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

Monday, February 29, 2016

February Recap

I think I set unrealistic expectations, having back-to-back book releases the last two months. But I'm liking these recaps as a way to stay accountable. A quick look back at February:
Snow In Texas released Feb. 3 - the first in the new Lean Dogs Legacy series, featuring characters outside the Knoxville chapter.
Current progress:
Tastes Like Candy currently sitting at 40k words, and available to read in-progress on Wattpad.
Loverboy currently sitting at 16k words, not counting the 10k or so I wrote by hand this weekend.
As I Lay Dying for book club,
and started Winter Solstice,
and Breathing Lessons for book club.
I'm surprised how much reading I managed to work in, because some of these are lengthy books. But I take it as a good sign, because the more I'm writing, the more I have to read to keep my brain in writing-mode.
I got some great writing done on Loverboy this weekend away from the computer, and I can't wait to type it up today and get back to work on Candy. I'm also getting ready for Authors In The City, which is just two short weeks away! Happy Monday, and look forward to a new Wattpad update soon.

Friday, February 26, 2016

#Loverboy: Apartment Tour

Setting is always important, but sometimes, particular settings develop a personality of their own. They become special for the memories they hold. For me, Mercy's old apartment above the bakery is one of these places, and we get to return there in Loverboy. How about a quick tour?
Because Mercy and Ava are both book nerds, the bookshelves under the living room window are central features. I like the look of these: the white walls, white trim, the floorboards. Very clean and just what I picture.
The kitchen's dated, for sure, with retro appliances and fixtures. I envision the sink as white porcelain. A small plank table pushed up against the wall.
In the bathroom I see a pedestal sink, claw foot tub, and black and white tile floors. Little windows fogged up from the shower steam.
And a bedroom just big enough for two. I hadn't envisioned exposed brick, but I love the look of it in this room.
I was so glad to be able to use this apartment again, because I think it has an energy that Tango needs right now. It was first Mercy's, and then Ava and Mercy's together, and they left behind an imprint of love, and acceptance, and happy times. An atmosphere of echoes that I hope can serve as a positive catalyst.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

#ThrowbackThursday w/ the Walkers

The Lean Dogs take up most of my mental energy these days, and the past year with them has been incredible, for a lot of reasons. It's been a year of not just telling stories that have been a delightful challenge, but a year of growing as an author. And because I'm always looking forward, I don't always take the time to look back, and I end up sweeping my older books under the rug. Which is completely unfair to my very first book babies: the Walkers.
Dartmoor readers might not know that my first book was Keep You. And no matter where this journey takes me, I'll always be grateful for that first publishing experience. And for Tam and Jo, and Jordie, and Mike, and Jess, and sometimes, even Walt.
Flash all the way back 2012, and I was still stuck in Query Letter Hell. I'd been submitting to (i.e. annoying the crap out of) literary agents for years. Always the hopeful news of a manuscript request, and then always the silence of rejection after that. I would write a book, pitch it, and then write something new, and then pitch that. But in 2012, after the original version of God Love Her was requested by three agents, and then left in limbo, I realized something: It wasn't going to happen for me. I was crestfallen. I began to realize that the system was set up in such a way that made it almost impossible to break onto the scene as a nobody kid without important social connections. I brooded about it for a little while.
And then one afternoon, after listening to a particularly favorite Canadian pop song about a thousand times on repeat, I was struck from out of the blue by two characters: Tam and Jo. Why those names? God knows. Those were just their names. I had no control. I went for paper and pencil, and I wrote six names down without questioning where they'd come from: Walter, Jessica, Michael, Jordan, Joanna, Tam. And then Walker. Walter Walker? That was horrible, but it stayed: sometimes people have horrible names.
I wrote Keep You in four furious weeks of keyboard clacking. It was so sweet, and so family-focused, and so unlike anything I'd ever expected to write. But there it was. I spent another few weeks revising. And then I submitted it. I had several whole manuscript requests. And one rather nasty rejection letter from an agent who didn't like that my book focused not solely on one romance, but on the entire family, and thought I, quote, "Couldn't pull that off."
But it was different, this rejection, because I refused to accept it. Self-publishing was still called "self-publishing" then, and the indie movement wasn't so well-known and respected, but I came to this final, great peace: I could keep trying to please a select group of industry gate keepers. I could wait; I could spend the next twenty years stewing and trying and getting nowhere. Or I could strike out on my own and see what happened.
I struck.
And here we are.
The Walkers, while probably not my finest writing, are so special because they were the first. That was when I started thinking of myself as a writer of books, and not just hopeful manuscripts. And those characters were more real and vital and than any I'd ever written before. I hope some day to write more books in the same vein, more family sagas, more series about a whole mess of people. I'm still doing that, just with an outlaw twist.
So if this is your first time hearing about it, I want to introduce you to the Walkers. Jordan is my favorite, I must warn you. And even then, I had a bad habit of carrying every character's storyline forward through all the books. ;-)

