amazon.com/authors/laurengilley

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

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sons of Rome

*rubs hands together gleefully*

So NOW that "The Stalker" is out in the world, we can talk a little bit more about Sons of Rome as a whole. (If you haven't seen it yet, you can grab the prelude short story, "The Stalker," at Amazon for 99c.) 

The characters introduced in the short - Fulk, Anna, Dr. Talbot, and Vlad - are all major players in the series. Fulk and Anna are my favorites, and we'll get to see how and when they met in a later book that's all about them. I mentioned in the author note at the end of the story that Fulk le Strange is my fictionalized version of a real baron born in 1267 - and the same is true of Vlad. A historical figure, now more myth than man at this point, who I'm molding into shape for my own storytelling purposes. 

Because it's a character-driven saga, the emphasis will always be on telling the various individuals' stories. There is an ongoing plot that is further developed with each separate adventure, but for anyone who isn't familiar with, or who doesn't care for paranormal stories all that much, I think you'll be happy to hear that this series is very much a human story, at its heart. The paranormal aspects are very much present - immortal characters with powers, etc. - but the stories are about families: about lovers, spouses, siblings, friends. About moral dilemmas, and nature vs. nurture, about sacrifice and loss. 

While this series is very different from the Dartmoor books readers have come to expect from me, it's similar in that it's a series written for readers like me, who want to get good and invested in a story. This is a rainy day, cup of coffee, blanket on your lap kind of series. It is not designed for the reader looking for instant gratification. It's my great hope that it will be an immersive reading experience. That it will be at times scary, at times funny, and that at the end of all its adventures, true love will indeed save the day. 

If you enjoyed "The Stalker," get ready, because there is so much more of that on the way. This is my favorite genre, and I can't wait to contribute to it, and share it with you all. 


The year is 1942, and a boy from Siberia is caught up in the Great Patriotic War. 

The year is 2017, and a NY homicide detective dreams every night about blood, and snow, and dead wolves...and a man with blues eyes who claims to know her family.

A baron returns to his manor. A legend wakes. A brother-killer walks the earth again. The Sons of Rome have stepped from the world of fable into the world of the living, and everything is about to change.

White Wolf, coming Fall 2017



Friday, July 21, 2017

Surprise Release - The Stalker



Surprise! 

A short story prelude for my new, paranormal Sons of Rome series is now live on Amazon for 99 cents. Get it here

This short introduces two important characters from the series and sets the scene for what's to come. Sons of Rome officially launches later this year with book one, White Wolf, and kicks off an epic saga with historical and contemporary storylines, and a crazy cast of outlaws, misfits, and literal monsters. 

I can't wait to share it with everyone! We're just getting started. 

(inspirational pin board found here)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dear Heart Chapter 27


Hi! So, this isn't the normal place for updates on Dear Heart, but Wattpad has changed their coding so that it's impossible to write a chapter and then copy/paste or upload it. I'd have to write directly on the site, which would ruin my formatting, and just...no. Ugh. So. Here's chapter 27 - be warned that it is incredibly short. I had a message last week about publishing it, and I told this reader that it was waaaay back on the back burner while I work on all my other projects. And it is. But as it sometimes does, a question like this got me poking around in the manuscript, and I was filled with sadness as I read back through bits of chapters and reminded myself why I started posting this story, and why it's hard to set it aside for the time being. I decided to go ahead and post what I have for 27, though it isn't much. And I'm hoping I can continue to post more regular updates here on the blog.

Real talk time. I started this story because I fell in love with the characters, and because, at heart, I love soft, sweet couple stories about living life and getting past hard times. And once I started writing, I found that this book, like Walking Wounded, was going to be one of THOSE books, the ones where, for whatever reason, my writing could come to the page in its truest and best form. Even today, as I skim through it, I'm very proud of the writing mechanics of it. It's a rare thing when I write something with the sensitivity and attention to detail that I crave while reading, and this book is an example of such. 

Compared to my other Wattpad entries, Snow in Texas and Tastes Like Candy, reader interest has been low. (I know how typecast actors feel now, ha!) But I would love to find a way, possibly through some sort of magic, to finish this one this year and have it available on Amazon. I don't plan to continue updating it chapter-by-chapter...unless you want to see that happen. If you like the updates, please consider showing it some love. Stories like these are my absolute best work, and I'd love to be able to write more of them in the future. 

