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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

LG's Writing 101 - Intro

Writing 101

12/30/15 – Introduction

Whatever your field, one of the most gratifying things is to be asked for advice. You begin at, well, the beginning, and suddenly you look up and you are the beginner no longer, and there are new beginners asking for tips and tricks, wanting to know how you got your start. It’s been an unexpected, but welcome surprise to receive a wealth of messages, emails, and comments in the last few months, asking for writing advice. It’s not in my nature to offer unsolicited opinions, but I’ve realized something, in answering the inquiries that have come my way. It isn’t unsolicited if someone’s asking for it, number one. And number two, I wish there had been more people willing to listen and respond to me when I was starting out. The writing world can be a big, cruel place a lot of the time, and as a truly introverted geek, I always felt displaced amidst the social cliques of the business. I didn’t want to deal with poorly veiled insults and put-downs, be jostled amongst the warring factions. All I wanted to do was talk about writing. So that’s what I’m going to do now, in a new post series here on the blog. I’m going to talk about writing – from the basics, to the intricacies, in what I hope is a common-sense and comprehensive fashion.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Back At It

Hello, and welcome back from break! Or maybe you're still on break - good for you! I took a few days off, first to prepare for Christmas, and then to recover from it. I'm back at it today, and raring to go. Already on page 220 of my initial read through of Smoke, and it's going well. I'm a pretty pleased book mama at the moment, if a nit-picky one.
I started not to use the photo up there for this post. I'd decided to go find something pretty on Pinterest when I realized the truth was better than anything posed. It's not an attractive shot: USB cables coming out of the computer, water bottle, Coke can, gloomy afternoon and Christmas garland through the window. But that's the reality of it: there's nothing posed or glamorous about writing. It's a butt-in-chair, sore-back, too-much-soda kind of job. The beauty unfolds on the page, while the process itself is less than inspiring. And that's a beauty I simply can't live without.
2015 has been a big and busy year for me, writing-wise. I've met some amazing and kind readers, and I've seen the dark underbelly of the book business. I've learned a lot, and I've thought long and hard about my artistic vision for my writing career. Here at the end of the year, at this normal time for reflection, I've decided some things about the way forward.
I'm going to be launching a new series this year, hopefully by March or April. It's an intricate, sprawling project I've wanted to dedicate myself to for years, but the timing was never right. For the last few months, I've been working on a draft of the first book, and I think now is the right time to really pursue it. While it will be completely separate from my other series, and will have nothing to do with bikers, it will still be chock full of multi-dimensional characters, intense drama, and compelling love stories. I'm thrilled to start it. It's going to be truly epic, in scope and content.
Dartmoor fans, never fear. There are more Lean Dogs adventures on the way, too.
So, a quick look at the release order:
Secondhand Smoke (Jan.19th)
Snow in Texas (?)
Super Secret Project
A rough sketch, I know. One of my many New Year's resolutions is to get scheduling tighter.
I'm glad to be back from break, and I hope you're excited as I am about what's to come. 2016 is going to be a blast.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Deeper Look - #SecondhandSmoke

Remember the little snippet I shared a while back? Here's a more extended look at it. I hope you enjoy, and if I don't blog again prior to, have a very Merry Christmas! :-)

Note: Raw text; apologies for typos.

Secondhand Smoke
Copyright © 2015 by Lauren Gilley
All Rights Reserved

In Hamilton House...


He heard footsteps. Light, clipping footfalls across the boards, moving toward them.

            Tango heard them too, and they both braced themselves, reached for their weapons.

            Aidan had a hand inside his cut, hand curling around the butt of his Glock when their interloper stepped between the doorjambs and entered the ballroom.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Workshop Wednesday - Writer Encouragement: Somebody Out There Needs Your Book