Keep You
Dream of You
Better Than You
Fix You

And those early readers, I can't thank them enough.

Another amazing story by Miss Gilley. It's an adventure that you don't want to miss out on. It is a story that will make you smile, bring you to tears and leave an imprint. The Then and Now really works for the story and makes you feel a part of the Walker clan. I would recommend to everyone :)   ~ Sarah O'Neill

The then and not writing style works so well for this storyline. You can't help but feel for tameron and jo, all those years spent wanting each other, knowing it wasn't an option. The entire walker family has captured my heart with how life like they're portrayed. I can't wait to start on the second book in the series tomorrow :-)  ~ Tiffany

Thanks for indulging me on this Throwback Thursday. Some days I get nostalgic for the old crew.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

LG's Writing 101: Inside of His Skin

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
2/24/16 - Inside of His Skin
A fitting quote for today, given the recent passing of beloved Southern author Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird has long been revered, but last week, after news of her death, I think many of us flipped back through it, reminding ourselves why multiple generations have found meaning in this classic work. It is a book about empathy. A book Harper Lee could not have written if not for her own empathy.
I've blogged about the importance of empathy before, but I think it bears repeating here in the 101 series. It's the author's job to place you, the reader, inside the skin of each character. Help you understand their minds, and the conclusions they've drawn about life thanks to their unique experiences. I think Southern authors (like Lee) do this really well. Hero, villain, moral, or amoral, they put you right there in that character's head, in that character's life, and make it all feel reasonable - even if you aren't rooting for that character.
Through empathy, the author can come to understand a character with whom she has nothing in common. And this is essential. You want a wide range of characters in your work; lots of different viewpoints, different belief systems, different moral codes. You want a tapestry of humanity, not a box of clones. And with that tapestry comes a handful of characters the audience might not like or love, but who are an essential part of the story.
An empathetic author will create more realistic characters. But there will always be those readers who can only empathize with one type of character - generally characters they think are most like them. I always get a kick out of the disgruntled reviewers who are outraged by the illegal or violent actions of my characters. Number one, I would point out that they are outlaw bikers, and I think that's pretty self-explanatory. Remember, literary fiction, not romance from me. And number two, I love that they had a reaction. Horrified by something Mercy did? Awesome. I meant for it to be horrifying. Ava approving of his violence isn't the same as ME approving of his violence. Which I don't. I don't endorse the behavior of any of my characters, but seek to keep them authentic and realistic. Which, given the outlaw world they live in, means authentic is a little darker than your average suburban life experience.
THAT is the great fun of literature: we can walk in someone else's shoes for a little while. Live inside their skin. See the world from their perspective, and maybe learn something about ourselves along the way. Never underestimate the value of empathy in your writing. Seek not to make your character loveable - make them real, and some readers will love them for exactly the messed-up person they are.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Research Journal

