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

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Martian

Read March 2016

Okay, I loved this book. I made time for it before bed every night. So know that this isn't a true book review, per se.

I have eclectic taste when it comes to books. For me, it's all about the author's voice and competence, and the characters of the story. Subject matter has no real bearing, and I love to feel like I'm learning new things as I read for fun. So The Martian was perfect on all those levels. I was a bit wary going in, because I knew it was going to be a very technical novel, and I have only a rudimentary grasp of space travel and exploration. All those worries were expelled the moment the story starts, and we meet Mark, our intrepid Martian explorer, thought dead and left stranded on the Red Planet when his crew aborted the mission and went back to the ship. Mark lives a year and a half on Mars, constantly encountering problems and having to engineer solutions. The narrative is comprised of his log entries, and the occasional flash back to Earth, as they try to devise a way to bring him home.

First off, Mark is an adorable dork, and he injects a quirky humor into everything. Though the story is dangerous, and suspenseful, Mark's voice takes the it from a place of nail-biting melodrama to one that is entertaining, appropriately nerve-rattling, and always interesting to read.

I'll paraphrase it for you:
Me: "This is obviously a clog. How about I take it apart and check the internal tubing?"
NASA(after five hours of deliberation): "No. You'll fuck it up and die."
So I took it apart.
Me: "I took it apart, found the problem, and fixed it."
NASA: "Dick."


You know what!? Fuck this! Fuck this airlock, fuck that Hab, and fuck this whole planet!


Things aren't as bad as they seem. I'm still fucked, mind you. Just not as deeply.


Fun fact: This is exactly how the Apollo 1 crew died. Wish me luck!


Stop laughing.


It seemed to work well. The seal looked strong and the resin was rock-hard. I did, however, glue my hand to the helmet.


Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped.


As with most of life's problems, this one can be solved by a box of pure radiation.


I tested the brackets by hitting them with rocks. This kind of sophistication is what we interplanetary scientists are known for.

I highlighted the heck out of this book on my Kindle. Can't recommend it enough if you like scifi and space. And I also recommend it to people who are curious and just plain like to read. Five stars from me. Loved it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

LG's Writing 102: The Ensemble

3/23/16 - The Ensemble

Starting today, I'm going to move from the Writing 101 series to the newer, more detailed 102 series. 101 was the basics, and now we're going to take a deeper look at some topics, and talk about a more nuanced way of writing. As with the 101, this has all got the Lauren-slant, and should totally be taken as my personal approach to writing, and not any sort of rule of law. So, ready?
Today we're going to talk about writing ensemble casts.
Organic, believable, compelling character development is essential to any great book, and no easy feat. Having organic, believable, compelling development among a large and diverse cast of characters? It's complicated. The more characters in play, the more intricate the juggling. Because I like to torture myself, I tend to work with large casts. This doesn't appeal to everyone, authors or readers, but in my eyes, there are some big advantages to setting the stage with lots of players:
- Real world feel: we don't live in bubbles, and a big cast makes the fictional world feel like a real place.
- Opportunities for story: characters can have side stories with other characters, and the plot has the potential to grown in any number of directions.
- Potential for a long-running series.
- A multitude of varying perspectives that give the story a richer, deeper tone.
It's a challenge, but a rewarding one, and a large cast lends itself to that cinematic feel I'm always shooting for in my work. For me, the great fun is that your ensemble is full of very different people, and they create a well-rounded look at your fictional world.
Here are my inexpert tips for writing ensembles:
- First, make sure there's a reason for the ensemble. The group approach should enhance the overall story. In my Dartmoor books, a big cast is necessary, because a club wouldn't consist of three guys.
- Make sure each character is his/her own person! This is the most important. Whether it's a group of friends, coworkers, family, or, yes, a biker club, there is personality diversity within every group. Writing about a group who all think, act, and speak in the same way (unless that's the point of your scifi clone novel) adds nothing to the story, and is not realistic. Every group needs to delegate tasks. For instance, not every Lean Dog can be just like Mercy: they need leaders, thinkers, organizers, enforcers, and foot soldiers. It takes all kinds.
- Create an interesting dynamic between the members of your ensemble. There will be disagreements. They won't all like one another. Some will be better friends than others. They will have conflicting goals (like, say Ghost, who's always looking out for the club as a whole, while his guys get caught up in personal struggles with their families at home). The goal is to keep it interesting.
- Use the varying POVs to add new interpretations, new world viewpoints, and new logic to the story. Every character should be interesting. Every character will be touched by different aspects of the story.
- Different strokes, you know the rest: with varying goals come varying wishes and fantasies, so a happy ending won't be exactly the same for each character. For example, Mercy's happy ending is Ava, and pretty much only Ava. Tango's happy ending will be happiness, finding a little peace with the idea that life has been terrible, but that it will get better.
Like I said, an inexpert list. After years of it, I can say that I prefer writing large ensemble casts, and that it keeps me engaged with my stories and on my toes, always ready to become fascinated by someone new. But it takes some planning, some thought, and a strict adherence to your characters, and their personalities.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Michelle's Aesthetic