You can read chapters one through twenty-six here

I'll be sure to let everyone know when the final, complete version is available. 

xoxo

Monday, July 17, 2017

Sasha



From
White Wolf
Copyright © 2017 by Lauren Gilley
All Rights Reserved 

Nikita.

Good. Kind. Dangerous.

Friend. Pack.

There was so much pain. So many sounds. And smells.

Chaos. Too bright, too cold, too much.

He smelled blood, and something dead, and the rank fear-sweat of humans. Humans afraid of him.



If it's true about Dartmoor that I like to write characters who are difficult to like, but easy to love, then it's doubly true of the characters in White Wolf. Maybe. Some of them, at least. I think Sasha is pretty darn loveable and likeable. 

The fun thing about writing, for me anyway, is stepping outside the box of my everyday life and into that of someone who, on the surface, is different in every way. And then excavating down and finding the universal things that make them wonderful, and weird, and familiar. 

Sons of Rome, being paranormal, gives me a chance to explore with a freedom that doesn't exist in a closed environment like a biker club. There are still rules to this paranormal world, yes, but we can go anywhere, peek in on anyone, and see things through an array of lenses. It's freeing, and at moments worrying - do I have the writing chops for this? - but it affords more latitude when it comes to characters. 

Sasha is nineteen, Siberian, naïve, and kind-hearted. By contrast, his friends are jaded, experienced, necessarily violent, and duplicitous - also necessarily. It's delightful to invert the trope, and turn the sweet boy into the monster...and the monsters into the helpless tagalongs. 


Monday, July 10, 2017

Cover Reveal - White Wolf

Detective Trina Baskin keeps having nightmares. Vivid, graphic nightmares about snow, and blood, and wolves. She thinks they're just that - nightmares - until her latest case has her asking all sorts of questions about what's humanly possible. Together with her partner, Lanny, she stumbles onto the truth not only about the case, but about her own family history as well. 

Full synopsis to come...

Saturday, July 1, 2017

First Look - #WhiteWolf


Happy Saturday, all! I've been teasing and talking about my new project, White Wolf, for a few weeks now, and let me tell you, I am SO excited about this project - about this new series, Sons of Rome, which combines so many of my favorite genres and tropes. I can't wait to share it with everyone later this year...which is why I'm going ahead and sharing Chapter One now.

White Wolf is the first in a character-driven paranormal series with historical and contemporary storylines. Warnings (in general) for blood, violence, magic, scary stuff, sex, epic romances, accurate historical details...inaccurate historical details, alternate history, war scenes, actual battles, military stuff, lengthy references to real figures in history, and opinionated characters. Also, wolves...and the people they work for.

White Wolf
Copyright © 2017 by Lauren Gilley
All Rights Reserved



1



There was blood on the snow.

Gallons of it.

Arterial spray, the analytical part of her brain catalogued. She’d seen it before. But never this much. Great crimson arcs across the fresh white drifts, grisly hieroglyphs that attempted to explain what had happened to the bodies that littered the clearing.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

What It Boils Down To



Why don't I call myself a romance author?

It's a question I'm asked often. Sometimes with curiosity, sometimes with open hostility. Sometimes it's a serious point of contention that invokes nearly a year's worth of angry gossip and bad-mouthing on social media (Hi, Stalker-Girl! Might I suggest a healthier means of passing all your free time).

The answer is simple, and it isn't heinous. The answer is this: for me, the romantic elements of a story are never the most important.

I'm not bad-mouthing the romance genre. I'm not making a statement about it. I enjoy a good romance as much as the next reader. But when it comes to writing, the romantic plot of a story is never the most important aspect for me personally, and I think that shows in the final products. Writing romance is not really my strong suit - my strength lies in other areas of the narrative.

Some readers DO find my books romantic, and that's fantastic. Hopefully that means I capture romantic expression and feeling better than I think I do.

Some readers find my books to be lacking in romance, and that's fine too; to each her own. That's why I label most of my work "literary fiction," so that readers know going in to expect a story that focuses more on family relationships and personal struggles than on romantic chemistry.

During the conceptualization phase of writing, when I'm fleshing out my characters in rough, handwritten notes, I'm not thinking about their love lives. Take a character like Fox, for instance; it's taken a very long time to "find" his mate in my mind because, from the beginning, I was never thinking about his character arc in terms of romance. Even now, I can't promise that he'll marry an old lady, settle down and have children, because I have a hard time seeing that happen for him.

