You can check out my books on, and at Barnes & Noble too.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Back In

I sat down at the computer this morning, opened up my book file, and the first sentence I typed - I kid you not, every word was either misspelled, or didn't fit the sentence. All of it was completely wrong. Great way to start the day. This is why we don't have a glass of wine on a Sunday night.

I'm starting to feel the pressure to get KBC completed. Written, at least. Editing and formatting aren't taxing. But I'd love to get it written because, as this weekend reminded me, we're going into the spring/summer season, and that means most of my weekends will be spent on the lawnmower or tractor. Plus, it'll be gorgeous and warm, and sitting in front of the computer will lose some of its charm. So full steam ahead on getting this one finished; then maybe I can have a little time to get that life people are so worried I don't have.

Yesterday turned out beautiful. Mucho progress was made on the veggie garden and its non-pre-fab rose arbor.

My doggie shadow managed to work his way into almost every picture. If he could climb a tree to photobomb me, he would.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lines 3/30

Lisa, as graceful as always:

“What in the damn hell does he have to gain from patching in? I’m sorry – being in this messed up family’s not enough? He’s gotta be a super felon?”
~Keeping Bad Company,
Copyright © 2014 by Lauren Gilley

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Rainy Saturday

There's this old wives' tale - actually, it's probably an old cowboy tale - that if you have snow on the ground in winter, the spring grass will come in really rich. Wisdom from my farrier. Here's the thing about country farrier wisdom - it always proves true. Both my minis, who did so beautifully last year, are already foot-sore, so off the grass they go. The grass isn't even in, just little tender baby shoots poking up. And already, it's potent. We had three snows this winter, two of which sat on the ground for days. Poor minis, stuck in their dirt lot with a flake of hay.

Every so often, a rainy Saturday morning is nice. Quiet, restful. I don't feel so great today, so before I head off to a birthday party, I'm going to be reading, updating my writing playlist, and hopefully getting some more work done on Keeping Bad Company. I know I'm probably not supposed to be, but I'm getting pretty excited about this book. It's turning out to be lots of fun to write, and hopefully that means it'll be lots of fun to read.

Reminder that the Goodreads giveaway of God Love Her is still running - and will be through April 25. You can enter on the sidebar; I'm psyched to have so many entrants so far. And Made for Breaking is still just 99cents to download.

Okay, not-so-subtle advertising over. Have a lovely Saturday, everyone.

Friday, March 28, 2014

This Dork

Markus, every time he hears me come through the main gate into the barnyard, comes to his gate, wanting into his stall. But he doesn't just pop his head over. First I hear the hooves. Then I see the whiskers, the tip of his nose, his nostril...

I say, "Hey, Markus," and only then does the head came all the way over. Every time. Same at night check. Accepting of strangers he is not. Oh, Widowmaker.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Way to my Heart is not Through Diamonds

Look at my beautiful new 75th Anniversary Edition of The Hobbit.
I had to order a book for book club from Amazon, but how does a person order just one book? Not possible. I added to the order to get free shipping, badly in need of a copy of The Hobbit since my old copy was lost in the move years ago. I didn't know it would be so pretty; the cover is embossed and textured.
It's got Thror's map.

And little cute Smaug on the first title page.

And this gorgeous second title page with the dwarf runes.

I'll have to be sure and reread it before December, so I can remind myself just how heart wrenching the end of the third movie is going to be.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Workshop Wednesday - Reading for Writers

It's funny: when I sat down to write this post, I was struck by the thought that, when asked "tell me something about yourself," I stutter and fumble and just say "I like horses" or something stupid like that. But say "tell me about books," and I'm going to write someone a book. Caution: rambling and mixed metaphors ahead.