For Chelle:
Think of it as her Instagram account. She likes order, she likes pretty, she doesn't mind living small. She loves hanging out with her Uncle Albie: furniture maker/arms dealer. She misses London, and she really wishes she'd bought those blue cowboy boots. A London girl who won't admit she's in love with a Texas boy.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Michelle's Playlist


"Pretty Vacant" // The Sex Pistols
"London Calling" // The Clash
"Bloodstream" // Ed Sheeran
"If You Ever Want To Be In Love" // James Bay
"Hard Out Here" // Lily Allen
"Never Forget You" // Zara Larsson & MNEK
"Hard" // Rihanna
"Beast of Burden" // The Rolling Stones
"Waterloo Sunset" // The Kinks
"Wannabe" // The Spice Girls
"Air Balloon" // Lily Allen

For miss Chelle. The Spice Girls because she was a child of the nineties! Haha. And I think her music tastes would run the gamut: from her dad's selection, to modern UK pop, to the American pop that inevitably finds its way over. And had to throw more than one Lily Allen song in there.

Candy's Playlist


"Boom Boom" // John Lee Hooker
"Ain't My Cross To Bear" // The Allman Brothers
"Miss You" // The Rolling Stones
"Amarillo By Morning" // George Strait
"Texas Flood" // Stevie Ray Vaughan
"Roadhouse Blues" // The Doors
"As Good As I Once Was" // Toby Keith
"Amarillo Sky" // Jason Aldean
"God's Gonna Cut You Down" // Johnny Cash
"Keep Me" // The Black Keys
"Crosstown Traffic" // Jimi Hendrix
"Cat Scratch Fever" // Ted Nugent

A strange mix of things Candy would have on in iPod (after Michelle loaded it with his requested music) and a couple of tracks with Amarillo in the name, because, and a few that make me grin and think of him.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Candyman Aesthetic

Candyman is one of those characters who started out as an intentionally larger-than-life side character, and who picked up a megaphone and demanded to have his own book. Love him, hate him, he's a Texan force of nature, and I can't believe how goofy, and sweet, and completely devoted he turned out to be. He's a true Southern boy, and he misses his mama and daddy, and he carries responsibility heavy across his substantial shoulders.
If you want to follow along on Wattpad, we're up to Chapter Nineteen!
Tentative release date of mid-May for the final, compiled book edition of Tastes Like Candy.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Checking In

I feel like I need to check in, since I'm running so silent. In this case it's good silence, because I've cocooned myself in a writing state and been more or less glued to my ugly purple swivel chair. The entire gang's been chatty, and that's not something to be wasted. They're throwing out lines faster than I can write them, so yay them.
I was very afraid, in my post-travel fog on Monday morning, that it might take days, even a work or more, to get back into the writing groove. But the words struck that night, right before dinner, and have been a bit relentless. So I decided to take advantage of the rush and just concentrate on writing. Which, unfortunately, means no Facebooking, no blogging, no Tweeting, etc. So I thought I'd update you guys.
Progress is happening on both story fronts. I'm currently working on chapter 19 of TLC, and, computer-allowing should have that up tonight or, more likely, tomorrow. It's at about 54K words, and 200 pages of single-spaced book page text, so my predictions were correct that this is going to be a meaty book.
Loverboy has been moving a little more slowly, but it's a very different sort of book. I'm happy to take the slow-but-satisfied approach with it. I'm so happy about it right now, where it's already been, and where it's going. I will say this for it: If you really like and care about Tango as a character, you will really like this book. If you wish Tango would just turn into a badass biker already, you will hate this book. In a nutshell.
Given how heavy things are going, I've got plans for something new, and fun (Candy not responsible for this fun) to announce. Just a little something. I was going to do it tomorrow, but I'll be honest, I'm just going to stay in The Zone the rest of this week and see how much I can get done.
Happy St. Patrick's Day! Have some green beer for me, since I can't. :-)

Monday, March 14, 2016

AITC 2016

3/12/16 - Authors In The City book signing

I don't think I've had my name around my neck since that first year of high school before they gave up on security and let us stuff the lanyards in our back pockets. How official I felt. It's me, in a laminated sleeve!