In the 2016 spirit of Why Not, and Why Wait, and Do What I Want, and New Books, I bought myself a new notebook and two brand new gel pens yesterday when I went out after bubble mailers. Now, not a nice notebook, mind you. It's not pretty or inspiring. We're talking barcode-on-the-cover, college rule notebook. But I wanted a fresh one to serve as a research journal, and for me, just having the thing is important. It means I won't put off researching that big future project I need to start getting ready for. And I sometimes still struggle - just in my head - with making these sorts of work-related purchases. Because it's so easy to fall into the mental trap of thinking that writing is "not-work." To think that my obsessions are trivial.
It's funny - I've always written in some capacity. But publishing has given me a whole new perspective. NOT to say that I think publishing is a validation; it isn't. No one has the power to make you feel like an author; that's a personal, internal reckoning. It happens. Slowly, you start to realize that it isn't a case of having obsessions that friends and family laugh about; those obsessions are part of what feeds your vast creativity, and you should celebrate them all on your own: a bottle of bubbly, a glass for one. The entire process - writing, editing, rewriting, formatting, publishing, and marketing my books - has helped me to understand my own mind more clearly than any other experience of my life thus far. Want to know what you really think? Write a book.
Back to those obsessions: I listen to them now. If something plagues me, I find a way to use it. Obsessions are not random, nor are they passing. I believe they're deeply tied to our psyches. It's something we crave, something we lack, or something we want to reinforce. A returning obsession has been knocking on the door lately, and I realized, this is what I do: I tell stories. Bust out a notebook, do the damn research, and get it going. If I can't stop thinking about it, then it's worth pursuing.
That's probably my favorite part of being an author: I get to be as weird as I need to be. And, in doing so, I've made peace with my weirdness. It's a wonderful, freeing thing.
So no worries; I'm not about to announce a new project or anything. But one day in the future, I'll get to share the fruits of this notebook, and that is a lovely expectation.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Weekend Reflections

It's warm as spring here, rainy, overcast, and smelling strongly of earth, and damp, and nothing like winter at all, really. A nice change. I spent most of the weekend writing with pen and paper, and reading. I can't seem to keep myself from working seven days a week - too much to do and too little time - but I do try to take a more relaxed approach. Weekends are a good time to take things more slowly, and reflect, and plan.
Jumbled fireside thoughts:
- I've been writing by-hand because of my back, trying to spend less time composing at the computer, but I've realized an added bonus: having the beginnings of a scene written out enables me to dive right into work when the computer's booted up. I'm loving it. Even if it's just a few lines, knowing right where to begin gets the ball rolling much faster, and I can then continue on at a good clip. New plan: write before bed every night, and then start fresh the next morning. Score.
- On the reading front, I've been plowing through Rosamunde Pilcher's body of work, and just finished Coming Home late last night (I HAD to stay up and finish the last 20%). It's amazing how at the end of a 977 page novel, I absolutely hated that it was over, and only wanted more, more, more. How sad I was to know the book wasn't part of a series, but merely a single volume, and that I could never return to the ongoing lives of the characters who had so fascinated me for almost one thousand pages. It was an expertly crafted novel about so many things, full of so many people, that meandered in the most precise and purposeful way, every chapter, every scene interesting for the sheer beautiful ordinariness of life. The kind of book that reaffirms my commitment to a particular approach to art. I catch some heat for Fearless being "too long," but I didn't write Fearless for readers who worry about the length of books. It's for readers with a different set of standards; readers like me.
- I wish I blogged more. What a boring blogger I am. But Candy and Tango are demanding little monsters as of late.
Speaking of which...I'd best get back to them. They're calling.
Happy Monday.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