I  might have mentioned a few hundred times that I'm a fan of A Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin. One of the many, many things I love about his work, is that I can see threads of influence from some true literature greats. Tolkien, Shakespeare, Conrad, Bronte, White, Hugo, Dickens. Some of these are conscious - like the Monty Python references - but I'd imagine some are not. Heck, some may just be me projecting another story on top of what's there. And then some are straight from history - The Red Wedding was inspired by a particular story in Scottish history. I'd even go so far as to say there's some influences from comics, too, since he's a fan. Long story short, the man has read a lot. And instead of his books being another Lord of the Rings rip off, they're maybe the most original things on the market. The books he's consumed have fueled an imagination that is an amalgam of all the things he's absorbed from all the stories he's read. The parts were melted down and re-forged to make a new whole, a unique weapon, the steel shaped and tempered. Think of a book as a blade. It's not as simple as pouring molten metal into a mold and letting it set up. No, that wouldn't have any strength. Just like a book that's an echo of another doesn't stand on its own. So instead, you become a swordsmith, a master of your own craft.

Stephen King has the best advice for writers: you must read. There's all these step-by-step writing guides and blogs that swear they can teach you exactly how to write...or you could listen to a talented, successful author, like King. And read. I love that - it's not pretentious, not know-it-all, not yanking the ladder up behind his success. It's literally the simplest way to better your writing. I think he's absolutely right.

This is my take on the reading issue, and it's just my two cents. Er...five cents.

Going back to Martin, reading is about adding to our own personal canons as authors. I bump into lots of writers on the web who say they just don't have time to read. Or they limit themselves to only one or two authors or genres - they don't want to read anything that isn't directly relevant to their own stories and characters. Lots of people don't have time to read these days, with work and kids, but if you're an author, Stephen King says that excuse won't fly. And that's hard to hear. When your brain is mush, all you want to do is surf Pinterest or Tumblr or stare off into space. But...Your business is telling stories, and the best way to keep your mind honed, is to feed it with words.

“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”
George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

I think as writers, we all have those stories I think of as formative. Those stories we always go back to, the ones with the themes that really hit home, the ones that tickled our childhood imaginations and have stood the test of time. (For me, the biggie is the Robin of Locksley tale. Go figure.) Life adds its own special flavor of hell. And the rest of the gaps, we fill in with books, movies, comic books, poems, songs. The more you read - and the more variety you read - the more you build on what's already there. You learn what you like, what you don't like. You build this collection of stories that you can draw on at random, in an unconscious way. You learn something little with every story, so the more stories you read, the more those little things add up to big things.

There's something to be learned in all genres. Stephen King taught me about subtle atmosphere, and dread. Tolkien taught me about fellowships, and juggling large casts. Jane Austen taught me it's okay to tell small, personal stories. Michael Crichton taught me about selling the unbelievable. Conan Doyle taught me I loved finding clues. Dickens taught me patience. I've studied Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology, because it's fascinating, and fun. I'm always reading. Even if it's just ten minutes a night before I fall into bed, even if I'm knee-deep in my own writing, I make time for reading, because I'm adding to that canon all the time.

I think it's important not to rule out possibilities. Writing can go in directions we never anticipated; inspiration can come from any direction. You're only holding yourself back if you limit your reading experience to a very small collection. I've found that it's better not to lean too heavily on one source. I love Tami Hoag, but I don't want to write just like her. I've read so much, and I feel like my own writing voice is stronger for it. You're not in danger of copying anyone too closely if you swim in a great big sea of words. Reading teaches us about language, about the sensual way words roll together; it shows us the limitless ways to tell a story, and allows us to find our own route.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Happy Tolkien Reading Day

It's Tolkien Reading Day. My all time favorite - everything. Author. Stories. Movies. My muse. I wanted to share some of my favorite quotes.

“There is some good in this world, and it's worth fighting for.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

“Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible, and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

“Fairy tale does not deny the existence of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance. It denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final a fleeting glimpse of Joy; Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

“If this is to be our end, then I would have them make such an end, as to be worthy of remembrance.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

"A day may come when the courage of Men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the Age of Men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight!"

-  J.R.R. Tolkien, Aragorn, The Return of the King

Monday, March 24, 2014

Goodreads Giveaway: God Love Her

Just over to the right, at the top of the sidebar, you can see the little Goodreads giveaway widget. I'm giving away five signed paperback copies of God Love Her via Goodreads. Goodreads will pick the winners and pass along the shipping info - all you have to do is enter! The giveaway runs from tonight at midnight until April 25. Goodreads authors give away books all the time, and it's a great way to discover new books.