If you saw my pathetically pale, frizzy-haired self on Facebook this weekend, you'll know I was in Florida for the Authors In The City book signing event on Saturday. It wasn't my first rodeo - I've been to multi-author signings here in Georgia - but my first out-of-state multi-author event, and my first romance-only event. I still maintain that I'm a literary fiction author rather than romance - bet you're tired of hearing that one - but it was lots of fun, and I handed out lots of swag. It was wonderful to see Jessica and Suz again - they brought me a little gator head!!! - and so lovely to meet Roberta, who up 'til now I've only spoken with on FB :-) I loved signing books for you gals!

Today, my brain feels a bit like scrambled eggs. Traveling always sucks the creative energy right out of me. So this week is all about the iTunes playlists, reading, working out, and plugging back into Tango and Candy's stories.

The signing was held at the Gaylord Palms resort just outside of Orlando, and my goodness, this hotel is gorgeous. I'm still sorting through pics, and I apologize for the fact that my phone's camera doesn't perform that well in low light.

Pre-signing setup in the convention center:

Sadly, I was too busy during the signing to take any photos, but that room filled up with authors, and then with attendees, and it was a wonderful zoo.

View from the room's balcony:

The beautiful atrium of the hotel:


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Prince of Tides

“These are the quicksilver moments of my childhood I cannot remember entirely. Irresistible and emblematic, I can recall them only in fragments and shivers of the heart.”
Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides    
My first Pat Conroy book was The Prince of Tides. Someone recommended it - no, I was told that I needed to read it - about a month prior, but that was pre-Kindle days for me, so I put it on the list, and the next time I popped into B&N, I snagged it. I remember that I was half-reading several books at the time, and that, because it was summer, I managed a chapter of this one here and a chapter of that one there without any consistency. That night, I opened The Prince of Tides assuming I'd manage a few paragraphs and then grow too sleepy to continue.
I was wrong. I was very wrong.
I burned through that 704 page book with the particular speed that accompanies unputdownable, beautifully written novels: you hate to keep turning the pages without savoring the language, but you can't stop. It was the sort of book that locks you into its world, so that, away from it, scenes replay and lines of text loop through your mind. Finally, I was done, and closing the back cover left me feeling hollow, a little shell-shocked, and yet grateful for what I'd just read. It was the sort of book that expands your workspace as an author; widens your desk, deepens those file drawers, adds new tabs to your mental references. The sort of book that encourages us to "go there" with our art. To have faith in our own perspective. Gives us the boost we need to walk bravely forth as our own messed up selves and tell the stories that mean something to us, and damn what anyone might say about them.
It is not a comfortable book, nor a warm one, though there are moments of pure warmth, capturing the sunlight like smooth, jewel-toned rocks on the beach. It is a dark, and heavy, and violent, sometimes vicious book. Sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes horrifying, sometimes depressing. Punctuated with the language, and the imagery, and the heady scents of the South. The most disturbing scenes I've ever read are in that book, stamped in vivid ink on my imagination. Caesar the tiger, for one. There are scenes that make you feel as if you're watching something you shouldn't; that you're intruding upon the sad, secret dinner conversations of people who don't want you there. And yet you return to them, again and again.
This is the thing about Pat Conroy: I often disagree vehemently with his characters. And that makes the books all the more successful, as art, because it isn't important that you agree with a character, only that you hear them, and understand them. It's the same with real life: agreement is never a guarantee, only kindness, and understanding, and small graces. The best stories can't guarantee you comfort or flattery; the best stories tell you something true, without flinching.
Rest in peace, Mr. Conroy. May new readers discover the joys of your words. May writers heed the rich lessons. You will be missed.

