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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Making NaNo Work for You

Here we are on the fifteenth, right smack in the middle of November. And, if you're a writer, smack in the middle of NaNoWriMo. As of this point, I've written about 14k words, which is better than I thought I'd do, but nowhere near what I need to complete 50k words in just one month. 

Any time you talk about NaNo, you're met with mixed reactions. Some are gung-ho, some flat-out refuse to participate, and some are on the fence. I react to it the same way I do to all things trending and buzzed-about in the book world: do what works for you. There's plenty of posts out there about how to hit the desired word count. This is a post about letting NaNo work for you, as opposed to the other way around. 

Literally the only month that would make for a worse selection as "National Novel Writing Month" is December. It's bad enough as it is in November. I'm helping to host Thanksgiving dinner this year, and it's just not possible to run the vacuum, crumble cornbread for dressing, and write brilliant sentences at the same time (believe me, I've tried in years past). So right out of the gate, with the holiday, and the lead-up to Christmas, and the daylight getting cut back by an hour, you're at a huge disadvantage. 

So what's it good for? I think NaNo is a great push for writers who need one. And let's be honest, most of us need a good push now and then. I look at it not as a contest that you sign up for and participate in - because I'm not, nor will I ever be a social writer (more on that later) - but as a way to challenge yourself. Your goal is 50k words on paper, sure, but the point, I think, is to just get in a good habit of writing every day with purpose, and limiting distractions. I think NaNo is a great way for writers to mentally knuckle down and Get Stuff Done. 

Know How You Work Best
In order to do your best work, you have to know how you work best. Are you a morning or evening writer? Do you like to write straight through, or hop around? Are you an extrovert - inspired by social interactions? Or an introvert - drained by social interactions? 

I'm an introvert, at my creative best when sitting alone, music playing quietly, without any outside voices in my head. Alone time - quietly reading or daydreaming - is the time when I recharge and find my writing voice again. Being around others, even if it's fun, mentally and physically drains me. Are you someone who, after a night out with friends, just wants to lie down and be quiet for a while? You're probably an introvert like I am. And for true introverts, social media is a horrible brain- and soul-sucking death trap of badness. 

Because I'm writing professionally at this point, I have to have a constant, daily social media presence. But if this is your first novel, by all means take advantage of the anonymity and keep off social media. I bet you'd be surprised by your productivity. 

Set Reasonable Goals
Last year, I realized that I could make my final word count with a daily word count goal of only 1,600 words. I loved this because it allowed me flexibility. Some days I didn't meet it, and some days I exceeded it. By the end of the month, I'd surpassed my final goal, but it hadn't felt like a struggle. If you know you won't be able to reach 50k, then don't sweat it. Use the month as a motivational tool to simply write more, no matter the word count. 

Don't Compare Yourself to Others
You aren't writing their book, and you don't live their day-to-day life. Sometimes comparison can be motivating, but for the most part I think it leaves you with a sense of inadequacy. I've struggled a little over the past year realizing that a 500+ page book takes a long time to write, and that it's important to listen to my body when health and wellness make writing difficult. Again, because I write professionally, I have to just limp through on the days when I don't feel like it, but if you're starting out, don't rush yourself. Don't look at others' numbers and find yourself lacking. That sort of thing is a creativity killer. 

Have Fun With It
The way you look at something can greatly affect its level of stress, so I think we ought to look at NaNo as something fun to challenge us, and not a requirement that makes us want to pull our hair out. It's better to write 20k great words than 50k mediocre ones that are slapped on the page in the name of making word count. 

At the end of the day, writing is a deeply personal, deeply solitary art, one that taps into all your emotions and motivations. If NaNo helps you be a better writer, then get after it. If it doesn't, well...I'm not in favor of anything that squashes sprit and creativity. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Up Next...

What happened on the Eastern Front seventy-five years ago was just the beginning. 

Now, a warrior and a witch are on the run.

She was his Red.
And he was her Rooster.

They fled New York five years ago, but it's the best place to find some allies...

The immortals are starting to find one another, now that Vlad's awake, and an heir is alive, and a storm is gathering on the horizon. 

The adventure that began in White Wolf continues next year.

Sons of Rome Book Two:

Red Rooster

Coming 2018

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The World of the Sons of Rome Series

*rolls up sleeves*

*rubs hands together gleefully*

White Wolf is officially a week old today! I want to say a great big "thank you" to my readers, to all of you who've bought the book, and to those who've let me know how much you've enjoyed it. It's been incredibly exciting to read your comments and reviews, and know that you get it. Thank you!