Genre labels boil down to marketing. Authors try to classify their books as honestly as possible so that the readers most likely to enjoy them will have an easier time finding them. When I first started on my publishing journey (2008), when I was querying, I called myself a romance writer. Through various interactions with agents, publishers, and editors, I eventually learned that my books didn't focus on the romantic relationships tightly enough to be considered genre romance. I fell into that limbo category of "fiction," where books with identity crises find themselves in bookstores. I had a choice: shift the focus of my books, or change  my label. I changed my label. And I continue to write books that are difficult to market - this is my burden to shoulder, and is in no way commentary on any particular genre. (Anyone who claims to have serious issues with the way I choose to label my books is just looking for things to be unhappy about. Haters, still, sadly, gonna hate).

The reason I blog about this from time to time is because I want readers to be happy. I want them to know where I'm coming from creatively so they know what to expect from my work.

Like White Wolf, for example. This series is such a passion project for me. It's an amalgamation of so many inspiring interests. It contains some touching and intense love stories...but as with my other work, I won't mislead anyone by claiming that romance drives the story. Think more historical and contemporary fiction with romantic subplots.

I think it'll always bother me that in a field that is essentially art, built on a foundation of individual artistic expression, a person can be bullied and belittled for pursuing her art in the way that's best-suited to her, but hey, it's a nasty world out there. Some people build sandcastles, and some kick them over for the fun of it. What I learned last year, while I was having a creative rejuvenation working on Walking Wounded, was that I'm at my best when I focus on the things that interest me the most, and that's something I'm definitely pursuing with my new Sons of Rome series. It's big, and daunting, I can't wait to share it with everyone.

Thank you, readers, as always, for your kindness and understanding.

Monday, June 12, 2017

White Wolf


Alternatively titled "What To Expect When You're Expecting A Book."

I'm 11k words into White Wolf as of today, and it's difficult, as it always is at this stage, to keep quiet about my latest project. It's too early for a blurb, or cover, or in-depth look...so I thought I'd share what I can today.

Here's what to expect from the first book in my new series:

Character is king. For me, even the coolest of concepts can't save a story with flat, uninteresting, unsympathetic characters. As with all my other books, White Wolf begins and ends with characters, with their personal growth and emotional journeys driving the story forward. And though some characters have extravagant backgrounds, the majority of this cast is splendidly ordinary. That's my shtick: ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances, and like with my other books, the true stars of this series are regular, everyday folks who are forced to make big decisions, and face seemingly insurmountable challenges.

It's dark. If Dartmoor asks readers to love characters who do unsavory things...this series doubles down on that. The violence and dark themes aren't anything you guys can't handle, but given the genre, it's darker than my other work. Just throwing that out there.

Family saga. Yep, Sons of Rome is a family saga. It's my other shtick. Family by birth, family by choice - check. Parent/child relationships, sibling relationships, coming to grips with the legacy of your family - check, check, and check.

Alternate History. I love history, I really do. And I love having the chance to explore it with real-time, in-the-moment scenes in which the past transcends dates on a page and becomes someone's reality. This series has an ongoing present day storyline, and for the most part the books will be contemporary. But I love having the chance to go back to important moments in history and put my own paranormal spin on them. It's what makes this series truly epic.

Paranormal. I'm calling this a paranormal series, but it has elements of so many other genres. The characters are driving the bus, and they can steer it in romantic, suspenseful, or horrifying directions.

White Wolf is poised to become my favorite project ever. With both a past and present storyline, a cast of lovable misfits, and high-stakes drama, it should definitely appeal to Dartmoor fans who don't mind going for a walk on the supernatural side. I CAN NOT wait to share it with everyone later this year.



Friday, June 9, 2017

#FicPromptFriday - Mags Meets the Ex




Technically no spoilers for American Hellhound since everyone already knows that Maggie and Ghost got married in the past.