Monday, March 7, 2016

#MusicMonday - 3/7/16

Currently hooked on this song. It's really a soundtrack pick for my Super Secret Project (oh Project, I shall dedicate myself to you some day) but it works great for Tango too. Next week I'm looking to share the soundtrack for Loverboy - lots of guilty pleasure song choices there, with plenty of Paramore and FOB, and good dance/electronica stuff for him. A soundtrack for a Not So Bikery Biker Book.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Friday Teasers

It worked so well last weekend that I'm going to try again this weekend to stay off the computer as much as possible and just focus on writing. Especially since I'll be traveling all next weekend and won't have any work time. I thought I'd wish everyone a happy Friday and leave you with a couple of teasers.
I'm hoping to have a new chapter of Candy up tomorrow or Sunday:
“You want coffee?” he asked. “I’m gonna go get some.”
            He wanted to touch her on his way out, so he did, reaching to encircle her throat with one hand, kissing the top of her head. She pressed her hand to the back of his; in the mirror, her eyes fluttered shut and she leaned back against him.
            A beat of silence in his head. A natural pause, like his heart was giving him a chance to acknowledge something important.
            He brushed her pulse point with his thumb and then drew away, went out into the living area.

And then here's a (raw text) snippet from Loverboy:
            Outside, the afternoon had become grayer, colder, the wind snatching at their hair as they descended the iron stairs. Whitney shivered as she fished out her keys, pulled her jacket together. It felt ominous, this change in the weather.
            She hit the remote and Kev opened her door. “Dive safe.” And then, more personal, making eye contact again, “Text me when you get back to work and let me know you’re there safe.” The wind caught his long hair and he smoothed it back, the domino tattoos standing out in dark relief against the white of his fingers.
            How thin he was, how underfed and defeated.
            How sweet he was, how gentlemanly and thoughtful.
            Her throat tightened.
            She flung her arms around his neck, a sudden, impulsive hug. He smelled of smoke, and clean laundry, and feminine shampoo. He felt frail in her arms, muscles like water, bones hard knobs and cylinders beneath his clothes.
            She squeezed him hard. “Don’t give up,” she whispered. “Keep trying. Please. For me.”
            Then she whirled away and into her car before he could see the tears standing in her eyes.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

#Loverboy - Ava and Mercy's House

Admittedly, I have a serious soft spot for Mercy and Ava, for their growing little family. I love that I haven't had to abandon them, and that I've been able to keep their story going as the series progresses. Mercy has an interesting storyline in Loverboy, and because of that, we get to spend more time at the Lécuyer house.
Mercy bought a modest white house for his bride in Half My Blood. This is a little on the small side, but it's got the right cottage vibe. Think cozy and unpretentious.
They don't normally use the front door, and instead come and go through the back door, which leads into a mud room. Lots of space for jackets and boots and wet umbrellas.
They don't have a dining room, and instead eat in the kitchen.
Book lovers that they are, I love these shelving ideas for the living room.
I love the simple aesthetic of this bedroom: the hardwood, the rug, the nightstand with everyday clutter. It feels comfortable and close. Mercy of course sleeps closest to the door, so this is his side of the bed.
Mercy set up a writing nook in one of the living room windows for Ava, so she can work and keep an eye on the kiddos at the same time.
I like to think that they have eclectic taste in furniture: some old fashioned antique stuff, some modern, some rustic, some French. Lots of family photos and quirky little oil prints they found in secondhand stores. Mercy leaves it to her - he'll never tell her she should or shouldn't decorate a certain way - but he likes to bring her little pieces that he's found, and offers opinions when she wants them. He loves, more than anything, being surrounded by this family they've created and the things they've acquired together.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Making Characters Attractive