I started writing in earnest back in January, and it's been so difficult to keep quiet and not blurt out a bunch of spoilers - that's how excited I was. Now that the book is out in the real world, I feel like I can finally talk about the world of this new series

All fiction requires world-building, no matter how true-to-life the setting. Knoxville is a real city, but when I write Dartmoor, I'm writing a fictionalized version of it, one secretly run by the Lean Dogs, populated with local businesses of my own making. In every fictional book, it's an author's job to build up the setting so that it feels like a real address rather than a collection of props at a stage play. 

As much as I adore high fantasy, I've known for a while now that making a story feel grounded in the real world is one of my strong suits, so it was important to me that the Sons of Rome take place in our world, past and present. My personal approach to writing paranormal involves characters who happen to be supernatural, living in the real world, rather than a supernatural world visited by a few key real-world visitors.

I want to pull the veil back slowly; the paranormal elements are undeniably there, but revealed as plot points and important character traits. As with all my work, I want it be an immersive reading experience, so you sink down into the story, into the magic, getting to know the characters, coming to care for them, without bogging you down with checklists of "monster rules," so to speak. 

One of my favorite things about the series - and the world-building, I suppose - is the way it feels really geek-friendly. This isn't a book series for readers who want a sequence of standalones with neatly wrapped-up HEAs and couple-driven plots. There's romance - and starting with book two there's a lot more of it going forward - and there is a sense of resolution in each book, but mostly it's the kind of ongoing narrative like you'd see in the Outlander or Song of Ice and Fire series. A series specifically designed for readers like me who want to get invested in a set of characters and follow them on a long adventure. I love the free rein that gives me. I have a series outline, but there's plenty of room for side plots and bonus novellas to help round out the world. 

As far as the timeline goes, the series stretches from the founding of Rome to the present day, so be prepared for lots of flashbacks and historical portions.

It's going to be a long trip, and I'm thrilled so many of you have started it with me. Thank you, all. 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

#WhiteWolf Debriefing Part II: Character

My mantra is that it’s all about the characters. No matter the subject matter, no matter the setting, no matter the action – as a writer, I have to love and believe in the characters in order to tell their stories. With every book, the goal is to create characters who stand on their own as individuals; who aren’t there for the sake of eye candy, but who are truly interesting, no matter what they’re doing. Characters who are people first, professions and habits second.

With White Wolf, the added challenge was the paranormal element. Personally, I love all things spooky, gothic, darkly atmospheric, and just a touch monstrous. I love vampires, and werewolves, and ghosts, and the things that lurk in the shadows. But I don’t think any of those things should ever overshadow character. In my years of reading fantasy, science-fiction, and paranormal books, I’ve found that when the concept of a story weighs heavier than the characters in a story, the book suffers overall. It might be cool, but it isn’t something that sticks with you. The stories we carry with us, the ones we obsess over, are the ones in which we loved, hated, or in some way identified with the characters.

And so my goal with the Sons of Rome series is to write books about people…some of whom happen to be immortal, or who have powers. Some of whom might drink blood.

Books can struggle, I think, when extraordinary characters are caught up in mundane, ordinary drama. What I want to do is write ordinary characters caught up in extraordinary scenarios…which in turn call upon them to be extraordinarily brave. I think that’s why comic books, and movies based upon them, have always been so wildly successful: the audience can readily identify with the central figures, who are just regular folks trying to get by, and who are then called upon to react to insane situations that test them again and again. As the audience, we aren’t simply told about someone’s exploits, like a bored guest at a dinner party who just wants the braggadocios jerk at the center of the room to shut up already. Instead, we’re right there with the characters, taking the journey with them.

One thing that’s very exciting for me as a writer is getting the chance to write about some real life historical figures, some of whom have become a part of pop culture. The challenge for me, and one I’m looking forward to, is to take someone like Vlad Tepes and move beyond the myth, to write him as a man, someone multi-dimensional and sympathetic. To write him as someone who isn’t fictionally superior to my original characters, who can interact with them all in a meaningful way.

At this point, I have lots of favorites. Val for covering his loneliness and anger with sarcasm and polish. Nikita for his grim determination and aloofness. Sasha for being a sweetheart, when he has very little reason to be. And I’m especially looking forward to spending more time with the titular character of book two, who is one of those special mortals who carries just as much weight as the immortal monsters around him.

I especially love that this series isn’t comprised of tidy romances, because it allows me to explore all the characters as we move forward, letting them grow and mature in a realistic, organic way, rather than forcing a happy ending for each book. As a writer, I want to keep challenging myself, to be a better writer with every day, every chapter, every book. I think even readers who don’t normally read paranormal books will be able to fall in love with these characters, and I hope you’ll all give them a chance.

