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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.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The (Badass) Couple Aesthetic

These posts are fun. The thing about Ghost and Maggie is, while they're both tough in their own rights, and important as individuals, where they really shine is together. This is my first time writing an entire book focused on a couple that we already know is together, and it's been more of a challenge than first anticipated. We're getting closer every day! And no worries - none of the teasers will truly spoil anything about the book for you. Lots of twists and turns ahead!

“Whatever happens tonight, just hold onto me and you’ll be okay,” he said.
She wanted to believe him, she’d told him so already, so she did

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Young Maggie Aesthetic

A queen's got to start somewhere.

She was blonde, and had a sweet face. Red lipstick. A too-big leather jacket, white tank top that clung to her breasts, tight-tight jeans. Her boots looked old and beat-up. She was smoking; he caught a glimpse of red nail polish as she lifted her cig and took a drag. In a physical sense, she was just like the groupies at the clubhouse. It was something else, something intangible, some aura she projected that raised the fine hairs on his arms – that was why he slowed down and really looked at her.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Young Ghost Aesthetic

“Oh,” she said, and unzipped her jacket. Even though he looked angry, his eyes followed the path of the zipper. “I’ve got your whiskey.” The bottle caught the glow of candle flames as she withdrew it, trapped them in the glass.
“You’ve got my whiskey,” he said back, without inflection.

“Are you hungry? Let’s blow this hole and go grab pancakes.”

Thursday, March 16, 2017

#TBT DVD Extras - 3/16

New blog series! I've been searching through the previous manuscripts to fact check myself as I work on Hellhound, and it's reminded me how much I enjoyed writing them. I thought it would be fun to share my reminiscing with you guys, each Thursday, with a look back at some of my favorite scenes from the older books, and provide a little "DVD Extra" content to go along with it. If anyone has a scene you'd like me to talk about specifically, please don't hesitate to drop me a line and I'd be happy to discuss it here.

Today: Price of Angels

As of now, this is still my favorite of the series. I was so pleased with the writing and I feel like I said exactly what I wanted to say, which sometimes can be difficult. One of my favorite moments is the beginning of chapter two, which begins:

Matches. Michael kept innumerable packets of the things in his gun safe at home, all lined up in rows in a shoebox. Matches from restaurants and liquor stores, saved up over the years. Matches were the trick to this whole operation. He collected them like rare stamps. Because without them, he’d just be putting a body in a hole, and that was too crude and negligent to serve his purpose.
It always started with the digging...

The whole sequence, Michael burying the body, was something I was really eager to include, one of my non-negotiables. I love the matter-of-fact, complete detachment of the moment. That macabre stillness. Michael, though he's been called boring, I guess because he isn't wild and doesn't say much, is my favorite kind of character. The self-contained, efficient, skilled, powder keg kind of guy. I could write essays on those characters for days. In a way, the entire book is my (insufficient) love letter to the charmless antiheros of the (fictional) world. I find them pretty charming, to be honest.

He's one of those characters who, if filmed, would be a study in body language. Not so much expressionless, but still. I've had this conversation, more than once, about actors and actresses who aren't merely attractive, but interesting to watch. Some indefinable quality that makes them fascinating, whether they're in the midst of a dramatic monologue, or sorting mail. They've got It. Anyone can be blank-faced and brutish, but in my mind, Michael is a character who has It, who is so watchable, who moves in a deliberate, focused way. You can see the life behind the mask. Trying to convey that, that sense of visual interest, was one of my major writing goals with that book, and I can only hope I succeeded. In my head I've planned all the angles and close-ups of that burial scene dozens of times.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


A list of things I've discovered I really like about writing in longhand the past few weeks:

  1. It's easier on my back
  2. It's easier on my back
  3. It's easier on my back (it needed to be said three times, yes)
  4. No internet to distract me
  5. I get most of my deliberation done on paper, and when I get on the computer, it's typing and tweaking
  6. Writing the scene twice - by hand, then typing - starts the revising process early, within the first draft
  7. I'm managing my time much better - possibly this has to do with not being on the internet
  8. Notebooks are fun
  9. I've written 40k words in about a month, so that's progress

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

New Faces

A bit misleading because I don't want to share any casting picks just yet. I don't want to put an image in anyone's head before they've had a chance to "meet" some of the new players in American Hellhound. And there are several.

Just like I always seem to end up with books that are longer than anticipated, I can't stop adding new characters. It's a problem. I think? In this case, Ghost and Maggie's origin story, if you will, couldn't be told without adding to the cast.