LG's Writing 101: Film Study

source: pinterest
2/17/16 - Film Study
I think judgment might be the most difficult thing to teach when it comes to writing. You can talk about concept, about exercises, genres, tropes, and analysis, but judgment is personal, an ingrained part of our creativity that is unique to each of us as artists. The way you choose to frame a scene, the language you use, the approach you take, that's all yours. You have to develop a *feel* for storytelling and character development that goes beyond the classroom. I think one of the most helpful things you can do is study film.
I love film as a storytelling medium, and I've always made a very conscious effort to write in a way that feels visual and cinematic. I don't want to relay the facts of a story; I want the audience to *see* the story unfolding; to be white-knuckled in their theater seats. I cast myself in the role of director, and take great nerdy delight in setting up imaginary camera angles, planning close-ups, panning in and out, and shifting the focus for maximum impact. It's also why I choose to use multiple narrators and calculated scene breaks. It's all part of the immersive movie-going experience.
But not everyone writes this way, or wants to write this way. So you say, "How can film study help even if I don't want to be as weird as Lauren?" Excellent question. Here's how close observation of films can enhance your writing:
- Pace: Due to time constraints, movies have to move steadily along at a regular pace, punctuated by slower and then quicker moments for emotional impact. Movie timelines can serve as great templates. Then you have the advantage of expanding, since you aren't limited by time.
- Dialogue: Whether it's quirky or snappy, movie dialogue introduces new information to the audience, and doesn't repeat what we've just seen. Sometimes it serves as a reinforcement, sometimes a contradiction. Sometimes we can tell a character is lying. Sometimes it reveals the true nature of a character previously mysterious to us. Good dialogue expresses broad concepts in a concise way. Good dialogue also sounds realistic, human, and uncluttered. Novels can have a tendency to get too vague and flowery when characters are speaking to one another. Keep the flowery language in the narrative itself, but make sure the dialogue is more in keeping with actual speech patterns.
- Non-verbal Expression: There's something so lovely about watching an actor portray a wealth of feeling without any dialogue. Sometimes, even though we are around people every day, we don't study body language and non-verbal cues with any real attention. Watching films (and re-watching them dozens of times) is a great chance to really study the way people move, the way they express themselves without words.
- Word choice: Have you ever been reading a novel and the author uses language that evokes strange or negative reactions in your mind? Word choice might be the issue I see authors struggle with the most. They use a word without thinking about what sorts of images or sounds it conjures. Generally, the clash exists because the author hasn't thought about the way the scene would look or sound if filmed. Play your scenes in your head, with lighting, and sound effects, and try to use language that describes what's happening in a clear and realistic way.
So the next time someone suggests you're wasting time watching a movie, you can tell them it's important research.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Let's Talk About Tango

I've been bad about keeping up with Music Mondays over the last few months, though I'm usually listening to something. Today, it's "Alive," and "Shoot It Out" for Tango (the acoustic version of "Shoot It Out" is cool too). So let's talk about him for a minute.
I've had more emails and messages about Tango than about any other character. I've had a blast watching everyone go back and forth about Ian vs. Whitney in the FB group. Tango has always been special to me, and by now it's clear that he's special to readers too. I think it's safe to say that Loverboy is the most-requested book of the series. I'm working on it now, trading off between it and Candy, alternating days. It's unlike any previous project; to sit down and write is to go to an unfamiliar creative headspace, one that is consuming and a little bit depressing. None of the Dartmoor books read like genre fiction, but this one...Tango's even more different and off the grid. And I almost feel like I need to prepare everyone for it.
Several things: for starters, this is a heavy book. When I wrote Angels, I decided that Holly's terrible past had to be just that for readers: terrible. I don't believe in using trauma as a means of generating sympathy, or pushing the plot forward in lieu of slowly-developed chemistry and organic character growth. Having Holly say that she was abused, and leaving it there, would have been the equivalent of her telling the audience, "You should feel sorry for me, and I'm a brave person." That would have been cheap, and I don't do cheap. I like for my work to feel visual and cinematic, and so I thought nothing could convey her strength like simply drawing back the veil of time and showing you the things that happened.
So I always knew that if I wrote Tango's book, we would have to go back and *see* the past. And I also knew that I wanted his story to be interesting, to consist of small scenes tucked into larger scenes, and memories fading in and out of focus. Non-linear, rule book chucked into the trash compactor, big messy issues dropped on the floor and left for the characters, and you, to decipher at will. Brace yourself for flashbacks, angst, and some possibly-disturbing imagery.
This is going to be a multi-POV novel with three central protagonists, and plenty of input from the rest of our expansive cast. It is not going to be a tightly-focused romance novel. For the readers hoping for a book about one couple's romance, I'm sorry to say that this just isn't going to be the book for you. Likewise, this book will not appeal to readers who prefer "alpha" men. Tango is not, nor will he ever be "alpha." He is a very broken boy; this is a book about overcoming the past, accepting your life for what it is, and learning that you have value as a human being.
I want to be very exact with this one; I want it just so. I don't want to do what anyone says I *should* do, just because I'm writing about bikers. This isn't about bikers. This is about Kevin Estes, who is loved by his brothers, and who needs so badly to be loved, even though he thinks he doesn't measure up. This is a character story, a study in dark realities, and I cannot wait to share it with my dear readers. I can't wait for you to watch Kev succeed.  
So. Stock up the tissues. I'm shooting for April.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Weekend Reading