Happy Saturday. More debriefing to come in the days ahead.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

#WhiteWolf Debriefing Part I: Impressions

*Spoiler-free for anyone who hasn't read/hasn't finished yet*

The scary part about anticipating something for a long time is the possibility that it won't turn out as wonderfully as you'd hoped. Be it a vacation, a reunion, a movie, or, yes, a book - there's always that fear that it won't live up to your expectations, and then you'll be let down. In this particular case, for me, the worry was about writing. Because the Sons of Rome series is something that's lived in buds, and half-formed sprouts, and secret little carefully-nurtured hothouses in my mind for a long time. Because I was the child who was allowed to stay up and watch old monster movies, and I always wanted to tell my own monster stories. The questions were only how? and when? and in what way? After years of squirrelling away characters and scenes, it was finally time to start work on this dream I'd been guarding for so long, and I was nervous.

No, I was terrified. 

Writing a book is - in an appropriate metaphor given certain scenes in White Wolf - a bit like going on a long train trip. The old fashioned kind. Let's say, just for fun...on the Trans-Siberian Railway. You board with a stomach full of butterflies...and proceed to sit. For a very...long...time. You stretch your legs occasionally, but you don't go far. You stare longingly out the windows. You eat and read and nap sitting down. The train stops along the way, but they aren't your stops, and so you never get off. Sometimes the scenery is all breathtaking icy vistas, the sun-kissed snow shining like glass. And sometimes it's night out, and the windows are dark, and you start to wonder if you'll ever really get there. But you finally arrive at your destination, disembark, and you're not at all in the same place you were when you started. 

That's where it gets dangerous. What if you've come all this way...and you don't like where you ended up?

Well, for me this time, I can say with much relief and satisfaction that I'm thrilled with where I ended up. As corny and melodramatic as it probably sounds, I came out the other side of Wolf White feeling like an important transition had taken place. I feel like a better writer. More seasoned, for sure, and definitely more confident. I'm so glad I can say that the first leg of the trip - and it's going to be a long trip - was worthwhile. For me, at least.

As for the book itself:

There's something I really love about a good war story - and I'm thinking here of Tim O'Brien or Kurt Vonnegut - that I think of as defining those kinds of tales. Even as the story moves forward in a linear fashion, we the readers begin to feel a little punch-drunk alongside our heroes. The narrative unfolds in a sequence of raw, visceral patches of violence, undercut but an ordinariness that, by contrast, hits us almost like joy. A good war story is a wound that won't heal; a scab we keep picking at, just to feel the hurt. 

When my mom read White Wolf, she described it as an odyssey, which I thought was lovely. Because it is an odyssey, more so than it is anything else, probably. And I can only hope I managed to capture a little of that raw war story feel as well. 

Writing this one felt unlike any other writing experience. The characters stood out cleanly as individuals, fully-formed, but prickly, hard to get to know - hard to stitch together. They knew I was new at this genre - as a writer, anyway - and so they were patient with me. And so the whole writing process was an odyssey for me as well, and now, after, I feel exuberant and ready to tackle the next leg of the trip. And the next, and the next. 

All this rambling nonsense is just to say: this one felt different. Dynamic, and challenging, and like a new beginning. And while different can be scary at the outset, being nervous probably means you're doing the thing you're supposed to be doing. I've always wanted to write a vampire story, and while I had no idea it would end up being this one, I'm having a marvelous time.

Cheers to the unexpected taking you by surprise.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

White Wolf is Live!

It's live!! 

This series has been a long time coming for me, and I'm so thrilled to finally kick things off with book one. This is one of those action-adventure, get-obsessed, geeking-encouraged series that I hope you'll all enjoy as much as I already do. 

You can get it here:
*paperback coming later in the day

And if you haven't already, come join the Sons of Rome readers' group on FB for deeper discussion.

Happy Halloween, and happy reading! 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

One More Week!

Just one more week to go until one of my favorite holidays...and the release of White Wolf

Here's what you can expect:

- White Wolf is definitely not a standalone. Each book in the series has its own storyline, which will be wrapped up for the most part by the end, but the series as a whole reads like a fantasy saga, with an ongoing plot that unfolds slowly as the series progresses, with characters growing and changing throughout. While the romantic storylines play an important part, the books are not couple-centered, and the love stories continue to evolve over time. This series is for anyone who really wants to sink his or her teeth into a series with plenty of action, intrigue, and complicated relationships of all kinds.

- The Sons of Rome series is definitely intended for adult audiences.

- Comps? Think along the lines of Underworld, Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, and even Supernatural. Unapologetically paranormal, but grounded in the real world, with a major emphasis on interpersonal relationships. Heavy influences include Dracula, real world vampire legends, and the collected works of Poe and Irving. 

- About half of the book, clearly marked, takes place in 1942, but the ongoing storyline that will continue into book two will take place in the present day. 

- The short story prelude, "The Stalker," will be included in the paperback version of the novel, for everyone who likes to read the real thing.

White Wolf releases one week from today! I can't wait to share it with you all. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Two Weeks to Go!

