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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Shifting Gears

If I was Julie Andrews, and I was singing about my favorite things, one of those things would be tree silhouettes against a sunrise. They would fit somewhere between the smell of paper and the sound of horses happily eating hay. Not so ironically, The Sound of Music would be on that list somewhere too. But, anyway...

Had an early morning spent waiting on the farrier. New shoes for the ponies; awesome. And then it was barn chores, and exercising the dog...and some days writing doesn't come until later in the afternoon, which is fine, considering I haven't ramped up to Manic-Writing-Mode yet.

Yesterday I made some really great progress on "Green Like the Water" - expect an announcement soon on that front - and broke ground on Half My Blood. It's been an interesting shift of gears to go back to the Russells for this short story; it's reminded me while I enjoy writing them. And HMB is already such fun because with no new characters, I'm able to go into unexplored territory with the characters everyone already knows. I, as usual, can't wait to share.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Music Monday - 3/30

I'm back after a few days off. Neck is better, brain is whirling; lots to do, and music always helps me get there. So, Music Monday, anyone?

I shared this one on Facebook yesterday, but it deserves a second share here.
"Work Song" - Hozier

My current guilty pleasure pop song
"Talking Body" - Tove Lo

Forever re-listening to
"Runaway" - Ed Sheeran

Because Miranda goes so well with this whole outlaw thing
"All Kinds of Kinds" - Miranda Lambert

And because sometimes I need the personal reminder that dreams are worth it
"Even If It Breaks Your Heart" - Eli Young Band

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Workshop Wednesday - My Rules for Writing Tough Guys


Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen in the hearse scene, The Magnificent Seven
Okay, so you know I like to say that male and female leads are of equal importance. And more than anything, it's about writing true-to-life, human characters. But when you're writing books about outlaws, you're inevitably writing about some pretty tough fellas. Comes with the territory. I grew up on movies, lots and lots of movies, and Hollywood is rife with examples of both the truly tough, and the sad posers. The book world, too. You know you've seen 'em - male leads that come across as oversexed jerks rather than stern heroes. My mantra is "If you can't imagine Steve McQueen delivering the line, then cut it." 
Steve McQueen as Hilts, The Great Escape
Welcome to the Lauren Gilley List of Rules for Writing Tough Guys:

1. Make Sure He's Not a Douchebag

Okay, this one seems like a given, and it's pretty ridiculous. But, sadly, more and more I see total douchebags being pushed as "strong" and "masculine" and "tough." In my book, men who are rude and cruel to women, men who talk non-stop about how awesome they are in bed, men who make fools of themselves for a little attention - douchebags. Controlling jerks who tell you what to wear, how to act, what to say, and who curse and insult you are NOT STRONG. They are insecure and I WILL NOT write male leads like this. Not ever. There's enough douchy fools out there in the singles' scene, I don't need them in a novel, thank you very much. All guys brag, and talk shit, and give each other grief, tease and poke fun, but there's a big difference between someone being a little cocky, and being a total jerk.

Okay, rant over.

2. When it Comes to Dialogue, Less is More
this drink I like it ANOTHER gif Thor high quality HD Imgur
Chris Hemsworth, Thor
Humans are talkative, so novels need lots of dialogue. But to give your hero an air of being sure of himself, keep his lines to the point, and keep the fluff words to a minimum. Remember, he can think whatever he wants in his head, when you're in his POV, but when he's speaking, he's not going to wax poetic about the color of a girl's dress. A few meaningful, heartfelt lines are much more impactful than paragraphs of overly detailed dirty talk.

3. Tough Guys Aren't Bullies
Chris Evans, as skinny Steve, Captain America

Picking on people for sport isn't a show of strength. End of story.

4. Confidence is Quiet
Clint Eastwood, The Outlaw Josey Wales
A capable, dangerous man is assured of his own strength and skills, and doesn't need to broadcast this to the whole world. The second a guys says he's a badass is the second he's anything BUT a badass. When I'm reading a book, and the guy thinks to himself, "I'm such an f-ing badass" I immediately chuck the book into the giveaway pile.