What: Goodreads giveaway of God Love Her.

When: March 25 - April 25

Where: US residents only. (Sorry! I just can't ship overseas. I can do an ebook giveaway, though, to anywhere in the world, so email me if you'd like to arrange that.

How to enter: Click the widget to your right, or go to the book's giveaway page

To read the first three chapters: click here.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday Tidbit

This two stories-at-once thing is just me making life more difficult for myself. I'm enjoying them both, though. They're so different from one another. Wanted to share a tidbit from my horsey project today. (If Jade and Atlas sound familiar, it's because they are. Going to borrow Canterbury from Whatever Remains).



            They found a second-hand saddle from someone who’d ridden Percheron crosses. A black Klimke with butter-soft flaps, a deep seat, low pommel, and no knee rolls. It had extra-long billets, and had come with a girth big enough for a draft horse. It fit Wolf to a T. His long back – broader and stronger by the day – looked made for a saddle.

            Anne had brought by his bridle for Casey to use, misty-eyed over her boy’s progress. It was a black Passier with faux crystals in the browband, and it more than doubled all the bridles hanging in the Canterbury tack room. Casey had cleaned it with leather soap and beeswax until it gleamed. She’d had to go shopping for reins – extra-long necks, it turned out, required “oversized” reins; she hadn’t known such a thing existed.

            All tacked up, in a faded blue saddle pad, Wolfram was a creature transformed. As if he sensed her admiration, he craned his neck around and nuzzled at her ribs.

            “You know you’re handsome, don’t you?” Casey said, scratching at his forelock.

            “If you used some of that sweet talk on the boys, you wouldn’t have to say it to the horses,” Nina said from the arena fence.

            “As if the boys appreciate it,” Casey shot back, and stuck her boot in the stirrup.

            She stood on top of the three-tiered mounting block that Jade used to mount her Atlas. It was a warm morning on the verge of going melted-popsicle. The night’s mist hung in tatters from the low branches; dew dripped. It was the first time she’d ever mounted Wolf. Her stomach fluttered and dove; she was glad she’d skipped breakfast.

            “Go on,” Nina said.

            Casey took a deep breath, took the front and back of the saddle in her hands, and sprung lightly up into the saddle. Wolf’s massive ribcage filled the space between her knees. His neck stretched before her, his back and haunches behind, and the arena sand loomed a long way below, far enough to break bones if she hurtled toward it.

            But Wolf seemed to have no ideas about sending her crashing. He reached around, touched his muzzle to her boot, then faced forward, ears pricked, alert and ready. She touched her heels to his sides and he struck out in a loose, ground-eating walk, punctuated by his strange hiccupping steps in the back.



            For two weeks, all they did was walk. Relaxed walk, working walk, extended walk. Arena walks, gallop track walks, pasture walks. When they went through the fields, Casey held LT on a line and ponied him beside them, so Wolf would have company.

            The first steps of trot happened in the arena, and they lurched and leaped and nearly unseated her. Downward transitions were minor earthquakes, his legs collapsing and righting themselves at the last possible moment.

            A month from the day she first put her foot in the stirrup, she cantered him. His hooves ate up the ground. She relaxed her spine, engaged her core, and her hips put dashboard hula girls to shame. When she pulled him to a halt – in only four strides! – she tossed a smile to her audience at the rail. Jade and Nina clapped.

            Nina said, “What’d I tell ya?”


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Nerd Things 3/22

Psyched about: Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits theaters April 4. There was a nice little sneak peek during this week's Marvel special. If you missed Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe on Tuesday, ABC is airing it again tonight at 8:00 ET. I'm a teeeeeennnssy bit obsessed with everything Marvel Cinematic Universe right now, and the special was a nice look at the formation of the studio and their vision. I love that heroes are in vogue again, and that Marvel is doing such a great job making those heroes relatable and human. There was also a look at Guardians of the Galaxy which is due out in September.