These are the things that we know:

On December 30th 1916, Grigory Yefimovich Rasputin was murdered by a group of nobles led by Felix Yusupov, husband of the Tsar’s niece. His body was found a few days later in the Neva River. He’d been shot in the head at close range, according to autopsy reports.


In the wee hours of the morning on July 17th 1918, in the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg, Russia, ex-Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, ex-Tsarina Alexandra, and their five children were roused from sleep and escorted by guards out of the home, across a courtyard, and into a basement. Nicholas carried his ailing son, Alexei, in his arms. In the basement, Bolsheviks read Nicholas his death sentence, and then murdered the entire family.


In 1924, after the death of Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin became the leader of the Communist Party, and the Soviet Union.


June 22 1941, the Nazis launched Operation Barbarossa, invading the Soviet Union. The Red Army was able to hold Moscow, and the operation failed.


July 1942, the Nazis bombed the Soviet steppe city of Stalingrad, kicking off one of the longest, bloodiest battles in human history: The Battle of Stalingrad.


These are the things that we know.

We also know that amid the bloody chaos of war, individual stories of bravery, and sacrifice, and great loss are often buried amidst the stacks and stacks of battle statistics. Sometimes, in the dry recitation of wins and losses, we forget that men and women lived these wars. They fought and bled and scrapped and killed to stay alive. They saw things. Terrible things. Some more terrible than others.

This is a war story. Like all war stories, it is a story about men…and monsters.

Sometimes, the monsters come down on the side of the angels.

Tread carefully, dear reader.


White Wolf releases two weeks from today! 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Vampire Stories are Human Stories

“Once again...welcome to my house. Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring.”
Bram Stoker, Dracula

I think the reason I've always loved the paranormal genre is because it's one that is rife with possibilities. And of all the paranormal creatures, vampires have always been my favorites. Like all book and movie monsters, they serve as dark looking glasses through which to view the human psyche; a way to examine our own wants, needs, hearts' desires, and even kinks in a way that is shocking, thrilling, and, in the case of vampires, monstrous and monstrously charming. In the vampire, we have a being who is both as refined and cultured as we could hope to be - and as base and violent as we sometimes fear we might be. There's a cleverness to good vampire stories, a perfect blend of suggestion and explicit statement, the erotic and the horrifying. 

In her introduction to Dracula, Brooke Allen writes, "If there is a moral to Dracula, it might be that simple goodness is not adequate to fight evil. One must bring brains and moral strength into the arena as well." This is true, especially given the context that in Dracula, and all resultant fiction inspired by it, as well as earlier works, the vampire is not presented as a mindless, slobbering beast, but something mostly human, with the ability to reason, to lie, to seduce, and confuse. 

Though we'll meet a variety of paranormal beings in my new Sons of Rome series, I was most excited to explore vampires and vampirism, and to create my own mythos about them. So much beautiful work has been done in the genre already, and I wanted to make sure that my spin had its own flavor, while paying homage to the original legends. I wanted to write stories that, at their hearts, are saying something about human nature, and the ways longevity and experience can shape and, sometimes, warp it. 

There are several central characters in the series who are vampires (including Vlad Tepes!) but my favorite would have to be Valerian, who we get to meet for the first time in White Wolf, and who will be the focus of the third book.


"This is about one thing: power. Everyone craves it, and only a few can hold it. It’s the one lasting tenant of this world that survives century after century: the craving and pursuit of power.”
Sasha swallowed the rising lump in his throat. “You’re wrong.”
“Am I?” He arched a single brow, smile mocking.
“Why would you tell me all of that anyway?”
He shrugged and sat back. “I’ve always liked wolves, myself. Couldn’t stand the mages – crafty liars, all of them. But wolves have a certain rough honesty to them. They’re emotion, and instinct, and so rarely have machinations of their own.” He smiled up at the sky, almost wistful. Then glanced back at Sasha. “Consider it my good deed of the day.” He snorted. “Better make that decade.”
“Are you a vampire?” Sasha asked.
“Yes,” the prince answered, just as simply.
“Is [redacted] like you?”
“He’s nothing like me.”
In the silence that followed, Sasha heard his wolves approaching, their breath and heartbeats, felt their curiosity and wariness. They couldn’t smell the prince either, but could sense their alpha’s distress.
Finally, the prince got to his feet and dusted off his pristine breeches. “I better be going, then.”
“Wait!” Sasha said, and it came out a shout.
The prince gave him an amused glance.
“What’s your name?”
That earned him another fang-flashing smile. “I always tell my friends to call me Val,” he said, winked, and then was gone. Vanished into thin air, as if he’d never been there at all.

