for more.
You mean I actually wrote and completed a series? It's a trilogy, really, but, who's counting? This is an odd, niche little post-apocalyptic erotica series which features a rift in the heavens, a rift in hell, and a battle taking place on the mortal plane, all of it loosely inspired by the King Arthur legends. Featuring an eventual OT3, and a winged, horned anti-hero, it also includes a side-story novella.
Epic fantasy in its purest form, the Drake Chronicles take place in an imaginary realm where dragons, shifters, and other forms of magic rule the day. There's several main romances and more to come, M/M and M/F. Despite its "softer, gentler" feel compared to my other work, this is most definitely a series meant for adults, with explicit sex and graphic violence. It's ongoing (currently working on book four), and I don't know how long it will end up being - could be 8, 9, 10 books, who knows. I'm having fun with it.
I have other series, yes, but they were published so long ago they feel like an entirely different person wrote them. I won't talk about them here, but the Walkers and Russells are out there for some sweet (Walkers), and salty (Russells) family drama action.
Thursday, March 17, 2022
Prose is the language through which we tell a story. As a reader, it’s the thing that makes or breaks a story for me. A concept can be unique and interesting, but if the prose is sloppy, dull, or difficult, I’m out. When I talk about how important craft is to me, I’m talking about prose: about imagery and metaphor, subtlety and nuance, unique character voices and diversity of sentence structure. All of these things working in conjunction are what make a book accessible and interesting. Too purple, and it sounds ridiculous; too abrupt and there’s no spark; too repetitive in its structure, and it’s just plain annoying.
It takes lots of reading, lots of practice, and lots of time to develop a signature style as an author. It’s a long process of consuming the written word, figuring out what you like best, and then putting it to paper, over and over, until your authentic voice starts to shine through.
For me, writing is a very cinematic experience. By that I mean, the scenes play out in my head like movie reels, and then my goal with prose is capturing those exact images. In my mind I see specific camera angles: close-ups, and fade-ins, those nifty focus shifts. I see a shot focused on the elegant movement of someone’s fingers; or the slanted, early morning light illuminating half of someone’s face in blind-shaped stripes. I spend time studying favorite actors’ facial tics and head tilts, and then translate that on the page so that those motions are alluring, or threatening, or melancholy. Lighting plays a tremendous role in film, and so I write it into all my work. Little visual details like a swirl of dust motes, or clouds scudding across the moon, or the lonely sway of a rotting window shutter. Those are the elements, the details, the little things that make a movie or a TV show feel real, and I write those things because I want my readers to see my stories come to life, not merely scan through a summary of actions.
This focus on prose is the reason it takes me so long to write a book. Book Twitter likes to scoff at anyone who claims they edit as they go, so I won’t say that. Instead, I’ll say that I fiddle with things as I go. That I don’t abide by the “just write it all down and fix it all later” rule. Some things need fixing right away. I don’t believe in rushing through scenes to “get them done.” I’m trying, at all times, to capture the exact imagery or tone of a scene in the moment I write it. The book will need and does get edited later, but it’s very common for me to delete or tweak a sentence immediately upon writing it. Some days the word flow is good and smooth, and I can knock out 2, 3, 4, even 5-thousand words in a couple hours. Other days, those two hours are spent endlessly fiddling with one page until I’m happy with it.
Writing, for me, is a very purposeful exercise. I used to not-so-jokingly say that I was like Horton: I said what I meant and meant what I said. It’s never a matter of “getting the gist across.” Not only do I genuinely enjoy playing around with language, but I think that play, when purposeful, is essential to creating an engaging and dynamic prose-reading experience. Whenever anyone asks about my influences in that regard, I feel a bit full of myself saying that Washington Irving and Edgar Allan Poe are my two biggest inspirations, but that’s the truth. When Irving described Ichabod as “a scarecrow eloped from a corn field,” that blew my little kid mind. That word “eloped.” It’s so eloquent. Not “a scarecrow who jumped off his stick and went walking around,” but something much cleaner and more evocative. While Poe is considerably darker, and Irving likes his long, early Americana ramblings, both use prose in a way that is richly descriptive and clever. Both can be cheeky; both can spin a metaphor like nobody else, and both can give you goosebumps with their knife-sharp specifics.
Specifics are important: I’m not trying to create a universal moment, but a moment that is so crystal clear as to be easily visualized, and one which, for one or two readers out there, is going to feel painfully true to life. I don’t want to write a general truth, but I’m writing somebody’s truth.
Next time, I’ll talk about editing – proper editing – and proofing, and what goes into finalizing and polishing a book for sale. I’m also going to challenge that weird adage that “all books are terrible until the editor gets hold of them,” so brace yourselves for that.
Saturday, March 12, 2022
I finished my fourth #ReadingLife book of the year last week, but given it was the second in a trilogy - and given its shocking ending - I wanted to wait until I'd read the trilogy's conclusion to post about it.
Nora Sakavic's All For The Game trilogy is bonkers. You can read my slightly-more professional write-up on book one HERE. The Foxhole Court piqued my interest, then The Raven King delivered all sorts of delicious plot twists in the way of all great middle books of a trilogy. The King's Men offered a few jaw-drops and a satisfying wrap-up that makes me wish this was a longer series.
I think my favorite thing about this trilogy is the way all of the development feels earned. The Foxes are a Messed Up bunch of characters, all of them with skeletons - often literal - in their closets; violent pasts, tons of trauma, and an array of bad attitudes. But as Neil slowly grows to like and trust them, so do we as the readers. The team that plays the Ravens for the championship has come a long way from those early chapters, and all that growth was the product of tense interactions, and slow, worthwhile reveals. And, in the end, things are resolved without being tied up nice and neat - not a happily-ever-after, but an acceptable way to leave our characters. Given the darkness of the storyline, it would have felt cheesy and over the top for Neil and Andrew and the team to have completely severed all ties with the underworld. Neil's going to owe the Moriyamas for the rest of his life...but the conclusion is satisfying all the same, and felt visceral and real given all that had happened.
Two thumbs up and a big recommendation from me. I've got a book hangover now - nothing else I've tried to start has held my attention. A good problem to have, all things considered. If anyone has any similar recs, I'm all ears!