Also psyched for: This book, The Secret Place by Tana French. It's scheduled for an August 2014 release and there's not even a cover for it yet, but this mystery author is one of my all time favorites and I'll happily gobble up anything she chooses to write.

Listening to: "Take Me Home (ft. Bebe Rexha)" by Cash Cash.

Entertained by the total pipe dream of having a Jag because of: This commercial, and this commercial. Just...yeah. Smart, move, Jaguar. Smart move.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lines 3/21

“They’re coming for us, aren’t they?” she whispered.
            Sometimes, this no secrets thing was hell.
~Keeping Bad Company

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring Has...

Not sprung, exactly, but today is the first day, and its arrival is welcome. The grass hasn't gotten the memo, nor have the minis' long winter coats. I like this picture, though, because they look so tiny beside the well house, and because you can just make out the Phantom of the Opera mask on Spoof's side. His name was almost Phantom, but Big Chief No Spoofum just had a certain ring to it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lines 3/19

The bartender, hair flaring blue in the morning light, was leaning against the front of the building, one sneakered foot propped behind her against the wall. She looked tiny and too-thin. Rev stopped to have a smoke, and Johnny hung back, lingering beside the girl.
            “I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said.
            She lifted her brows; her expression plainly said that’s cute. “You’re kinda stupid,” she said, little nose wrinkling. She grinned. “But kinda sweet."
~Keeping Bad Company 

Workshop Wednesday - Charting Your Progress

When I studied fine art, it was so simple to keep up with where I'd been, where I was, where I was going. We kept portfolios of our work and our teacher would line up our weekly paintings and go over our improvements with us. All I had to do was set up two pieces and I could see where I'd improved.

When I rode, someone would tape me, and I could watch the playback and see just why a movement wasn't coming together. I could tell the horse wasn't responding, but I needed to see why that was my fault.

It's a more complicated process to track your writing, but it's an important part of a writer's self-education. The next few weeks, I want to talk about education and becoming a stronger writer. Today, I'll start with progress-tracking.

I believe that everything you write has the ability to make you a better writer, but you have to be conscious of what you're doing. If you - like so many of the girls I used to ride with - go around thinking "I'm fab" and you never reflect, you won't ever improve. You have to be able to take a step back from your work, and look at it with fresh eyes, own up to what you need to work on, and think about how you can take positive steps forward. It's like riding in front of a mirror - and oh, sometimes that was painful - and realizing, "Aha, I need to put my outside leg further back. My right hand keeps drifting. I should be more upright in my shoulders." You've got to ride in front of a mirror. But how? It's different for everyone, but here's what works for me:

- I re-read my old work. Not for fun, and not cover-to-cover, but I'll take one of my own books off the shelf, flip through, read a chapter or two, and jot notes. It's surprising how fast I have a list of things to watch out for in my current project: overused mannerisms; goofy punctuation things I thought were cute, but weren't; confusing sections of text; melodrama (I have to really watch that); that sort of thing. I also look for turns of phrase I really like, and write those down too.

- I like to write mock-papers as if I'm analyzing my own books for a class. (Because I'm a nerd) But in my head, it works, and it works best with older stories and books that I haven't thought about in some time. Most recently, I did it with Keep You to prep for the book club discussion of it, and it was a revealing exercise. I pulled out themes, searched for holes, broke down characters. My writing is always more thematic than I ever plan it to be. As I write, it's just a story, so it's cool to go back and find the under layers (next week I'll talk about how reading builds a subconscious mind that creates theme without you knowing about it). Doing this also helps me see the patterns in my writing...

- After nine books, I can look back at the things that are present in all my works, and from them, interpret what kind of author I am. This sounds so simple, but I've found that, at the beginning of the publishing process, I knew what kind of writer I wanted to be - now I have proof of what I am. Take out setting and fluff and individual quirks, and I'm passionate about a type of storytelling that can move between genres: I love writing about families, in all their forms; themes of family, justice, pride, flaw, and acknowledgement of evil are important to me; a love of English literature and fairy tales are the framework of my imagination, and these threads can be woven into any kind of tapestry. Now, I can say, with finality, that I write DRAMA. And drama can live in any genre.