White Wolf
Copyright © 2017 by Lauren Gilley

Friday, October 6, 2017

Friday Fluff: The Party Part One

Everyone knew Remy Lécuyer was in love with Lucy McCall…except for Lucy McCall. Or, he thought darkly, maybe she knew, but didn’t return his sentiments, and thought the kind thing to do was pretend she didn’t notice that he stared at her too long sometimes, and always found a way to sit next to her.  Because she was nice. She was the kind of genuinely sweet, soft spoken, thoughtful person who mailed handwritten thank you notes, who remembered shopkeeper’s names and thought to ask after their ailing relatives. Who didn’t mind pitching in even when her eyelids were flagging; who tutored children and volunteered at every single club charity event, smiling at everyone she encountered.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Whole Way Through

An unofficial, belated Workshop Wednesday post, since I've been too deep in trying to finish White Wolf to be a proper blogger. 

Back during my show days, my trainer, who was wonderful, had two last-minute things she would say before every dressage test. "You really gotta get in there." And "Ride the whole test."

One of the more popular, and hilarious misconceptions I've encountered about riding has been that new riders think that once you ask a horse to do something, it keeps doing it until you tell it to stop. Kick once for trot, and the horse keeps trotting until you whoa. They quickly learn that this is not the case at all. Horses don't have buttons to push; they're highly sensitive, and intelligent, and to ride a horse is to be in constant, subtle and kind communication with them. 

A dressage test is a collection of cavalry movements performed in a particular pattern, and to ride the whole test means that you don't just execute one movement, and rush to the next, with sloppy in-between moments. It means you approach each transition with the same care and attention to detail. No slacking off, no sitting like a sack of potatoes. Constant communication and correction. 

I love my riding/writing metaphors, and I've always been struck by the ways "ride the whole test" applies to writing a novel. Some scenes are more exciting than others, more enjoyable for the author to write, but in order to pull off a book that is enjoyable throughout for the reader, the writer must approach each chapter, each page, each scene, each line with the same care and thoughtfulness. You aren't writing a few scenes linked together with filler; you're writing the whole book, moment to moment. Make each sentence count. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

White Wolf - Official Summary

I shared this in the Sons of Rome readers group a few weeks ago, and now, with just a month left to go, here's the official back cover blurb for White Wolf, Sons of Rome Book One. 

NYPD homicide detective Trina Baskin is having nightmares. Vivid ones. Full of blood, and snow, dead wolves…and a young man with pale hair who howls like an animal. She chalks them up to stress and an overactive imagination, too many Old Country stories from her Russian father who, when he’s had too much vodka, starts to rave about dark forces and things that look like men…but aren’t.

But then a case hits her desk that can’t be explained. A young man found outside a club with a nasty bite mark on his neck – and not a drop of blood left in his body. With no leads, no theories that bear exploring, too little sleep, and a partner who seems to be willfully throwing his career down the toilet, the last thing Trina needs is a full-on out of body experience…in which her family’s past is revealed to her, and everything starts making a whole lot of terrifying sense.

In 1942, Trina’s great-grandfather, Nikita, is a captain of the Cheka, the Soviet political police – or so it seems. He and his men are sent to Siberia to retrieve a “volunteer,” the boy who’s going to win the war against the Nazis – and potentially unleash hell on earth.

The world’s immortal population has been living quietly, secretly, hiding from the wars of men, hoping the past can stay buried. But what happens on the Eastern Front in the winter of 1942 will change everything.

In 2017, Trina is about to come face-to-face with her own past in a way she never thought possible. It turns out monsters are real – and they might be the only hope for survival.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Ghost and Ash

Have some surprise Friday fluff! Spoilers for American Hellhound


“You’re not scrawny.” That’s what Ava always said, rolling her eyes as she did so. Exactly like a sister was supposed to. Then she’d say, “Finish your breakfast, sweetie, or you’ll be late.” Or, “Did you finish your homework?” Or some other totally mom thing to say.

Monday, September 18, 2017


I love to hear from readers, and invite everyone to email me ( or message me on Facebook ( Gilley - Author). But I thought it might be helpful to consolidate some of my frequently asked questions so everyone can benefit from the answers. These are the things I get asked most often, and my answers:

When is the next Dartmoor book coming out?
Sometime next year, most likely. I don't keep to hard deadlines - because I don't have to, yay! and also because farm life and my poor immune system sometime throw a wrench in the works. The next Dartmoor book will be Fox's, titled Prodigal Son, and so far I have about 8k words of it written. White Wolf has been the sort of complex, research-intensive book that requires all of my attention, so we won't see Fox until the spring. 

When does White Wolf release?
I'm shooting for a Halloween release. It's not up for preorder, so be sure to follow my pages, or follow me on Amazon, so you can be notified when it goes live. 

Can I have an ARC?
I'm sorry, but I've elected not to give out digital advance review copies. I've had some bad luck in doing so in the past - The Skeleton King was released on all the pirate sites several weeks ahead of its release. Which. Yikes. Fool me once, and all that. Also, I've realized ARCs are counterproductive for me. The moment a book is polished and ready for release, I like to turn it over to my readers. ARCs would slow that process, and also play favorites and risk spoilers. I am always happy to donate copies to a giveaway, and host release week giveaways on my own, so be sure to email me if you'd like to host a giveaway. 