6/2/17 – Mags Meets the Ex



“Uh oh,” Aidan said, and Maggie immediately went from pleasantly drowsy to fully-alert in an instant. Uh oh could mean any number of things in this crazy life of theirs. It could be a spilled milkshake, or a drive-by shooting.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

And Now For Something Completely Different

For anyone who hasn't already heard, my next project is going to be the first book in a new series. White Wolf, book one of the Sons of Rome Series, kicks off a dark and epic paranormal adventure. As with all my books, it's character-driven and doesn't slot neatly into one category. Paranormal? Definitely. But featuring lots of action, some military history, and of course romance. Like Dartmoor, each book will have its own central plot, but the series will work best if read in order. Part war story. Part ghost story. Part love letter to the books that have inspired me.

Right now I'm in the research and strategizing part of the process, and that's always my favorite stage of every project. It's that magical time when your head is full to bursting with ideas; when you can shut your eyes and see your scenes unfold with aching clarity, accompanied by the perfect soundtrack. You splice together the best bits to form the perfect pretend movie trailer in your mind. Everything seems possible at this stage - before you start writing and muck the whole thing up with crappy writing. I've found that I love a story most before I start...and that by the end, I love it little, hoping that I've managed to give that love away to readers through the course of the telling.

In the months to come I'll be sharing what I can when I can, and hopefully convincing some of my regular readers to come on this new journey with me. I've hinted at the supernatural in some of my other work, tales of hellhounds and such, but now we're going all in. I can't wait.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

#AmericanHellhound - Debriefing

Just a few of the reviews that have completely stunned me in the best way possible.


American Hellhound went live last Friday, and let me tell you, I wasn't prepared. The reader response has absolutely blown me away. I keep saying "thank you" and it continues to feel like an inadequate response to what has been the most encouraging, kind, and enthusiastic response. Long reviews, short reviews, Tweets, private messages, emails - I'm hording them like a greedy dragon with a pile of gold. Please know how touching and wonderful it's been. Please know how much I appreciate it. After an unprecedented six months between releases, and this being the sixth book in the series, I was convinced there would be a fading of interest in Dartmoor. So I can't thank you all enough for the stunning reception of Ghost and Maggie's story.

This debrief will be as spoiler-free as possible, since I know not everyone's had a chance to finish the book yet. Some post-publishing thoughts on what turned out to be the second-longest installment in the series thus far.

Ghost and Mags. Back in the beginning with Fearless, it became apparent that Ghost was a big ol' hypocrite. I like to see it as one of his more frustratingly realistic and charming qualities. His reasons for rejecting Mercy and Ava's relationship are directly related to the life he knows he stole from his own too-young old lady. Like all parents, he wants better for his children than he had for himself...all the while knowing that what he had was amazing. He's been at times infuriating as he juggles his roles as father, husband, and outlaw president, and I've loved discussing his flaws and merits with everyone along the way. In many ways, he's my favorite, because he seems to condemn the very things he does, hard to pin down and define as one thing or another. With this book, more than anything, I hoped to peel back the façade and show what makes him tick. Highlight the ways in which he's been forced to be a hypocrite from the very first, back when he hated everything about Duane...even when he had to carry on some of the darker, more illegal aspects of the club in his place.

Before I started the book, I was hesitant to write it at all, because I knew we'd be rehashing the age gap scenario that some readers have found so repulsive. I didn't really want to go there again with this series...but that's what it demanded. And so with Maggie, I hoped to show that - just like with Mercy and Ava - hers was a case in which age was just a number, that it had no bearing on her strength, maturity, and her ability to make up her own mind. And in an attempt to parallel Ghost's upbringing, the skills that had been forced upon her - that she didn't at first appreciate - became the very things that enabled her to survive and find a place within the club. Theirs was a taboo romance on the surface, but I wanted to show that what seemed unhealthy to the rest of the city was actually a loving and supportive union between the two of them.

The Series. In very early drafts, this book was just supposed to be a 200ish page novella about a particular plot twist that's revealed in chapter one. It was going to be light and fluffy, more a companion piece than a real installment. But then a whole bunch of plot happened, and by the end, there were more side stories than I could possibly unpack all in just one book. So now we have a whole host of spinoffs coming down the pipeline. Kristin, and Reese, and Roman, and even Ian. Expanding the world of the series while maintaining an intimate feel is an ongoing goal, so I'm thrilled to hear that everyone's looking forward to those spinoff stories.