Similarly, this kind of analysis could help someone decide what genre they want to try, or reinforce that they are in the right one.

- I've gotten in a habit of daily progress reports. At the end of every night, before I close down the computer, I record my favorite lines of the day, and highlight lines I feel iffy about. A few days later, I go back and look at them again, and cut what sticks out as weak, all the better to highlight the strong points. This process is helping me trim the fat, alter lines to make them more impactful, and hopefully, when it comes time to edit, there will be less revision involved.

Self-awareness is essential. You have to be aware of what you're actually producing, not just what you wish you were. Only when you admit where you are, can you hope to go someplace new. Looking at your own work through an honest lens is an important part of growing as an author. I haven't reached the top of my mountain - not by a long shot - but reflecting on what I've written so far is helping me navigate the routes ahead.

And what helps guide us on these mountain trails? Books. Books, books, books, and more books. We'll talk about the importance of reading next week.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tiny Things

Such tiny little things, these perfect white flowers. Their impact is a pinprick of hope and light.
But put them in a cluster, and the pinpricks become a bouquet.
Layer them on branches, and you have an arboreal garden.
Words are no different. A novel is a collection of words. A great novel is a lush garden.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lines 3/17

Gonna steal an hour or so of writing time. Sharing my favorite passage from this morning's endeavors.

            Husband. Was that word ever going to taste normal?
            In the midmorning sun, he looked older than his forty-one years, the laugh and sun lines making his unremarkable handsomeness seem well-earned. Life had carved grooves into him, and he’d thrived beneath the scars. He needed a haircut, and he had grease smudged along one high cheekbone. Her eyes went, as always, to his mouth as he stuck a cigarette between his teeth and searched for his lighter. There would forever be something magnetic about the shapes of his lean, tanned fingers cupping the flame around the Zippo. When his gaze fixed on hers, he seemed ages-old and inappropriately different from her. What business did a girl like her have with a man like this?
Just when she questioned her sanity, he called her “baby” and the way his voice shaped the word always sent shivers across her skin.
~From Keeping Bad Company

Keep On Wanting

"Open up your broken heart, and keep on wanting."
I always wonder how many artists set out to reinvent themselves, and how many are just broken-hearted dreamers who never stop wanting to go to new heights. It's something I pondered this weekend, as I worked on two polar opposite stories, both of which have reached the uphill, chain-catching stage of the roller coaster. One of them is the next Russell novel - Keeping Bad Company - and I realized, somewhere between the eight- and ten-thousand word mark that this book can't follow the formulaic series approach of one central romantic relationship per book. I worried about this at first. Formula really isn't my favorite thing, and even when I try to, I can't keep it inside the box. But this book...this is going to be a great big epic thunderstorm of a book. Forget the box; the box is not in play. I consulted the oh-so wise and powerful mother, and she said, as always, just what I needed to hear. "You're at your best," she said, "when you're doing the things no one else is doing." So I took the box out back to the burn barrel (you think I'm kidding about that, but no, I have a burn barrel) and torched the sucker. Goodbye, box, I never liked you anyway. (No actual boxes were harmed in the making of this metaphor)
So here's the plan. I thought I'd share it with you because I like it when the authors I read keep everyone posted on what to expect in the future.
Coming up:
- Russells volume 3: Keeping Bad Company
- A literary novel about second chances and horses, inspired by the greatest second chance of my life (as of yet untitled).
- At some point beyond that, my historical.
- And at some point beyond that, Trey and Paige.
Why do I always harken back to that work "keep"? There's something magic in the examination - not of the things we throw away - but the things we choose to keep. I've learned that I can follow through on promises, and that it's okay to keep on wanting.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Once you crossed the line, skeletons went up in your closet like a whole new wardrobe, and there was no taking them out.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Another Saturday

Last weekend it was the daffodils, this weekend it's the pears.