Will your books be available for audio?
This is the answer that has made some readers, to my puzzlement, spitting mad. And the answer is no, not anytime soon. Why? While I appreciate the fact that some readers benefit greatly from audio books, and want to be as inclusive as possible when it comes to making my work available to all audiences, at the moment, as an indie author, the audio process is both extremely time consuming and extremely expensive, and it doesn't make sense for me as a businesswoman. I'm an artist who loves to share her art, yes, but I'm also a single gal doing it on her own who is a small business owner, and I have to do what makes sense for my business so that I can continue to write books for everyone. 

Can I buy signed books?
Yes, you can! Email me at with your order, and I can invoice you via Paypal. Prices are same as on Amazon, plus shipping. I will ship internationally, but be warned that the shipping will be anywhere between $15 to $60, depending on destination. I ship domestically via media mail to keep costs down, so it can take up to a week to reach you. Priority mail available upon request. I usually have Dartmoor books in stock, but may have to order other books, so please allow an extra week for delivery. 

Be sure to follow me on social media to stay up to date:

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Workshop Wenesday: Inspiration and Originality

Workshop Wednesday: Inspiration and Originality 

When writers put pen to paper, it's their hope to pen a story that is vivid, authentic, and - maybe most of all - original. But anyone writing novels today will tell you that pretty much every story has already been told...and been told many, many times. It's a common sticking point: hasn't someone already written a book about this? Aren't I retreading old territory? And, in my personal case, does anyone really want to read another book about outlaw bikers? 

Is there such a thing as a truly new story? Probably not. But you know what hasn't been told? Your story. The trick to writing unique fiction is to find a way to make all the inspiration you love into something that belongs to you and you alone. 

Figure Out What You Love
Looking at what's popular and emulating it, I'm sure, gets some people some buzz in the short run. Realistically speaking, there's something to be said for making a quick buck - I mean, I think there is. I always do things the hard way, so I dunno. In any event, I think those books aren't the kind that have any kind of lasting fanbase; they don't pay off in the long run because you can tell the author wasn't inspired and passionate. To write the best book you can, you have to write about the stories that keep you up at night. Take your obsessions, your fangirl screaming, and write that. Figure out the difference between the kind of books that mildly interest you and the ones that set you on fire. 

Now Figure Out Why You Love It
Inspiration can come from anything. It can find you anywhere - though it usually doesn't germinate into anything useful until you're driving or taking a shower, Murphy's Law. By all means, when inspiration strikes, take it and run with it. But in the interest of originality, it can be helpful to think about why certain things inspire you. Understanding the heart of inspiration can help you carry forward beloved themes and ideas while steering clear of outright copying. 

Here's an example: I love Jane Eyre. Love it. I love Jane and I love Rochester, and they were a major inspiration for Price of Angels. But I didn't want to write a book in which Holly was a governess for Michael's ward, a book in which a wealthy Michael had a first wife locked up in the attic. Instead, I wanted to dig deep into the characters and figure out what I loved about them that I felt I could carry forward. What resulted was a story about an abused woman trying to make it on her own, graced with a spine of steel not immediately visible, and a man who feels deeply, but who comes across as cold and strange. 

When you really love a character, it's probably for reasons deeper than hair color, or height, or profession. Is it because he or she is kind? A deep-thinker? A good parent? Someone resilient doing the best they can with the hand they're dealt? When you break down your love into its basic building blocks, you can pull out those blocks and use them to craft characters, and stories, that are all your own and which really don't resemble the original inspiration at all. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Why Sons of Rome Makes My Creative Heart Happy

Fulk vibe 

There's a quote that I love about owning everything that's happened to you. You own the things you've accomplished, too. As a writer, you own all the stories that you've written, and when you start writing something new, it isn't a case of leaving those stories behind, but, rather, of cramming them all into your toolbox (or, in Mercy's case, tackle box) and toting them along with you. 

I was having a conversation with my alpha reader about White Wolf a few weeks ago that consisted largely of hand-waving and incoherent straw-grasping from me as I tried, unsuccessfully, to explain to her why this project was so exciting and important for me. After an embarrassing amount of time, I finally realized what I'd been trying to convey. "This series," I told her, "is the reason I've written all the books I have before this. Everything I've ever written has been practice for this." 

She said, "But I really liked your other books!" 

And I said, "That's not what I mean." What I mean is that if it weren't for the things I've learned while writing my other books, I wouldn't have a prayer of tackling something as massive and creatively-terrifying as the Sons of Rome series. 