The Fan Factor. My whole life I've been obsession-prone when it comes to fiction. Be it books, movies, TV shows, I'm the kind of fan who ties herself in knots waiting for the next installment, stomach tight with worry when a beloved series takes a turn that feels less like organic development, and more like a ploy for shock, outrage, and ratings. I think we've all been there: that moment when a favorite show does something unforgivable because it's Sweeps Week. Or when an author caves to the pressure of critical voices and the series shifts in an irretrievable direction. When a movie studio scraps the original fan-preferred plot of a film in favor of bringing in a bigger budget actor. When you're a hardcore fan, you're  at the mercy of the decisions of others. That show you love might finally win an Emmy...but meanwhile, you no longer feel compelled to watch it.

I don't ever want to do that to my readers. You won't ever write something that everyone loves -  so I want to write for the people who DO love it.

When I say that I'm writing these books for the fans, I really mean it. You guys have helped my childhood writing dreams come true. I'm beyond privileged to be able to share my stories with you, and it's my sincerest hope that the adventures of these crazy Lean Dogs can provide you with a few hours of reading enjoyment. It's been an honor to share Ghost and Maggie with you all.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Some Final Thoughts


Some final thoughts about American Hellhound as I wind down with the final polishing and get ready to turn it loose into the wild.

What they say about assuming is always, always, always true. I feel like that old adage pulls double duty here - for me personally, and for the story itself.

When I started piecing together ideas for AH last year, I thought this would be a very straightforward and simple book. Most likely a novella, barely breaking 200 pages. Throughout the course of the series, I'd spent so much time narrating from Maggie and Ghost's POVs that it seemed there wasn't much material there for a novel solely focused on them. Six months later, that assumption has been shattered several times over. This is the longest book in the series after Fearless. Turns out those kids had a lot to say. And in the process of uncovering their true story, I realized that Maggie was somehow stronger than I thought...and Ghost weaker.

Weaker is a poor choice of word. More vulnerable, we'll say.

For me, the most fun aspect of the novel was the juxtaposition of the way people viewed Ghost and Maggie Then - as screwup kids ruining their futures - with the way people view them Now - as the undisputed leaders of their club/family. True, this is fiction, and also true, this is an outlaw society that doesn't closely resemble regular suburban life, but I like to think there are nuggets of truth embedded within the narrative. The cast of this book is plagued by assumptions, on both sides of the scenario, and that's a theme I play with throughout. The contrast between what we think, and what we actually know...and the frustration of the things we will never know.

It goes without saying that this book handles situations of questionable morality. I don't think I'll ever be able to wrap my brain around the idea that certain readers enter a book about outlaw bikers with expectations of reading about impeccable morality. Some questionable and depraved stuff happens in these books, yes. That isn't a reflection of who I am as a person, or who my readers are - there we go with those assumptions again. This book, like every book in the series, was written with the fans in mind. It is my greatest hope that you'll all enjoy Ghost and Maggie's book, and that you'll look forward to the upcoming spinoffs.

I can't wait to share it with you! (And then sleep for about a week.)

In answer to some questions I've received: Yes, there will be paperbacks. And yes, I will be giving some away! Along with swag. So stay tuned to my various feeds so you can enter to win some Dartmoor goodies.

Thank you, readers, love you lots. We are ALMOST THERE!!





Monday, May 22, 2017

#AmericanHellhound Song List


Most of these tracks I've shared previously in the writing process - you can check the Music Monday tag - but I wanted to compile the unofficial-official American Hellhound Song List.

These are the songs that inspired me while writing:


Highly recommended for getting in the mood to read the book very, very soon...

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday Check - In

556 pages.

That's how long the book is.

When I get really frustrated about the time this whole process is taking, I remind myself that this thing is 556 pages. A bit of consolation.

I'm getting ready to start my final computer read-through, so that then I can order a proof and do a physical read-through. If I say "almost there" one more time, I might scream. But. We're almost there.

*Throws teaser at you and slinks away*

From
American Hellhound
Copyright © 2017 by Lauren Gilley


Monday, May 8, 2017

#MusicMonday 5/8

Another American Hellhound track for the day:




There's a specific scene from Fearless that I wanted badly to echo in Hellhound. I think I've just about pulled it off, so that's exciting! For me, anyway. You take the little victories on the long slog through the process.

While writing this weekend, I tried to pinpoint why exactly this book seems to be taking so long - it actually isn't taking any longer than any other book, it just feels that way, each word count goal painfully met, with none of my two a.m. manic writing sprints, fingers flying over the keys in moments of rabid inspiration. It feels slow and careful, like a school project on a complicated subject. Loverboy felt this way, too, so I think it boils down to this:

A desire to up the ante.

