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Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday, Monday

Look at that. That thunderhead deserves its own free verse poem. It stormed yesterday, and then rained again this morning; while I was waiting for the downpour to pass, I got to get some writing done before I fed the horses. Sometimes that's the most peaceful, perfect time for writing - when you're up before you expected to be. I always write in the morning - which is why I don't post on here every day; some days my mind is just too tangled to handle this place too - but before the horses, that's almost unheard of.

I worked on the short story I've been talking about, "Things That Go Bang in the Night," this weekend, working on my old music-only computer and listening to this song more times than necessary. I really love working on short stories - or oneshots, as this one is. I love, love, love character-building sets of scenes without having to worry about moving the plot along or keeping up with those tiresome, tangling loose threads. A oneshot is a chance for me, as a writer, to say, "Hey, I can write that if I want to."This one started as a way to beat writer's block, and developed into an exploration of things that need discussing between God Love Her and KBC. I want to release it this weekend, a fun little holiday read.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Things That Go Bang in the Night

Hopefully, "Things That Go Bang in the Night," my Russell short story featuring Layla and Sly, will be available soon. Here's a little peek.

Happy, Friday, y'all. I intend to be fully thankful that my book is done!

From "Things That Go Bang in the Night" Copyright © 2014 by Lauren Gilley


Cheryl tapped on the window, from inside the kitchen, and when Layla glanced up, she saw her aunt gesturing for her to go back around front and sit down in a series of pantomimed actions that would have been hilarious at another time. Layla just nodded and headed that way, doing as told, when the toe of her sandal caught on something in the ankle-high grass. It was a little rectangle of hammered tin. She knelt and turned it over, brushed away the dirt with her fingers.

            It was a garden sign, forgotten and rusting. Etched into the tin were the words Bless Our Happy Home.

            That’s what this house had been for some other family: a happy home.

            She’d stood in the sun, tracing the letters with a fingertip, remembering Sly on that first day with his hands on his hips in front of the white brick hearth. Yes, he’d bought this place for her, and yes, it was a wreck, but the best things seemed to be born in the middle of messes. She’d decided then to make this their happy home, no matter how grueling the process.

            Now she stood in front of the second-hand refrigerator, trying to decide if she could stomach the leftover broccoli tomato salad she should eat, or whether her craving for cheese dip was too strong to ignore.

            She glanced at the microwave clock. Sly would be a while, yet. The swank cocktail party he was working security for wouldn’t be over for hours. It was a client of Cheryl’s; those fifty-something former debutantes partied harder than any frat boys ever could.

            “Cheese dip it is,” she said to herself, and grabbed the clear plastic container.


            The container fell out of her hand, the top burst off, and white cheese showered her feet and the ugly linoleum. Her heart lurched up her throat, lodging against her voice box; her pulse went from a standstill to a gallop; she was lightheaded, dizzy, out of breath in her sudden fright.

            “What?” she asked herself, trying to get her heartbeat under control.

            It had been a loud, sudden sound, a sharp punch of something striking another something. Not a gunshot, she realized with a modicum of relief. She knew what gunshots sounded like, now.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Workshop Wednesday - Growth is Good

Workshop Thursday just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it? So we'll pretend it's Wednesday still.
Image from

Today - er, yesterday - I want to talk a little bit about positive character growth. I wanted to write this post Saturday night immediately after the season finale of Orphan Black, but I was still in full-on book mode.

Alongside BBC's Sherlock, Orphan Black is easily my favorite currently-running show. It just wrapped up its second season with some major shockers, and what felt like a for-the-moment win for Sarah. *Silent cheering*

It always rubs me the wrong way when someone recommends a show to me with the assertion that it's "the best show on TV, hands down, and you're crazy if you're not watching it." I never care much for the most buzzed about shows. But along came Orphan Black, and I think it's fantastic. What was the difference? Character growth. When I really broke the show down and stacked it up with Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy and similar counter-culture shows, I realized the big difference: Orphan Black's characters are growing; the characters on the other shows are slowly devolving into the post-modern depiction of a ruthless mankind trapped in a chaotic universe of circumstance. So I tell people this: yes, OB is a great sci-fi thriller with lots of twists, turns, shocks, and OMG moments; but the real hook, for me, is the character development.