Writing and publishing books has been an amazing learning experience for me. Each book teaches me something entirely new about character development, about plot, pacing, tension. They've all taught me something new about myself as a writer. Each one has been a creative experiment in which I challenged myself to dig deeper, stretch farther outside my comfort zone, and write more beautifully than before. 

If the number of messages and emails I've received in the past few weeks are anything to go by, I think there's a certain sense that Dartmoor is something I've set aside in order to pick something else up. Which isn't true. It's the toolbox analogy. All the things I've learned while writing Dartmoor are carrying through to this new book. Characters who are flawed, but lovable, who screw up, and then do better, who love hard, and who are confused about their feelings...those things are all still there, and they're there because of Dartmoor. 

Writing White Wolf has felt like those fevered days of writing Fearless, neck-deep in world-building, continually surprised by the characters, and the envelopes they're willing to push. Asking myself "do I dare?" and cackling with glee when I realize how twisted it all is. That was always my secret delight with Fearless: it was always a little bit of a Gothic horror story masquerading as something more down-to-earth. 

I'm not naïve enough to think that all my regular readers will like it. Some will probably dislike it. But I think some of you will love it. I love it, and it's a book, and a series, that I'm writing for the people who will love it. That's the secret, you know: write books that some people will love, and never listen to the detractors. 

Here's why I love it, and why I hope some of you will love it too:

- History. I've always enjoyed studying history. The past is what shaped our present, and to understand what happened then helps us to be better informed about what happens now. Also, I just love the exploration there. With characters born as far back as 1267 (Fulk), and even farther back (our sons of Rome), the scope of history in this series is vast. When characters live forever, the possibilities are endless. And since I love writing characters with shared histories, the vastness serves as an amazing catalyst for relationship-building. 

- The Aesthetic. I love the dark vampire aesthetic. The red velvets and dripping candles, yes, but mostly the push/pull of dark and light within each character. Craving versus resistance; civilized versus animalistic; aloof versus impassioned; beautiful versus hideous. When done well, vampires have always served as a visceral, erotic metaphor for an individual's duality, the conflicting nature of humankind. For me, the challenge was to fit that aesthetic into a story in which potentially awesome characters are deeply grounded in reality. To create very real problems for a group of characters who, despite supernatural abilities, are still very much struggling with the identity and morality issues of humans. These are not fairytale vampires and wolves, but People With Problems who also happen to be immortal and strong. 

- A Good Fit. Since my writing style leans more toward the literary side of things, I've found that horror/paranormal fiction is a really good fit. 

- The Characters. This series gives me a chance to explore a whole new crop of characters. Characters who are burdened by time and their own pasts. Clever villains you can't help but love. Truly badass women who don't have to play by anyone else's rules. Even some real life figures from history. These are the kinds of characters who I like to fangirl about in my Real Dorky Life. 

In short, this series is an overlong love letter to all the dark fiction I've ever loved. It'll tick off the Morality Police, and poke at some people's comfort zones, and it isn't apologetic about doing so. 

Writing has gone well; it's felt like an adventure I've had the privilege of witnessing and then taking down on paper, and that's usually a very good sign. This first book has unfolded in a completely unexpected way, and that's been its own kind of joy. Opening the door on a new world is always thrilling and a little scary, but it's what makes writing its own reward.

When I say the old rote "I can't wait to share," know that I really, really mean it. Shooting for a late October release, so stay tuned. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Workshop Wednesday: Reading For Writers Part I

Reading For Writers Part I:
I talk often about the importance of reading for writers. It is important; it’s the most-common advice big-name published writers gives when asked for pointers, and I agree with them.

But maybe you’re wondering why it’s so important.

The short answer is that a well-read writer is going to be more articulate, better-seasoned, and more distinctive. Well-read writers have got the mechanics of the written word down pat, and are able to delve deeper into their characters. Their author voices are more well-developed and they’ve established a certain style all their own. A well-read author writes stories that feel and sound like them, rather than rough-sketch parodies of whatever’s popular on the marketplace.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Characterization Part III

Characterization Part III
Characters in a Romance

This is not a how-to post. It's not even a suggestion post. It's a disjointed list of the things I find personally important when it comes to writing characters who are in romantic relationships. 

I will readily admit that the romantic elements of any story are not my strong suit. Chemistry, sex, relationships...I write better friendships and action sequences. So please take this week's WW post with a grain of salt, or skip it altogether if that's more your speed. 

Alright, on to the list:

- I want every character in my books to have value as individuals, which means I don't ever write anyone solely for the purposes of providing someone with a love interest. I want them all to stand on their own, to have their own hopes and dreams, and problems. I can't force it - that's why, sometimes, when readers request that I write a book for so-and-so character, I can't give them a firm answer because I haven't found "the one" for him or her yet. 