5. Cussing Doesn't Make the Man
Bruce can cuss however much he wants to.
We all cuss. More than we should - at least I do. Barns make sailors of us all, I suppose. And yes, men cuss a lot. But seeing it written, too many expletives will detract from your meaning. Populating sentences of dialogue with lots of F bombs doesn't make the man sound more manly, and it gives the impression the author is trying too hard to get across his badassery. Let his actions show he's bad, and keep the cursing to a manageable level.

Unless you're Bruce. Then you can cuss however much you want to.

6. Strong Men Are Respectful to Ladies
Denzel Washington as Creasy, Man on Fire
And are kind to children.

7. Tough Guys Don't Have Some Universal Rule Against Falling in Love
Viggo Mortensen and Liv Tyler, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Each story is unique, and sometimes love isn't easy to express; a lot of times it doesn't come about smoothly (wouldn't be worth reading about if it did). Treat each case individually. But strong men are never made less strong by the love of a strong woman; there's no Badass Handbook that says "Thou shalt not love." Love shouldn't be instant, and it should be born out of true chemistry, but it isn't something all men are desperate to avoid.

8. Individuality is Key
Devoted knight, bucking the system when morality calls for it, Ser Davos Seaworth, Game of Thrones
Tough guys are humans, and need to have many facets; some are leaders, some are devoted followers. Michael is quiet and surly; Mercy is both the happiest and the most twisted of the bunch. Ghost has to make the hard calls no one else could or would. No one wants to read about a bunch of clones - keep things unique and specific when writing multiple strong personalities.

9. There Are Different Kinds of Strength
Hobbitses, The Lord of the Rings
Toughness isn't just physical. It's mental and emotional, too. And maybe a character who isn't any good with his fists is the strongest emotionally, making difficult decisions and upholding honor, honesty, and decency.

10. Humor
Marvel to DC after the release of the Guardians of the Galaxy Trailer.
Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy
Everybody's got a sense of humor, even if it's just a small one. Don't forget to add some levity.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Launch Party

I can't believe it's almost here! Price of Angels will be available for purchase as of midnight tonight, if you want to go ahead and grab your copy. I'm going to try - key word being try, because not sure if anyone will play along - to give three copies away tomorrow during the launch party.

Speaking of...

Don't forget that you're invited! It's a totally open Facebook event, running from 2:00pm to 11:00pm tomorrow. I'll be sharing a new blog post about my rules for writing tough guys as part of my Workshop Wednesday series. There will be lots of Dartmoor visuals and book nerd tidbits running through the FB feed. Readers can ask me anything - there will be a post for this - though I do reserve the right to be vague depending on how anything anything ends up being. :)

There will be three trivia questions, with your chances to win copies of Angels:


The first person to answer the trivia question right will be the winner. Questions will be literature or media-related and the answers will be Google-searchable.

Everyone is encouraged to stop by, "bring" friends, like my FB page, drop me a line, just in general help me celebrate the release of my new book. I'm so beyond excited to share it with you! See you tomorrow.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Good, The Bad, and the Muddy

Let's start with the bad, and get it out of the way first - My back hurts. What else is new? Ugh.

Then the good - Editing has gone wonderfully the last week and Michael and Holly are all ready for their debut. Seriously, guys, I can't wait to get the book out there. Can't wait for you to meet them.

The muddy - My pasture. It's rained steadily since sunup, and the fields look like this. I can't complain, because the grass is greening up thanks to all the showers, and that's a much-needed change. But still...Good day to curl up with a book. If you aren't prepping to release one, that is.

A few quick things:

Angels drops Wed, 3/25. (That means Tuesday night for all you early birds.)

Join me Wed from 2:00pm to 11:00pm on my author Facebook page for a book launch party for a chance to win an ebook copy of the book.

If you do read and enjoy Angels, please consider leaving an Amazon review; it seems a small thing, but reviews help the book be seen and grow, so I'd appreciate it greatly!

Happy Sunday.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

You're Invited to a Launch Party

We are just days away from Price of Angels and I'm getting super excited; how 'bout you? Now normally, I release the book quietly, put it out there, post up the links quickly, and then go slink off and hide in a shady spot, trying to catch my breath, feeling like something hunted at the end of the long novel-writing journey. This time, I decided to celebrate. So next Wednesday, I invite all my readers, fans, friends, and stalkers (I see you out there!) to help me celebrate with an Angels launch party on my public author Facebook page.

Check out my page.

Check out the Goodreads event page.