I love my pears. Even if they smell a little fish-like. They are spring and sun and happiness. The sight of them always kicks off a season of outdoor work. You know what, though, I'll trade slaving in the sun over being iced in any day of the week.

These are the vegetable planter boxes - made of untreated wood because pressure-treated boards will leach toxins into the soil - that are the base for the potage garden. I couldn't take a single picture without Sophie photo-bombing.

This weekend the gate is going up on the picket fence. 

Thursday night I had such a fun time at book club sharing Keep You. It's been (holy crap!) a year and a half since its release and I loved the chance to revisit that first story with a new audience, and the feedback was wonderful, thoughtful, and detailed. It was the energizing boost that I needed. So today, I'm updating my in-store pamphlets and promotional material, in addition to working on my current works in progress.

Apparently, this isn't going to be a restful weekend, and that's a relief after being a big ball of sick last week! Bring it.

Beware the Ides of March

“Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.”
William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
I love Hal and Falstaff, but Julius Caesar will forever be my favorite Shakespeare. I have a giddy, fangirl appreciation for everything about that play. From poor conflicted Brutus, with too much conscience to pull off a proper assassination; to Cassius and his "lean and hungry look"; to Mark Antony, and his rabblerousing. Every time I re-read it, I come away with some new little nugget. It's Shakespeare at his tragic best.
Happy Ides of March. If that's even a thing that's possible to wish. :)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Nerd Things - 3/14

So apparently, Led Zeppelin has announced they will "Reissue First 3 LPs With Unreleased Songs." Um....yes, please! My mom emailed me about it this morning while I was at the barn and I power-walked back to the house to Google it. I'm not sure if I could love any of their stuff more than "Whole Lotta Love," but bring on the secret tracks!

Releasing on DVD: Frozen comes out March 18. I haven't seen it yet - I really didn't want to sit in a theater full of little kids, however crappy that is of me to admit - but I've heard nothing but good things. "Let It Go" has been on my writing iTunes playlist for months. And I love that Disney has been focusing on family relationship themes and not just romantic entanglements.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug comes out April 8. I only saw it in theaters once (that's compared to the three times I saw each Lord of the Rings movie in theaters back in the day). Yes, I will buy the theatrical-length DVD and watch, and yes, I will then buy the extended edition when it comes out in November. Shameless, so shameless.


On TV: Orphan Black returns Saturday April 19th on BBC America. Last season got me hooked and left off on a cliffhanger. I love this show because, while twisty-turny, it doesn't try to pull a fast one over on the audience, and doesn't back itself into corners that require next-to-magic to get out of again. The breadcrumbs are all there, and the characters are fascinating, and beautifully acted. Season two looks twice as intense, and I can't wait.

Reading: I found a battered copy of The Once and Future King by T.H. White while searching through some old boxes yesterday. It's one of the new classics I've been meaning to read, and now I don't have to buy it. Score.

source: pinterest
Pinning: Scene panels (not mine) of
fox!Robin from the animated Robin Hood circa '73. I adore this movie. Even all grown up, it's so...appropriate, in so many way. It's one of those creative influences from my formative years I'll always keep in the holster. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014


I won't keep doing this long term, but for the moment, it's fun keeping up with my favorite lines of the day. Sort of like journaling the best bits - helps with the motivation.

She wouldn’t have to ponder all the ways in which her old life and her new life glanced off one another in incongruous surges of tension. If her past and her present weren’t part of the same tapestry, what did that say about her? How many of her own personal threads had unraveled and been re-stitched in new patterns?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Workshop Wednesday - Realism in Setting

Let's all face facts: No one lives in a perfect world. Accidents happen. Dirt happens. Vomit happens. Laundry piles up, dentist appointments throw wrenches into things, and everyone has taken a badly-in-need-of-sorting stack of old mail and magazines and shoved it under the bed with the dust bunnies right before the doorbell rings and company walks in. As much as we'd like to think we live in designer homes, wear perfectly posh outfits, sip cucumber water, never miss a workout, and get the recommended eight hours of sleep a night, none of this is true. I ask you this: If you're reading a novel, would you rather the main character be more like you? Or be Little Miss Perfect?