- In that same vein: no cipher characters. No females who are empty shells into which the readers can pour themselves so that they can feel they are personally experiencing the romance that unfolds. Reading is the ultimate vicarious experience, yes, but I prefer love stories in which both parties are fully-fleshed, believable, and in which their love feels real and important. I'm happy for them - not wishing I was one of them, if that makes sense. 

- If I could pick a theme song, it would be "That Don't Impress Me Much" by Shania Twain. "Okay, so what, do you think you're Elvis or something? Whatever." Okay, so the leading man is a biker, a firefighter, a cowboy, an MMA fighter, a Navy SEAL. Why? There's that old "why" question again from Part I. His profession, his name, his tattoos - none of those things by themselves are what make him lovable.  And I want him to be lovable - to the audience, sure, but mostly to the person who's falling in love with him. 

- It's not enough to simply describe both parties as attractive. They have to be attractive to each other, and that's a total package kind of deal. Physical traits play a part in it, sure, but it has to go deeper than that. There has to be compatibility, mutual interests, real caring and emotion. In a really great love story, it doesn't matter what the characters do for a living or how much money they have - we, as the audience, are starry-eyed because their love is so perfect and meant-to-be. 

- Making a "Why" list can be a great way to figure out the characters' romantic journey. Why are they drawn to one another? Why each other specifically and not someone else? Why are they resistant? Or, why are they falling so quickly? The more time you spend asking yourself about the reasons why they work, the stronger the relationship is going to be on paper. 

- Remember that you want the audience to fall in love with the couple as a unit, but, as previously stated, if the romantic elements were removed, the individuals in the couple should still have compelling emotional journeys throughout the novel.

- Names don't make characters sexy; characters elevate names to sexy status. 

- Not every reader wants the same kind of romance. Got an idea that doesn't fit the mold? A hero who isn't alpha? There's someone out there who wants to read that (probably me!).

When I'm writing, it's always characters first, romance second. A little spice and sex won't magically make boring, flat characters more interesting, nor fix a weak plot. In my approach, if the book is a cake, the romance is the sprinkles and candles on top. I like to think of it as people we love falling in love with each other. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Workshop Wednesday: Characterization Part II

Workshop Wednesday: Characterization Part II

Secondary Characters:
Anyone who's read any of my books will tell you that I like to write secondary characters. Usually a lot of them. Part of this is because I prefer to write book series versus standalones, and secondary characters are necessary in that instance; but also because the growth of a primary character is expedited or hampered by his relationships with others - those "others" are your secondary characters.

I generally find secondary characters fascinating, and I think it's because they're on the fringes of a story, and therefore still mysterious. There's the potential for discovery there, and learning more about them. Because I think mystery is a large part of their appeal, when I start a book or series, I leave the secondary characters' backgrounds fairly open-ended. I decide a few things about them, and then allow the rest to reveal itself to me as they interact with the main character(s). 

But that's the thing - there IS a reveal. They DO have histories, fears, wants and dreams of their own, and aren't simply there to prop up the hero or heroine. For me, it's important, as a writer, to see them as individuals and not just supporting players; to think of them as having their own stories down the line, even if I never wind up getting to them (because some secondary characters end up being more interesting than others). It's important for the main character to care about them, truly engage them in conversation, and for the secondary characters to have unique opinions on the issues at hand. 

In real life we walk in our own familiar shoes, but as a writer, we, like actors in a stage play, are changing costumes behind the curtains and throwing ourselves into a dozen different roles. It requires a great deal of empathy -  elsewise you'll write the kind of book in which the characters are all clones, distinguishable only by name and a few superficial details. 

The problem with a big cast of POV characters is that you then have a lot of competing voices in your head. It can get stressful. It's why, unless it comes naturally and easily, I wouldn't recommend a writer tackle a large cast of characters on their first attempt. Fiction writing is an exercise in detaching yourself from the imaginary folks in your head, and learning how to let characters speak through you; the more characters, the more overwhelming the process can seem. 

If you're juggling a cast with multiple narrators, here are some things to keep in mind:

- Make sure each new POV introduced has something unique and valuable to add to the narrative. A different perspective, a view of an event that no one else can see or hear, some insight for the audience that will help put everything else into context. If you shift POV, make sure it's for a reason, and that it's enhancing the plot, rather than rehashing what someone else has already said. 

- Make sure each character has his or her own voice. This doesn't mean the style of your writing needs to change, in fact, it shouldn't; but the thoughts themselves need to fit logically with that character. For example: seven different characters wouldn't use the exact same terms to describe the same instance. 

- In the interest of reality, keep the dialogue simple and person-appropriate. A biker isn't going to wax poetic for long paragraphs, and a titled English gentleman isn't going to say "ain't." 

Next week, I'll talk about my personal approach to writing characters in a romantic relationship, and how to avoid the pitfalls of character clichés.