Between 2:00pm and 11:00pm next Wednesday, stop in for trivia, BTS info, merriment and ask-the-author. Then go grab your copy of Angels! I hope you'll help me celebrate. See you there.

Questions welcome here, or on FB :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Workshop Wednesday - Author Style

I've got an indie author event to attend tomorrow, which means I'll have to trade my grungy barn duds for decent clothes. Somehow I don't think the red clay paw prints down the front of my jeans and the hay clinging to my sweatshirt will help me put my best foot forward.

When I attended my first writing conference a few years ago, I was so nervous about what to wear. I'm a tomboy, and I'm not trendy; from what I'd seen on the web, slacks and sweater sets were the recommended wardrobe. Office attire. I cringed. And then I came across a blog post that suggested authors dress so as to best advertise their books. For instance, if your characters are super fashion-forward, you should look the part.

Lucky for me, my girls are all about jeans and boots. So when I go to author events, I try to keep things clean, classic, mix-and-matchable. I like jeans paired with cute, simple tops with good lines.

It is inevitably cold inside a bookstore or banquet hall, so if I can't work a jacket into the outfit, then I always take a sweater. In the fall and winter, I wear my leather jacket; you can dress it up or down, and black leather never goes out of style.

In the spring and summer months, a blazer serves the same purpose.

I don't wear dresses, but I do like a simple black maxi. It's casual, but you could dress it up with a jacket or vest.

I also wear my boots whenever I can. It's my shtick.

I think the most important thing is to be comfortable in what you're wearing. If you don't like your outfit, or it doesn't fit well, it'll show in your mannerisms. I think it's more important to look like YOU, and to look like the author of your books, than to be formal.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Music Monday - 3/16

source: Garden & Gun
If you're writing a story in which scent hounds are used, and the story's set in Tennessee, you've no choice but to make those scent hounds Bluetick Coonhounds. I'm such an animal person, and I loved having the chance to write some canines into Angels, some of which were Blueticks.

And when I talk about hounds, I think about "Ol' Red" by Blake Shelton. Remember when Blake had long hair? Haha!

Can't wait for y'all to meet the hounds and Great Danes of Angels!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Proof is in the Binding

Don't mind me. Just playing with tired idioms over here.

My proof arrived yesterday. Angels in its printed sample glory. The white is sort of a shock, when you're holding it. It really catches your attention. I want to do the whole series in alternating black and white covers so that when lined up on the shelf, they make a pattern. (I could just do the spines in black and white, but where's the fun in that?) If you look at the back cover, you can get a peek at the next title...

The final product ended up being 415 pages in paperback form. It will be a little longer in Kindle format, but all the content will be exactly the same. Including the character reference list I put in the front. There's lots of Dogs to keep up with, and I thought a list of names and ranks might be helpful.
Paperback: $14.95
Kindle Edition: $3.99
Hop over to Goodreads for the summary and to add to your reading list.

I'll be proofing all this week, and then the 25th will be here before you know it! I'm thinking about having a FB launch party for the release; any interest? Will let everyone know if I put something together.

Happy Sunday. The flowers are starting to come up, and it's just magic.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Michael + Holly

I rehearsed and rehearsed this romance in my head before I put the first word to paper. I knew Holly, and I knew Michael, and I thought I knew how their story would unfold...But I was wrong. Oh sure, the plot stayed the plot, and all the planned scenes were hit at the planned times. But what surprised me, while writing, was the energy and the emotion between them. It was a lovely surprise; I think if it was this fun to write, it should be fun to read, too.

Though their dynamic is so very different, readers should expect the same attention to detail, emotion, and connection that plagued Ava and Mercy's story. Michael and Holly are lonely souls, and I have loved writing them. They deserve one another; they make you want happiness for them. Parts of the novel are intentionally disturbing; the sex is a little more intense than in Fearless. But I'm afraid if you're in search of a standard MC story, I've failed to deliver on that count yet again. I do so fail to do what's trendy. I hope instead you're looking for a story to invest in, and that you'll enjoy this return to Dartmoor.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Workshop Wednesday - What Stirs Us