The urge to echo without repeating myself, without dragging out something in the same way, at the same pace, with the same layers of character realization. The need to go bigger, better, more explosive - while simultaneously maintaining a level of intimacy that keeps the story personal and relevant, and not just an array of special effects. So to speak.

The first book in a series of books is just that, the first. Everything is fresh and new. And you want to maintain that freshness through each consecutive book, while keeping things familiar and cozy, taking the characters to deeper places, pressing just a little harder each time. It's a balancing act. Juggling with raw eggs, and it comes with no small amount of pressure.

Sometimes I look at it and think "it shouldn't be this hard." And sometimes I think the opposite, that maybe the fact that it's hard means it's a worthwhile effort.

At the end of the day, my main driving force behind each new installment in a series is my readers. Having been on the viewing end of beloved media that went astray, I always want to deliver to you guys on an emotional front. I don't want that horrid moment of "WTF is this??"

Because upping the ante is only worthwhile - for me - if it's done in a fulfilling, rewarding way. There are enough stories out there that end in disappointment; I want to be one of the creators who delivers the kind that makes you smile.



Monday, May 1, 2017

Music Monday 5/1

Happy Monday and happy May! I miss blogging - when the book's done, I look forward to getting back in the habit.

Last night, I had my iTunes library on shuffle while I was writing - which I love, because a song pops up you haven't listened to in a long time and you think "hey, why don't I listen to this anymore?" - and this song struck me as very present day Ghost and Maggie, perfect for a montage of their greatest hits as a couple, so to speak.



"...

If she pressed in a little harder, she thought they might just fuse together into one creature, something with fangs, and claws, and blood on its hands, and a tender heart. All this painful love for the family they’d made together: a family made of their children, and of the lost souls they’d invited into the club together. Her eyes searched them out in the crowd: Walsh, Michael, Tango, Mercy. All the young ones Ghost had brought up in the new tradition. When she’d met her man, the club had been a den of angry, snarling strays…but it had become a sanctuary for the misplaced and unloved, somewhere where they could finally find what had always been missing in their lives.

They’d done that. Ghost had done that. Taken a crippled club and turned into a multinational powerhouse, the strongest and most infamous MC in the world.

..."

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday Links and Such


It's me, your epically boring author, checking in to say I'm still writing. Big surprise. I'm so sorry for the long wait - we're getting there, we really are! Imagine my disappointment when I think back on this time last year, when I had TWO books out already. The self-loathing, it's real.

Reminders and links for the wait:

- If you didn't catch it at the time, I wrote some Dartmoor Christmas fluff at the end of last year.

- The teaser above is from my Instagram. Mostly farm and book stuff, including links to the talented candle maker who crafted my Mercy-themed candle (I'll be ordering more for a release day giveaway!)

- There's new Dartmoor merch up at Redbubble.

- If it's reading you're after, don't forget that there's Dartmoor cameos, and plenty of Southern vigilante justice in the Russell Series, which I'm currently reformatting for Kobo.

- Don't forget about December's standalone release, Walking Wounded, part love story, part historical fiction, and my favorite project.

- My ongoing romance Dear Heart is available to read for free on Wattpad.

- I'm currently reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

Thank you, everyone, for your patience while I work on Hellhound. Here's hoping it's worth the wait.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

#TBT DVD Extras - 4/6/17


Since last week I talked about my favorite project ever, I thought it only fair to talk about my not-so-favorite this week. I shouldn't admit to having a least favorite - that's probably some bad writer etiquette. But it isn't that I mean to say anything bad about the book - it just is what it is, a least favorite of the bunch. It's Tastes Like Candy.

The book does, however, explore Walsh's half-siblings in more detail than in any other book, and that was my favorite part of writing TLC. The Brood is a personal favorite, almost a guilty pleasure. Everybody likes Candy because he's big and bold, but I have a soft spot for Walsh's kin because they're interesting.