I know my answer. And it brings me to today's WW topic: creating a sense of realism in your setting.

Storytelling is all about selling the made-up, packaging it as plausible. Every fictional story, no matter how true-life inspired, is touched with hints of fantasy. We authors are, after all, making it up as we go along. I think you help sell your story - and, more importantly, your characters - when you keep things real and down to earth as much as possible. Even if a character is living out some fantasy of the author, the character's entire existence can't be rose-colored and fantastic in all aspects.

Details I like to remember:

- Most houses aren't perfectly decorated or up-to-date in the style department. Remember those kitchen cabinets just the wrong shade. The loose doorknob. The regrettable linoleum choices made by former owners. Builder-grade materials. Chipped tiles. Ancient AC units. Leaky gutters. Creaking floorboards. The neighbor's dog rooting up the azaleas. Paint scuffs.

- No one's daily life is full of "perfectly lovely" people. There are bullies, and creeps, and friends you love who share too many details about their love lives. Relatives who leave lipstick prints on foreheads. Neighbors you wish you'd built the fence higher to keep away.

- People get tired. People drink more than they should. They stay up too late. Most people don't workout, eat wonderfully, and make 100% healthy decisions on a daily basis. People should be fallible.

The flip side:

- Sometimes, I like to play with the reverse technique. With a character like Delta Brooks, her outward appearance is pretty perfect. But she's eaten up with doubt, worry, fear, and struggles mightily with her interpersonal relationships. That can be fun too.

Sometimes, a well-placed smelly sock can up the level of realism in a story. Don't forget the messy parts. The broken nails. The torn hem. The unraveling sweater. If the devil is in the details, then make those details count, and use them to connect with your audience on a real, down to the street level.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Today's Favorite

“You don’t have to hate anyone on my behalf.”
“That’s what mothers do, baby.”

Monday, March 10, 2014

Favorite Lines of the Day

Back to writing again. It's always a little hard getting back into it after I've been sick. Doesn't help that I have two projects going.

“I think he’d take you up on the offer if you asked him to dance.”
            Johnny pulled his gaze away from the door. The comment had come from behind the bar, from the black-haired bartender who was keeping his beers fresh.
            She wasn’t bigger than a minute, with long, long legs that didn’t seem to help her in the height department. Pale, slender, she was all blue eyes and white teeth. Her hair, obviously died, was a midnight bluish black, tied up in a heavy ponytail with a wispy fringe of bangs. She had a definite goth thing going – black tights under supershort cutoffs, skull-printed black tank top, arms loaded with bracelets, too much eye makeup – and he found himself liking it, even though that wasn’t his usual type.
            “What?” he asked.
            Her grin was too cheeky for this hellish bar full of old men, too bright and full of life. “That guy you’ve been staring at the last hour. I didn’t take you for the kind to crush on the DOT crowd, but I’m sure he’d think you’re purdy.”
            It took him a beat to catch what she meant, then he felt his cheeks flush. He’d been staring at the entrance, but he could see, given her vantage point, that it could look like he was staring at the man in the orange vest two stools down.
            “Oh…no, I’m -  I’m not–”
            She giggled, pressed the back of her hand to the tip of her nose to squelch it, and looked all of about sixteen. “I know,” she said, shaking away the last of her laugh. “You just looked so serious over there. I had to say something.” She flashed him another smile, this one almost shy and inviting.
            Johnny fidgeted on his stool. He’d never been any good at flirting.

First Flowers

Happy Monday! It is for me, anyway, because I feel worlds better than I did a few days ago. It's sunshine-y, my horses have new shoes, and it's a whole new week, one that is hopefully flu-free.

Yesterday, I walked up to the front of the property, and the well house, to observe what is the annual first sign of spring: the wild daffodils blooming. From here on, it's the pears, the honeysuckle, the redbud, the daylilies, the hosta, the salvia, the roses....Spring is starting.