In the show's first season, we meet central character (and clone), Sarah, a British punk rock grifter who sees a chance to assume another woman's life, and takes it. As a viewer, you are immediately shocked and fascinated. But if you stick around, you're rewarded with Sarah growing - all of her sister clones growing - as a mother, daughter, sister, as a human being. As the drama rains down on these characters, they're forced to make some very gray-area choices; they slip up, they do plenty of not-so-nice things, but all the time they're growing stronger, and more committed to the people they love, and you find yourself rooting for them like crazy. And rather than watch a set of characters descend to the absolute lowest depths of humanity, you're watching them claw hand-over-hand to the top, finding better versions of themselves as they fight for survival and freedom.

In addition to the clones, there's a supporting cast of many shades. The bad, the shady but loveable - Mrs. S - and the truly good who you can count on no matter what - Felix and Art. Having those dependable, easy to love characters, the rock solids, doesn't make a story less dramatic - it adds depth. Bad is only bad if there's good to balance it out.

It feels like the fiction standard right now is to present an audience with truly despicable characters and challenge the audience to care about them anyway. I think it's important, as a creative writer, not to discount the kind of positive growth in a character that elevates them, rather than destroys them utterly.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Workshop Wednesday is coming, I promise, but please excuse me while I take a moment to cartwheel through the room (I can't actually cartwheel, I never had any gymnastic skills) because I just typed the very last line of Keeping Bad Company and I am DONE!!!!! Bring on the editing, the rewrites, the beta reading, the release-planning. Bring it all, 'cause I'm done, and I'm so excited about that. I hate it when people brag, but this one's going to be good, y'all. I mean, really and for serious.

That's all.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


This album dropped yesterday and it's been powering me through the end of my book. I loved Ed's first album, +, and I love that this album is a whole new creature, with a more vivid hip-hop vibe, and all the raw soulfulness we expect from him. For me, this is the perfect album to write to. His songs reflect clever, thoughtful songwriting coupled with the juxtaposition of acoustic guitar and catchy basslines.

I shared "Don't" a couple of weeks ago, but now that I've got the whole album, I wanted to share all my favorite tracks:
(I will never stop mentioning this song because it is amazing in every way)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Little Break

A good first half of the day writing-wise. I'm off to the garden to water for a bit; feel some sun on my face, sweat half to death in this Georgia humidity.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Workshop Wednesday - Finishing Strong, notes on writing conclusions

And so we come to the end. Those final few chapters, the last lines, the moments before the fade to black. The last image in the readers' minds before the back cover shuts and the adventure is encased once more, ready to be put away and revisited sometime down the line. THE END. I would argue it's of equal or greater value than the beginning. The beginning has to ensnare the reader; but the ending - that's what delivers and makes the hours they've spent worth it.

There's your classic happy ending, where the characters attain their well-earned happiness: Pride and Prejudice.

Your tragic ending: Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth...sensing a pattern here?

The melancholy ending: Faithful Place (this is one of my contemporary favorites)

The horrifying ending: Pet Sematary

But whatever the tone of the story's conclusion, in order to finish strong and leave readers with a lasting impression, an author has to keep these important things in mind:

- Character growth. If the writer has done his/her job throughout the novel, the central protagonists (maybe even the antagonist) have gone through some growing pains - personally, within their relationships, in their struggle against the antagonist. Wherever the characters end up, however happy the conclusions to their individual stories, it's important they bear the scars of the novel's plot.

- Thematic throughput. An author should make sure the questions posed in the novel are answered in a way that makes sense in terms of these characters and this story. If a question can't be answered, hang a lantern on it, and note that it's unanswerable, either for the moment, or for good.