I especially love Albie and Fox, who had some fun scenes in this one:

Paul took a breath, hesitated.
            Albie pressed until the first pearls of blood welled up against the knife’s edge.
            “Sixteen,” Paul said on a deep exhale. “But you know she was never mentally sixteen–”
            “Next question: Did you break her heart?”
            “I broke things off with her.”
            “That’s not what I asked.”
            “I don’t think so, no. She never loved me.”
            “What did you think would happen if I ever found out?”
            Paul’s eyes closed, and when he swallowed, the knife jumped in Albie’s hand. “This. I knew this would happen.” Tears beaded beneath his lashes, shiny in the glare of the overhead light.
            Albie pulled the knife away and gave a hard yank on Paul’s hair, throwing him down flat on his back on the concrete floor. He was shaking, he realized, as he reached for a cloth to wipe the knife. “Fuck you,” he whispered. “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.”

For me, these guys are the dark horses, the threats no one ever sees coming. One of these days, probably later this year, I'll actually start writing their books.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Cover Reveal: American Hellhound

In case you missed it yesterday on social media, here's the cover for American Hellhound, book six in The Dartmoor Series.


All my initial design ideas involved black backdrops and flashing fangs, red eyes. I thought it ought to look scary and minimalistic. But as with everything I do, when it came down to it, I went in a completely different direction, and this ended up being my favorite cover so far. It has that faded, sepia-toned look of old English photos you might find in dusty, leather-bound volumes in forgotten libraries, which I think definitely works toward establishing a sense of Lean Dog mythology, their roots being English. I also love that I had the chance to use a photo of my dearly departed Riddick, who was just the best dog ever. In casting a hellhound, a Doberman is a pretty good fit. And unlike my current Doberman, Viktor, Riddick was slim and trim and athletic, and altogether "Lean."

I think this might be the longest I've gone without having a cover ready. Usually, I get the cover together early in the writing process, and it helps me stay focused. The cover, for me, has to say don't you want to know more? Something symbolic. Something that piques your interest, but doesn't give anything away. The simpler the better, in my mind. And I intentionally never use humans because that taints the imagination of the audience, I think.

Long story short, I'm pleased, I hope you guys like it. I hope by some miracle I can have this thing finished by May 6th, because right now, that seems like WAY too much writing in too short a time.

Happy Monday, and if you live in Georgia, I hope your power has just been restored as mine has. Storms, go away! Stay safe, everyone.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Book Rec: The Goldfinch



My favorite books - the ones that get shelved in the permanent section of my mental writing library - are the ones that make me feel hopelessly, overwhelmingly like a hack. The ones that inspire me to say, "When I grow up, I want to write like this." The ones that make me want to drag everything I've ever written out into the yard and light it all on fire, lest it have a chance to offend anyone's poor eyeballs ever again.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is one such book.

Whatever teaches us to talk to ourselves is important: whatever teaches us to sing ourselves out of despair. But the painting has also taught me what we can speak to each other across time.

It was described to me as Dickensian, and that's definitely true, both in the plushness of the narration, and the tragic/poetic journey undertaken by our young protagonist. And also Boris - my favorite character of the book, our modern incarnation of Dodger from Oliver Twist.

I won't spoil any of the plot, because it deserves to unfold without preconceived ideas. But I will say that it contains all of the things I hope (in my wildest dreams) most to achieve in my own writing someday:

- A sense of being present in the narrative, grounded in the setting and all its rich trappings, caught up in the hero's thoughts, so engrossed that, no matter what's occurring on the page, you can't bear to walk away from it. I spent a considerable portion of my reading time last night with a hand over my mouth, breathing through it, gasping.

- A sense of the epic - the weight and importance of the world, revolving slowly, dragging you along on grand adventures that take time to unfold properly.

- A sense of realism, down to flop sweats and fever dreams, shaving nicks and bad pub food.

- And an attachment to the characters, for better or worse, captivated by their stories, gestures, bits of wisdom.

You can talk about "tricks of the trade" all day, but really great books have that unteachable something special. They have "it," and this book certainly does.

For if disaster and oblivion have followed this painting down through time - so too has love. Insofar as it is immortal (and it is) I have a small, bright, immutable part in that immortality. It exists; and it keeps on existing. And I add my own love to the history of people who have loved beautiful things, and looked out for them, and pulled them from the fire, and sought them when they were lost, and tried to preserve them and save them while passing them along literally from hand to hand, singing out literally from hand to hand, singing out brilliantly from the wreck of time to the next generation of lovers, and the next.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

#TBT DVD Extras - 3/30


When I was still actively showing horses, ribbons and high scores were two very different things for me. Some days, I'd walk away with multiple blues, but wasn't pleased with my performance, or my score. I'd won because I'd outscored the competition, but given it wasn't my best riding, it wasn't a feel-good win. Conversely, some days I wouldn't win anything, but would have had an excellent ride, the kind where all the training clicked into place, when my horse and I communicated beautifully. For me, joy existed not in winning, but in improving, in becoming a better rider.