One of my favorite things about book club - aside from sitting around Lyn's adorable shop with the sweetest group of people and discussing literary fiction novels classic and contemporary - is getting great new book recommendations. When you become not just friends, but book friends, you get a feel for what the others in your group gravitate toward, and you receive the most pointed, taste-specific book recs. One of my book club friends suggested Rosamunde Pilcher to me. "Read The Shell Seekers," she said, with a knowing smile. "It's wonderful."
Wonderful was right. I started it about a week ago and it's been one of those books I struggle to set aside every night. I'm 80% finished, completely enchanted and heartbroken by it, and almost jumped out of my computer chair earlier today when I realized there was a sequel, September.
When I'm writing, no matter how busy I am, I just HAVE to carve out a little time to read on the side. It helps me stay in writing mode. And I love to read the sorts of books that make me feel stupid and inadequate as an author, the kind that make me want to be better, more clever, and more focused than ever before.
The Shell Seekers is one of those special books that brings you in slowly, seductively, with plenty of ordinary people dashed with wonderfully rich prose. An enthralling, whale-of-a-tale kind of book that spans decades and jumps backward and forward in time without any regard for linear plot. My favorite kind! I love for a book to be bold in establishing a world and a pace for itself. For the author to say, "Come sit down, have a drink, really get comfy, and let me tell you this story." No formula, no regard for an agenda of any kind, just a complete devotion to tale-telling and word-crafting. I'm in book love.
I hope to finish this weekend, and then have September ready to go on my Kindle the moment I'm finished. In between long bouts of writing about my favorite bikers, I'm going to be sneaking chapters of Pilcher's unforgettable characters.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

LG's Writing 101: Theme
source: pinterest
Let's talk about theme. We've already discussed building characters; now let's talk about the meaning of the characters' stories.
Sidenote: my upper and lower back are all kinds of messed up, and my feet and hands are semi-numb at the moment. So forgive me if I sound a jumbled mess.
So in any fiction novel, the plot is what happens - the physical bones of the story, the action - and the theme refers to the meaning of the plot. The theme is the representation of the human spirit within the book; it's what makes the story compelling for us.
Take superhero stories, for example (I'm looking at you, Marvel Studios, and y'all have no idea how much restraint it took just now to keep from mentioning particular films, and particular characters. Whoa. I almost fangirled, but I pulled it together). Yes, the special effects may be visually stunning, and yes, the action is exciting, but those aren't the reasons those kinds of stories are so wildly popular. It's because, amid the action, spectacle, and spandex, there are some deep, meaty, universal themes at play. Themes like personal sacrifice, the responsibility that comes with power, friendship, acceptance, relevance, self-loathing, and coming to terms with your own demons and shortcomings. Superhero stories are stories about personal growth; that's what we connect to as readers and viewers.
When we set out to write a story, we have to know who our characters are, and how they're going to grow. What themes will drive their growth?
I have a lot of fun, in my Dartmoor books, playing with the theme of acceptance. What does it mean to belong? How can you be accepted by the family while retaining your own identity? On its face, Fearless is about a rather taboo love story unfolding amid an outlaw biker soap opera. That's the plot of the book. But what it's truly about is the importance of family, the need for love and acceptance, and the persevering, rationalizing human ability to find joy amid the strangest of circumstances.
So don't forget the heart of your book. Even the most interesting of concepts needs a solid backing of theme to make the novel real and relatable.

Monday, February 1, 2016

January Recap

I didn't boot up the computer at all yesterday and it was blissful. I proofed (about half of) Snow, caught up on some reading, and flipped the day planner over to February. Being an introvert, having those web-free days where I can withdraw into my little cocoon is really important. And then this morning, I was totally refreshed and ready to dive back into writing. Unplugged days are so necessary.
One of my New Year's resolutions is to keep better records of the progress I'm making work-wise. It's so easy, when you sit at the computer and type every day, to feel like one day is bleeding into the next, and the next, and that you aren't making any headway in any direction. That's not true, but the sensation leads to a less productive mindset. So I'm making a point of reviewing each month and setting goals for the next month.
January was busy:
Smoke released on 1/14.
Snow was complete as of 1/23.
I got my proofs for it and will have it ready soon.
Candy went up on Wattpad on 1/27.
Plus started The Shell Seekers.
Excited to be back to work this morning!