- Don't stumble during the denouement. Sometimes, the temptation of getting done, that light at the end of the tunnel, can lead to a rushed or choppy conclusion. Once the action has wound down, it's nice to have a slow beat, a moment for the characters to take a breath, a bit of reflection, before the curtain comes down.

I've been known to make a checklist sometimes, to ensure I'm hitting all the marks I need to as I draft the ending. Though it's tempting to just "get it done," readers always appreciate a well thought out and well-developed ending that ties up all the loose ends and delivers the characters into their new dynamic skins.

It's always rather surprising: one day, I'm typing a first chapter, and then, suddenly, here I am at the end. It's exhilarating...and a little sad. I've spent every day with this novel for almost five months now, and it's time to kiss it on the head and send it out into the world. I'm like a proud mama! It's been a longer process than I thought; I've had some setbacks with losing my dog and with my health. I appreciate everyone's patience.

So what's your favorite kind of ending? I like an old fashioned happy one myself, secret sap that I am.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The 3 Week Plan

I've got a 3 Week Plan for getting some stuff done. I got up this morning and thought, this is ridiculous. No more time-wasting. I've got three weeks before my days get a whole lot busier, and there's no reason I can't get organized and make those three weeks really count.

Week 1: Complete all writing on Keeping Bad Company. That's my big priority for this week.

Week 2: Give KBC a week off in my mind; get "Things" ready to hit the store at the beginning of Week3; work on some around-the-house/barn things that need doing.

Week 3: Complete my initial read-through and edit of KBC so that it can go off to the editing team.

It's a lot, but I'm committed to knuckling down and eliminating time-wasters so that I'm on track at the end of Week 3. Once the editing crew is done with the book, then it's back to me for line edits and final adjustments. That should take a week or two. I'm thinking August 1st as a tentative release date. Fingers crossed.

Expect blog posts in the evenings the next few weeks - I've got to make use of my more active morning brain.

Hope everyone had a great Father's Day weekend! More on that tonight. Back to work, for now.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Workshop Wednesday - Secret Stories

Lives are songs, and so many of the chord progressions and notes and refrains are similar, but the rhythms, those are their own. Those constant, daily beats that we hit again and again, not in drudgery, but in thanks for the reliability. When one slip, one flat note interrupts that rhythm, we notice. Like, say, when Markus comes so, so gingerly out of his stall and resists stepping through the pasture gate. That's a great cymbal crash of a disruption. Something off. Something wrong. Run the diagnostics.

Poor man. This is the third summer in a row he's suffered this bizarre attack of leg swelling, lethargy and mild fever. I caught it very early this time, and I'm thankful that my vet will just drop off meds and doesn't insist on seeing him; that he knows I don't make calls to the office lightly or often.

Today was all about taking care of Markus, and I was struck by a familiar thought as I stood cold-hosing his puffy hock this afternoon: all the stories there must be in this sleek hide and these innumerable little scars, and silver hairs sprouting beneath the ears. Our silent friends - what were their lives like before they collided with ours? He has this very old scar in his mouth, and I've always had my theories about it, have spun my own mental stories about it. There were other farms, other hands, other saddles and cold compresses and worried frowns before me. There are those little nonverbal tells: I know he feels poorly when he stands still and lets me doctor him. It brings the nonexistent mother in me to the forefront when he's sick; how many others felt this same way, once upon a time?

Humans - behold, the power of speech! But they harbor stories we'll never know, too. Stories that shaped, softened, hardened them. When we meet someone, we're meeting the silent weight of their past stories.

Just a little character-creating nugget for this very late Workshop Wednesday post. It's okay not to know everything about our characters upfront. They reveal little by little to us as we go along. And even then, there are those secrets we'll never learn, but will put shadows in their eyes nonetheless. A well-rounded character isn't one in limbo, but one that has a song, a rhythm, a routine - however often it's interrupted. We learn their beats, and then the skips are all the more real to the readers. And then there are those secret stories, the ones that always leave us wondering.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Slooooowing Down

Beginnings of projects are supercharged. The first half flies past. But the second half goes slower. And then you get to the very end...slower, and slower and s  l   o   w   e   r.