I saved this pin a few days ago, planning to use it in a new Workshop Wednesday series I'm going to post after the New Year. Don't you just love the Writer Positivity cards? Instead, I decided that I would use it today, after I received the loveliest heartfelt comment from a reader on yesterday's post.
One of the things that has always troubled me about the book industry is the encouragement by those in positions of authority toward sameness. From my first ever story pitch (The original version of God Love Her back in 2009) to my current indie status, I've heard countless renditions of the same song. Sung by publishing houses, agents, editors, and now bloggers and others connected to the industry in some way. It goes a little something like: "Look at what everyone else is doing, look at what's selling, and do that." Every agent I've submitted to in the past - and that's a lot of them - has sent me some version of this response: "We think you're a very talented writer. That isn't in question. But you've got a lot going on with this manuscript, and you need to focus on one thing at a time." My favorite ever was: "This is an interesting concept. But I don't know if you'll be able to pull it off, and don't have time to read the entire manuscript to find out." What's even more disturbing is when authors chime in, when they start espousing the old tired industry lines that are spoken with the express purpose of shortening their books and thus making them cheaper to print, though no less expensive to purchase. They're sacrificing their own individuality to appease the industry, and they're buying the explanation that it somehow makes their writing "better."
Okay. Didn't mean to go off on a tangent. I obviously have strong feelings about this business. And I don't appreciate being told that all readers want the exact same thing. Because I'm an author because I was a reader first, and books impacted me deeply. I for one don't want the same thing, so the industry isn't speaking for me. So I won't speak for it.
There have been times in life when fiction served as the most beautiful distraction. The stories that touched my heart were the stories that showed me perhaps love isn't dead; that loyalty lives. The stories that celebrated the triumph of the human spirit. Stories about unlikely heroes, about lasting friendships, about acceptance, and the willingness to stand up and protect the things we hold dear. Some of these were dark stories, frightening ones, heartbreaking ones. And there was great adventure, love, mystery. I wanted to write books like that. Books that didn't serve one purpose, but many. And I fell in love with words, with the flow of language and the proper usage of grammar, because the more proper the prose, the easier to read, and the more readily it melts into images in the mind, transcending the words themselves.
I don't know if I'll ever become the writer I've always wanted to be. But I do know that nothing compares to those wonderful comments like the one I received yesterday. The heartfelt words of readers I wish I could reach through the computer and hug.
I believe in the phrase "To each her own." I don't want to affect anyone else's stories. Write and let write. But there are days when I sit down at the computer and I feel the industry's side-eye, and I become frustrated and tired. And then someone tells me what one of my books has meant to her. And that's when I am reminded. As you sit at your computer, you are writing the book that someone out there needs. You may never know your words have reached them, but they have, and they were appreciated. That's why you can't write with anything less than your whole heart, no matter how messy, complex, raw, and real it gets. The market is flooded with the books the industry wants to print. Be different. Write the book someone out there needs.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The End Again

Let's see. This is book number...sixteen? If you count the Russell supplement stories, which I do. So this is sixteen, and still, typing those two words - THE END - never stops being emotional. So I had to stop, afterward, and pop over here to blog.
It's over. Thank the Lord it's over! And's sad. Bittersweet to close the door on them again.
I have some confessions to make. If Aidan was a real flesh and blood boy, I wouldn't give him the time of day. That whole tatted-up bad boy uber macho thing? Not my scene. Not in any way. Men like him have no power of persuasion over me. So it was with much trepidation that I approached writing his book. Mercy and Michael I can understand - they were loners, weirdos, sensitive and intelligent, intellectual, well-read. Walsh is older, mature, sharp as a tack. All things I value. But Aidan? Oh boy. That was going to be a challenge. Unfortunately, my readers gravitated toward him from the first, so I knew this book would happen. And it did. And I'm glad for it. I do love him now. But it took a whole book for me to come to understand and appreciate him. Because you know what was hiding beneath that swagger?
A sweet boy. Who was abandoned by his mother, who was raised by an unfeeling father and a kind stepmom who was only eight years his senior. By the end of it, I wanted to cry for Aidan, and that's a must for me. I have to want to shed tears for a hero, before he can be my hero.
It's incredibly important to me that my characters, regardless of gender, feel real, human, genuine. I reject the label of "alpha male" because I likewise reject the idea that a strong man comes in one variety, with a certain set of traits. Strength is a variegated adjective. In my mind, Ghost is the only true alpha of the series, because he truly is the leader. His strength lies in making the hard calls, the tough decisions that may result in bloodshed. Heartless? Not really. Just uncompromising. While Aidan is strong because he retains a certain softness, and can apologize for his mistakes.
Secondhand Smoke also dips a little deeper into Tango's history. And I won't lie - I have serious misgivings about writing his novel. Why? Because I'm not sure a romance audience is ready for a hero like Tango. Who is anything but "alpha," who has been a victim, and an addict, and who struggles. If I write his book, I want to do it total justice, without shrinking from the uncomfortable or the dark. I love him, and I want to do right by him. And I don't know if this is the right time to do so. We'll have to see. Of the bunch, he's my baby. And I won't sacrifice the realism; nor will I offer him up on a silver platter for the haters and the critics who refuse to examine literature that doesn't fit into a particular box.
Tired yet? This is my emotional dump. Finishing a book is always a sensitive time for an author. It makes me want to hug my characters, and hold them close.
Thank you, readers, for your patience. I wish I could write a book a month, but quality demands more time than that. I hope you'll enjoy Smoke. Look for it next month. I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Horse Person Holiday