Have you ever seen a singer interviewed, and when asked to name his or her favorite song off the album, the answer is something obscure, that never made it as a single, definitely not the most popular track on the album?

What I'm getting at is this: for me, Walking Wounded was a writing victory. It was the result of meticulous planning and attention to detail, a concerted effort to try something new, to write each chapter, each scene, each sentence with total purpose. A book that came about from sitting at the table surrounded by notebooks, and maps, and grainy black and white film footage of a war I thankfully never had to see firsthand. Hours spent silently interviewing Luke, and Hal, and Will, and Tara.

Walking Wounded is my no-ribbon, high score. Writing that book helped me become a better writer, and I love it for that - among other reasons.

On Instagram, I shared Luke's dissociative moment at Sandy's table where he recalls Sadie's funeral, and of course five minutes after that I realized what my absolute favorite moment of the book is: typical.

It's this, near the end:

Maybe a half hour passes before Luke works up the courage to clear his throat and ask, “So…Hal’s Finn, isn’t he? That’s who you think of him as.”

            Will glances over, his smile patient and kind, and Luke wonders how he ever thought this man might hate him. “No, son. You’re Finn.” He shifts a little closer in his chair. “But you get to live.”

By the end of the book, Luke realizes that his view of himself, and the people around him, is just that - his view. And that it isn't necessarily accurate. I loved teasing that Luke and Will were similar characters - and they are, for sure, they have a lot in common - but this reveal from Will forces him to look at himself, and his role in the lives of others, differently. He's always seem himself as the sidekick, the one who wasn't enough, and always assumed that Hal, a shining star in his eyes, was the vibrant, wild, violent, passionate sun of their friendship. What he sees, finally, is that he is the wild sun, and that patient, steady, dependable Hal has always been the one in orbit.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday Check-In


Today's #MusicMonday pick is very Ghost and Maggie: "Believer" by Imagine Dragons. Pay attention to the lyrics on that one: spot-on.

I had a very productive weekend, writing-wise. I surpassed my word count goal both days and made some important story decisions that will take me through to the end of the book, so I'm thrilled about that. At this point, the deadline seems scary-close, but I know what I need to write - it's a matter of putting the work in at this point.

Right now, I'm in full writing lockdown mode, which means I'm only on the web long enough to post things, and I'm unfortunately behind on responding to messages and emails. I promise I'm not ignoring you! I'll get caught up. But I make the best progress when I pretend the Internet doesn't exist.

There are more character-centric teasers on the way, on FB and Instagram (@hppress). This book, like Fearless, has parts for everyone to play, the whole giant family chiming in, so I'll try to share  spoiler-free tidbits as we go along.

I'm back to work, just wanted to check in and say that writing's going great! Happy Monday, everyone.



Thursday, March 23, 2017

#TBT DVD Extras - 3/23


Because Loverboy was full of so many difficult moments, it made the good moments twice as special. The scene with Tango and Ian sitting on the Jag, watching the sun come up, is probably my favorite of the entire story:

In a small, vulnerable voice, Ian said, “Do you think it will be better now? Since she’s gone?”

            “I hope so.”

            Ian sat up, and leaned against Tango’s shoulder, the warm pressure a comfort. It felt like apology and gratitude. Like friendship. Like letting one another go.

            They watched the sun come up.

It was a scene that was sketched very early in the process, a note off to the side: must include this scene. Even when I wasn't sure exactly how the plot would shake out, I knew I wanted a moment of quiet closure between these two, just them being messed-up boys trying to let go of the bad things. We always see Ian so polished and manipulative, and I wanted him to have a reflective, human moment.

A note on Ian: he's one of my absolute favorites. Total indulgence on my part; I thought "how can I incorporate a dandified English gentleman in this series?" Tango's backstory evolved early on, while I was writing Fearless, and Ian took shape along the way. Then it was a matter of hoping everyone loved him like I did.