An omen: pushing my wheelbarrow out this morning, I came across this guy. Right in my path. The face of slowness. "Appropriate" doesn't begin to describe that coincidence.

Days like today, I have to remind myself that even if it feels painstakingly sluggish, all the obsessing and worrying and nitpicking will pay off in the end. Get it? The end? A meticulous ending to a story is what separates between good and great. It brings people back for more. Cheers to slow days here at the end.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Thinking Time


This whole being an invalid thing - it's getting real old. I think it's all related, all this pain I've been having, and I think it's back-related, and that the nerves are all firing and referred pain in my side is what inspired my appendicitis-scare. I spent this weekend with an ice back between my shoulder blades, hardly able to move my neck, a total waste of breath, reading and having more time than I needed to think about things.

I'm back writing today - yay! - but with my friend Ice Pack still in place. The end of Keeping Bad Company is so close I can taste it! But then the question is - the thing I've been thinking about: what will my next serious project be? I know what I'm going to do right after I finish KBC: spend time with my new puppy. He'll be ready to come home end of July and he's going to be eight weeks of little monster. He'll be priority number one. But I can't not write. So what to work on:

- The equine novel in-progress

- The fantasy

- More Russells

- Russells spin-off?

- Whatever Remains follow up feat. Trey

All very viable options. It'll come to me - it always does. But, I want to encourage readers to weigh-in if they have a preference. If there's one thing you want to see more than the others, let me know. Drop me a tweet, an email, a comment - links in the sidebar for all my contact. If after you read KBC, you want more Russells, or more Black Dogs, I'd love to know.

I'm also working on getting a short story bridging God Love Her and Keeping Bad Company in the Kindle store soon. Just a fun little look at their lives in-between. Release date coming in the next couple of weeks.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Well That Was Interesting

Oh, the irony. Wednesday I was talking about research, and about compensating for a lack of first-hand knowledge - and now, I no longer need to research what it's like to get a CT.

I haven't felt well all week. I've had some strange pain on my right side that I can't explain and is in the worrisome appendicitis area. Yesterday afternoon, I went to have it checked out. The urgent care doctor said the appendix could be "tricky," and sent me to the hospital for a CT. After mucho blood work at two offices, two X-rays, and a contrast dye CT, all my innards look fine. Nothing but some seriously bruised arms from the needles. And though I don't know why I've been hurting, the good news is there's no emergency and my appendix is A-OK.

This is me drinking my 900ml of contrast dye fluid. 900. Oh, Lord. It tasted like fancy flavored spring water. This is the dye that illuminates your digestive tract on the CT. The organ-illuminating dye was injected via my IV and that's an...unpleasant sensation. On whole, the experience was very much like being levitated through a donut, one that flashed and spun and whirled pretty colors across my eyes.

The hospital staff was wonderful - we've got a nice new hospital out here - but it was nice to get back home. 

Taking it easy today, doing some writing. Some reading. Some puttering in the garden. I hope everyone has a great weekend, and doesn't spend it in a CT machine :) TGIF.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Nerd Things 6/5

Listening to: "Don't" by Ed Sheeran. Love him. This track is part of his new album X, due out June 23.

Also, "Am I Wrong" from Nico & Vinz. Amazing song.

ReadingThe Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice. Getting all caught up so I'm ready for Prince Lestat when it comes out October 28.