We live in an age of immediacy. Boundless technology, instant gratification, and self-absorption. These are unromantic times. A shame. I've always had the heart of a Romantic. With a capital R. A heart that stutters at sunsets and grips tight at the edge of vistas. How does that Lee Ann Womack song go? "I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean." "I hope you never lose your sense of wonder."
If we close our eyes for a moment, and blot out all the chaos swirling around us, we can conjure up images that stir our inner Romantic. For me, it's open fields, and farmlands, and weathered fence posts. It's English hamlets, and craggy outcroppings of rock across the moors I've never visited. It's priceless documents under glass, touched with ink by our founding fathers. It's some long-lost shred of a song, a ghost of a sound that fills the ears when you lay a hand on the jamb of a centuries' old house. It is the past, and legacy, and the vastness of simple landscapes that brings the fine hairs on my nape to attention. Gives me goosebumps.
Things that make me feel small. When you look back over your shoulder, and see the road unfurling endlessly behind you. When the thunder of hooves comes up through the grass and hits you in the knees and you know the herd is about to crest the hill before you, twelve-thousand pounds of strength you can't imagine.

This soul-stirring is universal. It's different for everyone, but we've all shivered over some marvel of the world before. We've all felt small. It's humbling, and necessary, and when you're writing a story moored in a world that isn't mainstream, it can be a way to bring your audience into the shoes of your characters.

I've said before that I'm writing in the wrong genre, and this is true. But...well, I spent years researching motorcycle clubs, and the attraction for me as a writer wasn't the tattoos, or the violence, or the debauchery. The dark side isn't the draw. It's the road. They spend so much time on the road, they see so much of the country - the real, broken-down, proud Americana. Can't you see them, parked on the shoulder, with a view of the sun rippling up the hills toward them? Can't you hear that moment of silent wonder? To willingly align yourself with a brotherhood that accentuates your smallness in the world - well, I'm romanticizing it. But it's the spirit of it all that I find so appealing. There's a timeless quality to this world. There's order and hierarchy and codes that feel medieval. It's a total lack of self-absorption that hearkens to times long past. It's tradition, and legacy, and the simple existence of footsteps to fill.

I think next to character development, that stirring is what helps readers connect to a story. Takes it from fiction to truth. And after all...

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Two Weeks

I'm so excited that there's only two weeks until Price of Angels becomes available! I'm pleased with it, and I hope everyone will enjoy it. It's not the behemoth work that Fearless was - we'll shoot for that with Book III! - but it ended up about 415 pages.

If you haven't read Fearless yet, I recommend the final, compiled edition - it's better-edited and better for rapid consumption - and you can download it here for just $3.99. After that, you're all ready for Angels.

Thank you, readers, for all your encouragement and kind words. If you love the series, help me spread the word about it, and let's see how big we can grow it :)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Music Monday - 3/9


I didn't get to this post last week, because I was totally consumed with writing. So, I'll share now what I meant to share then, a song that's playing in the current Starz promos, but is so perfect, in all aspects, for Angels.

"Angel" - Theory of a Deadman

Even if you don't normally like this band, the song is great.

I finished writing on the book this weekend, and I'm truly surprised by it, as I look back on the entire thing. It went directions I never intended. That happens sometimes; best just to let it happen and go forward.

Some other great story-inspiring tracks:

"Turn It Off (Acoustic)" - Paramore

"Dust" - Eli Young Band (except with green eyes, and less choice)

"Always" - Saliva

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Springing Forward

Daylight Savings Time!!! Am I the only one who loves it? I won't miss that extra hour for a second if the sun stays up longer. I'm a summer-lover, and when the time changes, I know it's not too far off.

We're having one of those March fake-out weekends: 75 degrees, brilliant sunshine, birds chirping. Viktor has been so serene and mellow the last few days, enjoying the warm weather; when Viktor's unhappy, ain't nobody happy, let me tell you.

I say fake-out, though, because it'll get bitter cold again; this is an illusion of spring. Last week, the farm looked like this:

So I'll enjoy today while I can.

Spring is a time for rejuvenation; time for green things to grow; time for births and fresh starts. It always energizes me. Which is a good thing, because I've got a list:

 - I'm mailing out giveaway books this week. I'll post on FB when they are safely in the mail and headed to your hands. I'm excited to share signed copies of this monstrously big book with fans, and with some new readers, who will hopefully and enjoy Mercy and Ava's twisted journey.