3/2/16 - Making Characters Attractive
This seemed like a totally ridiculous topic when I first typed the heading. But stick with me for a minute. I'm frequently asked if I have particular visual inspirations for my characters. "Who do you see as so-and-so?" Sometimes I don't have anyone in mind. But sometimes I do, and I'm hesitant to say, because I don't want to alter readers' mental pictures in any way. Because the character's exact appearance isn't as important as their level of attractiveness to the reader.
Now, what do I mean by attractive?
- It can be physical: handsome or pretty characters, pleasing to the eye.
- But that's a shallow way to look at "attractive." So instead, I mean that the character should be pleasing to our intellect, and above all, should be attractive - or interesting - to read about. So the goal is a readable character.
So the question becomes: What sorts of traits captivate readers?
The answer is: It depends. The second you assume all readers are drawn to the same thing is the second you've excluded a portion of the reading population. Therefore it's important not to look at beauty as a purely physical quality; you have to step outside the box and consider all the ways in which all sorts of people appear beautiful to others.
Fascinating is beautiful:
It's easy to be struck by overwhelming physical beauty. But most people aren't knock-you-out gorgeous. Instead, living and working around someone fosters attachment, affection, and eventually fascination. You find yourself noticing little things: the way they chew on the end of their pen, their love for a particular color, their addiction to Starbucks; that little pained smile that means no, things are not okay, but they're going to pretend anyway. Little things that become endearing and special because you care for this person.
Smart is sexy:
Intelligence, a quick wit, a broad vocabulary, all delightful. The kinds of characters you can't help but love because of who they are, and who you then begin to find physically attractive because of this.
Other attractive qualities:
- Humor/Sarcasm
- Loyalty
- Commitment to an ideal
- Specific skill sets: someone who is thorough and dedicated enough to become really good at something (you can take that the dirty way if you want, but I mean it more innocently than that, ha!)
It's also important for your character's perspective to be an attractive place to be, if he or she is narrating parts of the story. Characters who are struggling toward some goal, trying to find their place, questioning things, trying to solve problems, wrestling with feelings. Characters who have the ability to affect others, and be affected in turn. You want to establish a unique voice for your character; his or her inner monologue should be entertaining, emotional and enlightening.
Beware the trap of "just your average." John was just your average bad boy. Jane was just your average twenty-something girl. Ahh! Kiss of death as far as interest goes. Even if a character thinks of him or herself as average, you've chosen this character to tell a four-hundred-plus page story to the audience; make this character attractive on the inside, even if the world sees him or her as average.
Take into account that different people have different taste. I caught hell for Walsh being "short," and "not an alpha." But personally, I'm five-one, horribly jaded, not impressed by overt hotness, and would love to meet a guy who's smart, and thoughtful, and not such a blowhard. So Walsh is attractive to me, and hopefully to some of my readers. My taste varies, and is dependent upon personality and presence. So in my writing, I try to think of the audience as diversified: not every reader will find every character handsome, but hopefully she'll find them interesting, fascinating, and therefore attractive.
And of course, the biggie, when it comes to romantic relationships, it's important that the characters see each other as beautiful, regardless of physical looks. Because, isn't that love? Wanting to be with the one you find most beautiful? So as a writer, it's about showing the character through his or her lover's eyes, rather than painting them in an objective light.
Just things to consider. Until next Wednesday, Happy Writing.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Happy Birthday to my mom!
I use this photo almost every time I talk about my mom, because, for me at least, it's a representative image. My grandfather took it, back when I was in high school; we're at the International Horse Park in Conyers, Mom, and Cosmo, and me. I was next up, and we were watching the horse and rider pair one time slot ahead of me. Cosmo was watching...something else. Something more interesting than dressage tests. It was one of dozens of horse show days. Days full of hurry-up-and-wait; days full of trailer-towing; days full of camera-toting, boot-polishing, and mane-braiding.
I don't know if a love of horses is genetic, but my mom had horses when she was young, and I always hope she was glad to learn, when I first started stringing sentences together, that I was going to be a horse-crazy girl too. I didn't cheer, or dance, or play anything. I rode, and the back of the Tahoe was always full of saddles, bridles, fifty-pound bags of sweet feed, and insidious little bits of hay that would never vacuum up. Every shopping trip involved Horsetown. Lunches were packages of peanut butter crackers and slightly-warm vending machine Cokes.
Mom let me skip school to watch clinics. She wrote excuse letters blaming dentist appointments for my late arrival, when really we'd gone to see the newborn foal before school that morning. She never pressured me into behaving like other girls my age; I wasn't faulted for skipping prom, or for going to college locally so I could keep working. I was never encouraged to be anyone but myself. She listened to every hope, and every dream; she treated me like an adult always; she let me make hard decisions, so that I could learn and grow.
Mom is the first one to read all of my books, and she's more honest with me than anyone. "That doesn't sound like you, Lauren." Or, "I don't think this character would do that." I think she's more excited about new book releases than I am, sometimes. She asks for fresh chapters. "Do you have more for me to read yet?" And let me tell you, bikers are not her "thing." Or, at least, they weren't, but she's read and reread every sentence. She's reading Loverboy right now, and of chapter four, she said, quietly, "It was good," and I know that means so much.
You see, every day I know that there are plenty of mothers who would have been so disappointed to have a daughter like me. One who is geeky and quiet, who is cynical and studious. One who chose horses and books over more glamorous, girlish things. Any mother would have been within her rights to sigh and roll her eyes. But instead, Mom has been my constant cheerleader, the bright outlook to my dark, the voice saying, "You can do this."
And so though it is a vast understatement, I want to tell her thank you, and wish her the happiest of birthdays.
Love you, Mom. Happy Birthday.