Want: This Captain America leash for the puppy. Would work with plain blue or red collar. Isn't it cool?! Just me? Okay.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Workshop Wednesday - Do Your Homework

I love to find Dobie stuff - you don't run across much of it. They're, sadly, not the most popular of breeds. Part of it's the Hollywood stigma. Part of it, well part of it is the fact that when you begin looking at pups, there's a consistent message put out by breeders, rescues, kennel clubs and fan sites: Dobermans are not suitable for the casual, part-time dog owner. They're serious dogs, who need to be taken seriously by their owners. Do Your Homework. The first time around, with Riddick, I was familiar with the breed, knew and loved them, and was ready for the commitment. But I didn't do as much research as I should have. I lucked up with him, but this time around, I'm doing my homework like a good little student. I've learned there's a big difference between American and European Dobermans. Riddick was American; my new little guy is going to be European. More on that later. The long and short of it is: A serious commitment requires serious consideration and research.

I think writing a novel's a pretty serious commitment. It takes months to write. Bleeds us dry. And takes a happy reader hours to read. Research isn't always enjoyable (depends on what you're researching) but it's an important part of the writing process.

For instance, I read a novel by a popular, well-known traditionally published author and I came across a reference to the Trojan War. Unfortunately, the author thought the Trojans had built the Trojan Horse. I might have thought it a slip of the tongue - surely she meant to type "Greeks" and this was a typo. But the reference went on for a full paragraph, and by the end, it was obvious the author had no idea what went on with the Greeks and Trojans. Did this ruin the book? No. But it was a mistake that didn't have to happen.

Another for instance: I once read a novel in which a four-horse trailer was being towed by a sports car. Never mind the lack of towing capacity, the weight of the loaded trailer alone would be no match for the tiny car, and would push the thing through a red light into traffic.

You know you've read a novel in which someone rode a horse at a dead gallop for an hour. The only thing "dead" about that situation would be the horse. Think True Grit. *shudders*

Research is important. Research gives you credibility. When it comes to specialty knowledge, it's impossible to know everything - God knows I'm not ever going to become an MC old lady just so I can have firsthand experience to write about - but there is a wealth of knowledge out there in libraries, computers, and books. Use it to make your writing the best it can possibly be.

My research guidelines:

- Start early. If an idea catches my fancy, I dive into the research, and sometimes, the research steers me toward the story, rather than researching the gaps in an existing story I want to fill in.
- Use a variety of sources. No two sources agree completely, but some ideas will persist across-the-board. Having a broad understanding of the material can help you decide which way you want to spin the facts.
- Don't discount fiction. When writing a supernatural story, most of what you have to go on will be fiction. I always say anyone writing about vampires needs to read Dracula. Which leads to...
- Look for lasting resources, from reputable contributors, rather than pop culture. The more timeless your ideas, the more lasting the work will be.
- Create a glossary of terms for yourself.
- When in doubt, look it up.

Applying it all:

- Avoid fact-dumping on the audience. Deliver specialized information in doses, in an organic, natural way, so that it is a part of the story, and not a textbook excerpt. Readers would rather Google a word than feel like they're in school being taught.
- Show the meaning of a word. When possible, let the scene define the word. The less you have to pause and define something, the better.

For me, research is less about representing true life with one-hundred percent accuracy, and more about giving your stories and spins a solid platform from which to leap. The more knowledge you gain, the more freedom you have to bend that knowledge to your will. (That sounds diabolical!) It is, after all, fiction, and as authors, we have a chance to leave our own indelible stamps on our personal mythologies. You feed the audience just enough raw fact, and they'll buy into the fiction you slip in between.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Some KBC Things

“My name is Arlington, because I am the cemetery of all her dreams.”

The new female protagonist of Keeping Bad Company is named after my late grandfather, Arlie. I love that name; I always thought it would be cute for a little girl. It's a little obscure. When in doubt, always go with the obscure, I say.

This novel is a family drama, more than anything else. Part thriller, part romance, part mystery, no formula. It's by far the bloodiest of the Russell books, and it sets up two offshoot novels that may or may not ever see the light of day. The more books I complete, the more I know I don't want to write genre fiction; this is a big, action-packed novel that I hope people will want to get lost inside.  It is, above all else, about family.

Johnny's story has been a blast to write, in part because I have such a soft spot for secondary characters. Secondary he is no longer.

Release date coming soon. I'm thinking about 8 weeks.