Sunday, March 9, 2014


It feels like it's been weeks since I started up my laptop, but it's only been a few days. Time flies when you're not having any fun at all, I guess. I've had the flu, and have been couch-ridden, overindulging in nose spray, Family Feud, and been subsiding on rice cooked in chicken broth (the rice was good, at least). I'm happy to say that today I feel...less corpse-like, if nothing else.

In other news, I've got a short story, "Vainglory," published in The Opening Line this month, as part of their Seven Deadly Sins issue. Vainglory is an archaic word meaning excessive pride in one's accomplishments. The story features characters from my December submission to the mag, "Cold Again." You can click HERE to download the issue for free.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Workshop Wednesday - Buzz

See, there's a bee. Get it? I'm lame.

This post popped up on my news feed today, and reiterated a lot of the things I've been reading and telling myself lately about advertising. Because that's an unfortunate reality of the writing game in this market: you can't wait around for people to do it for you. You have to promote yourself. This is hard for me, in particular, because I never want to feel like I'm imposing on anyone. It's also hard because advertising isn't inherently successful. A lot of advertising feels like shouting into the ether: "Heyy!! I wrote this book! You might like it! Check it oooout!!" We all know this isn't effective, but most do it anyway, because it's hard to connect all the dots and, like the post described, get your message to the right consumers, not just all consumers in general.

That said, the best form of book advertising is still word of mouth. A personal recommendation from a friend is always more reliable than one of those revolving sidebar ads on Goodreads. People trust friends' taste, and people love being able to chat with each other about a shared experience. The more a book is shared, the more successful it is, the better able the author is to keep producing quality work that readers want to share. It's all a big cycle. So for this Workshop Wednesday post, I'm turning the tables a little bit. Today, I'm talking about a way readers can support the authors they like. Initiating buzz.

Books take hours and hours to write. That's countless cups of coffee, cans of soda, bottles of eye drops, and butts gone to sleep in hard chairs. It's a private, personal anxiety; writers strive to get every detail just right, and then have to spend even more hours hacking the finished product to pieces before it's ready to sell. It's a process, often a silent one, and more than anything else, writers want to feel like all their hard work is speaking to someone.

The question posed to me was, "People need to read you. This is so good. How can we get the word out about you?"

If you've ever wondered that yourself, here's a few ways you can:

- Tell a friend. Tell lots of friends. Let them borrow a book, tell them where to find the author's work, etc. If you like a book, talk about it. People will listen.

- Leave a review. On Goodreads, on Amazon, on Barnes & Noble. Leaving an honest review can help other online shoppers make a decision about purchasing or sampling the book. It's also a great way to tell the author you enjoyed the book and still stay anonymous if you want to.

- Reach out. Authors love to hear from readers, and most authors can be found either through Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or even personal email.

- Ask local bookstores if they carry your favorite authors, and see if there's a chance of having the books shipped to the store. I know most independent booksellers and Barnes & Noble can order my books and hold them at the counter for readers.

I love discovering new writers. I just read The Photograph by Virginia Ellis per a recommendation, and I really enjoyed it and am already sharing it. Books are, in so many ways, organic. They can bring people together, create dialogue, inspire other authors. And no author can leave an impression with his or her art without the love of readers.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Breaking Ground

...on something new.
// Marriage hadn’t civilized him; it had pulled her into the wolf pack. //  

Monday, March 3, 2014

Weekend Sowing

Confession: I've seen none of the films that were up for the Oscars last night. Uncool confession: I didn't watch the awards. Downright dorky confession: I wrote and watched Captain America on FX instead. Feel free to X out this browser and write me off as a hopeless case for pop culture awareness.

Just had to get that out of the way.

Saturday was my mom's birthday, and Mom - she's pretty fantastic. She's gone from being a horse show mom to being my biggest fan when it comes to storytelling, and I always hope she knows how much I appreciate her. I made her this pie, which is easy, and delicious, and not on anyone's New Year's diet. And yesterday, we started working on her new veggie garden, the makings of which were her birthday gifts. We started seeds in these little peat pots.

I thought the seed packages were really pretty. Pay no attention to how weird my thumb looks - fingers are not for photographing.