- I'm working on the last chapter of Angels, and then it's off to editing. Release day is just around the corner, y'all! This book has been unexpected in so many ways; I've been misty-eyed while writing parts of it; I hope that means it'll pull at you too.

- The promised Russell short story "Green Like the Water" is coming in April. After Angels, I will dedicate some time to finishing it, and getting it posted. I love the short story tie-ins because they give readers the option of skipping the fluffy little adventures if they don't want to read them. I would also love to do a Dartmoor short story, bridging books 2 and 3, to talk about family and baby things.

I hope the weather is lovely wherever you are. Bring on spring!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Workshop Wednesday - Taking Advantage of a Series

One of my favorite things about reading is finding a series to become deeply invested in. Standalone novels are great, but with a series, you go places with characters you never could with just one book. With a series, there's so much room for growth; stories can progress at a more organic pace. Currently, I'm mired in the Outlander series, having come way late to the game only to be ensnared. When I finish Angels, I'm treating myself with some cozy fireside nights with Voyager.

So since I love them, and since I write them, let's talk series, and how best to take advantage of them as writers.

With any novel, you want to write strong character development. You want your characters to learn from their trials, and apply this new knowledge to the betterment of themselves and loved ones. But all stories have to have ending points, and you can only take a character so far in one story. With a series, you can follow a character through more than one life stage; over a span of several books, you can dig deeper, find new areas of their identity and morality to explore; they will be tested in different ways. And by the end of the series, the readers will know far more about the characters than they would after just one book. For instance, a couple might fall in love in one book, have children in the next, struggle against middle age in a third. A series allows us to stay with characters we love, and watch them grown and learn and evolve.

A strong series supports a larger cast than a standalone novel. I am a tremendous fan of ensembles, because I think that variety appeals to a wider range of readers. There's a greater chance readers will find a favorite character amidst the large cast, or several favorites, hopefully. With a series, we can stay within the same "world," and with each book, explore the life of a different background character, the central figures of the previous books now serving as secondary, supporting cast. This is why it's so important to create three-dimensional, believable and likeable supporting players. You want the audience to want to know more about them; you don't want them to be yes-men for the main character, or simply filler to bulk out a group scene.

A series allows for more complex plots. Action should always reach a crescendo and find a denouement in each novel, but in a series, plot points can be stretched from one book to the next. Every issue doesn't have to be resolved; you can build upon conflicts, take them to higher stakes, more dramatic planes. You can have immediate villains, and long-term antagonists, who keep showing up when the audience most wants to hear from their favorite baddie.

Currently, my favorite part about series-writing is the flexibility afforded by indie publishing. Where once storylines would have been tweaked and forced into strict genre boxes, there's now the creative freedom to write a series that is true to the people populating its pages, rather than one that adheres to convention. My series isn't strictly romance, isn't strictly literary fiction, isn't strictly anything, and I can write it as it ought to be written.

I love series. I love the way they crush me. I love the way I wait years for the next installment (NOT. Looking at you, George R.R. Martin). But as a writer, I love that they give me a chance to interact with my readers. They have been so encouraging, and that makes my job fun.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Happy Birthday, Madre

Yesterday was my mom's birthday, and it turned into a busy, back-and-forth day. She and I attended a baby shower, and had just enough time to put the horses away before a celebratory dinner, and then this 8-Layer ice cream cake. A bit of a misnomer, because there's not any cake in it. I layered crushed gluten-free cookies with coffee ice cream, cool whip, chocolate ice cream, chocolate chips, and fudge sauce, stacking them up again and again, freezing between layers, and I was so happy with how it turned out. The best part about no-bake desserts - you can't mess them up! Sort of a guarantee of yumminess.

I hope she had a happy birthday. My mom and I have always been close, sharing a love of horses. We spent many years managing a farm together, and I feel so blessed that as an adult, I can say my mom and I are friends. I hope she always knows how much I value her love and support, and her honesty. She has been my cheerleader when I couldn't cheer for myself; my shoulder to cry on; the quiet voice saying "You can do this" when it really counted.

She is my first reader - before it goes to editing, before anyone else sees any of my work, she reads it and gives me her unfiltered opinion. She's read Angels, and she thinks my readers are really going to like it. Actually, she said, "They're going to love this." Fingers crossed that she's right.

Happy birthday, Mom! Love you.