Snow at my barn, this past March
The farrier came this morning to shoe and trim the horses; an every six week regular occurrence in the life of a horse person. I must confess - I've never had a professional manicure in my life. Never. Nor do I want one, really. I can buy a bottle of Sally Hansen and paint my own nails, thank you, not to mention the daily barn chores chip polish with malice. When it comes to professional nail care, not just anyone can shoe a horse. It's a special skill, and a talent, honed with apprenticeship, years of practice, and constant self-education.
My farrier is an old school cowboy, full of unfailing cowboy wisdom; quiet, kind and patient with the horses. My Markus, who I call "Widowmaker" and "the beast" in all seriousness, approves of him, and that is a wonderful thing. I always enjoy feeding handfuls of hay to my spoiled ponies and swapping horse and farm stories with him. My farrier, I mean. Not Markus. He doesn't care what I think.
Conversation of that sort always reminds me that, as a horse person, there will always be aspects of life that only a fellow equestrian will understand. Only another farmer knows what it's like to have a horse person holiday.
I've never been on time to a Christmas party or dinner in my life. I was always coming from the barn, changing manure-crusted boots for clean boots in the truck, brushing the hay bits from my hair, hoping I didn't smell too much like dirty horse blankets. Every hosted event is interrupted before dark by, "Can you watch the oven? I need to run go put the horses away." And there's that stubbornness, on my part, I guess: They eat at five, not before, the humans can just wait a little. On Christmas morning, before presents, before stockings, before breakfast, it was to the barn. (Horses always eat breakfast before humans, you know)
It isn't all rush, though. I have joyous memories of hanging felt and puff paint stockings on my first horse, Skip's, stall. One year my mom even helped me string lighted garland along the top of the door; the one horse in the barn who didn't fiddle with things. I remember dinky trees in the barn office, enjoyed over Styrofoam cups of hot chocolate, heated up in the ancient electric carafe that had been filled from the tap in the bathroom sink. I remember swapping gifts of new gloves, saddle pads, and those expensive Mrs. Pasture's horse cookies that the horses probably don't like as well as knockoff ginger snaps. The barn was my job, but it was my home away from home, and it was a little bit magic at Christmas time.
And then, there was the quiet. Oh, the dark cold quiet of night. No boarders, all of them off celebrating, vacationing, enjoying their hearths. The farm silent save the crunching of frosty grass. All the horses put away and happily munching hay. A handful of last chores to complete: buckets to fill, a finicky eater to check, a leg wrap to tighten. Stars cartwheeling overhead, breath pluming, the cold burrowing down into gloves, and it was so melancholy...and so perfect. I felt like the lucky one. All those boarders who only came for the social times, who weren't pushing a wheelbarrow through the dark - they had no idea what it was like, when everyone had gone home. They didn't get to hear the farm breathe. Didn't hear the coyotes. Didn't soak up all the subtle aesthetics that make you feel small, fragile, and perceptive. I did a lot of thinking in moments like those. It's no wonder I eventually had to put all those stories on paper.
I love Christmas. I love the lights, the ornaments, the food, the gatherings, the eighteen showings of White Christmas and Bing's beautiful voice. But I also love the way the season helps me feel closer to my farm roots. So many of my merriest memories of this time of year are caught up in memories of horses.
And on the wish list? Boots. Always boots. And maybe a bottle of nail polish or two.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

NaNo Reflections

Last day of November on the driveway.
As of midnight last night, NaNoWriMo is officially over. It was my first time participating, and, I have to tell you, it didn't feel so different from any other month.
It was a shock to wake up this morning, grab my phone, and see 12/1/15 on the screen. How did we get to December? No, really. How? It's safe to say I've written my year away. It's been worthwhile, for the most part. But it's been a year of bikes, shootouts, and betrayals, to be sure.
Again. Hmm.
The goal for NaNo is 50K words. I met that and then some, what with Snow as a side project and some dabbling in my Super Secret Project, which you'll learn about next year. I had hoped that Smoke would be complete after those 50K, but this is a story that won't be rushed. This isn't an installment for the casual and critical readers, but for the true fans.
Many a night this month I found that I'd used all my words while writing. And basic conversation left me feeling like a lead-tongued Neanderthal. Me want dinner. Hungry. You do that, you know. You can use all your mental energy and then just become a slug.
So I don't think I'll attempt NaNo at any point in the future. Who knows what I'll be writing next year at this time, but it's safe to say there's no force more encouraging than my own inner critic who drives me hard and berates me constantly.
Okay, enough complaining. I do love my job. Right now I'm sitting on 115K words of Smoky goodness, with a few more miles to go before I sleep.
In summary: whatever. I'm out of words again.