Uncle Duane
As a writer, I love teasing a character for a while before he or she ever actually graces the pages of the story. In this case, we know that Ghost's dad was an ass who drank himself to an early grave, that his mother and little brother (Cal, for whom Ava and Mercy's Cal is named) died in a car accident - leading to said dad's downward spiral. And we know that his uncle, Duane, was once the president of the Lean Dogs and a big influence on Ghost as a young man. So I've had two years to figure out who Duane really is, separate from the brief mentions we've seen in Ghost's POV thus far.

Turns out, Real Life Duane is delightful to write, and by that I mean that he's a monster.

There's a spectrum when it comes to bike clubs, from weekend road warriors to the biggest and the baddest. The Lean Dogs are an intentional amalgamation of some of the largest, most notorious clubs, tempered with lighter notes. I wanted, at the end of the day, to have some creative flexibility. To throw in some Hollywood levels of violence and melodrama. The club of Ghost's youth, however, is a darker, meaner, more rigid organization. Smaller, edgier, and less interested in legitimate means of making money. With Duane at the helm, it doesn't feel like a family.

It'll be interesting to see the reaction to the old club, and to Duane's leadership. Ghost may not be the ideal president, but it's a miracle he turned out as well as he did given the example his uncle set. Growth is relative, after all, and it's fun to showcase just how much Ghost has grown since he was an angry young man.

I love story parallels, history repeating itself. Just like Aidan isn't a model officer-in-training, neither was Ghost - at least not an officer in Duane's club. That honor fell to Roman. He and Ghost were enemies, and antagonistic, grudging allies at times. Roman is charismatic where Ghost is a charmless grump; and deceitful: you never really know where you stand with him. *Something* happened in the past and Roman's  been gone for almost 25 years. Now he's back in town stirring everything up. Sometimes the people you knew when you were young and still figuring out who you are have ways of finding your weak spots, and that's exactly the case with Roman.

I'm not going to say too much about him. Just that I'm pretty excited about this character, and I hope I manage to pull it off. It's a kind of character I've never written before, and that's always an adventure.


I remember saying of Loverboy that it felt unwieldy and too big to hold on to, that I would be glad to write Ghost and Maggie because that would be straightforward and easy. Ha. Ha ha. Yeah right. I think maybe each subsequent book will feel more like a challenge than the last, and maybe that's a good thing.

American Hellhound, May 6th, 2017.

Monday, March 13, 2017

American Hellhound: A Synopsis

American Hellhound
A Synopsis

Recommended Listening:

Black dogs. Demons. Hellhounds. Damned souls that haunt crossroads, taking the forms of hulking dogs with glowing red eyes. Legends of the Old World, but just stories meant to scare lonely wanderers.


Knoxville, Tennessee boasts black dogs of its own: the mother chapter of the Lean Dogs Motorcycle Club. And like all legends, the Lean Dogs draw challengers from every corner of the underworld. War’s brewing in Tennessee, and the Dogs’ first family is about to face its biggest challenge yet: the past.

Ghost Teague has spent the last twenty-five years transforming a once-rough club into an empire with his queen by his side, the fearless girl who turned his life around when he needed her most. This new threat is a personal one, aimed at him, at Maggie, and it’s calling into question all the decisions they’ve made thus far. With a rival club in town, and an old nemesis preying on their doubts, they’ll have to save the city, the club, and their family. And there’s only one way to do it: together.

With past and present storylines, the sixth installment of the Dartmoor Series explores the king and queen like never before, an epic tale of rising, and ruling, and leaning on one another.

American Hellhound, coming May 6th, 2017.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Questionably Lovable

I realized today that I haven't blogged since Valentine's Day. Sheesh. A bad blogger am I. And even then it was just a chunk of the book, so that probably doesn't even count as blogging.


This past weekend, I had the chance to present my books to a local audience at an author luncheon. And you know long-winded me: rattling off that elevator spiel in five-minute intervals isn’t always my strong suit. The event went really well, though, and it turns out dusting off the spiel was personally helpful. One of my marketing points was this: I like to write the kinds of characters you probably shouldn’t like, but whom you can’t help but love.

I’ve been thinking about that line in particular the last few days, and it’s true not only of my writing, but of my reading as well. I tend to become attached to the sorts of characters who have some explaining to do. Who don’t slot neatly into the win or lose column. When I write, I like to dig into the minds of characters with hang-ups, phobias, dark pasts, or problematic viewpoints. Whether it’s Luke, or Sly, or Mercy, my favorite part of writing is diving into the heads of characters you can’t imagine befriending…and asking readers to love them anyway.

For me, holding hands with that character makes the journey worth taking.

I’ve also been thinking about my new series. The one I intend to start this fall/winter. And I’ve been wondering how I can talk you all into taking the journey with me. I realized I’ve gotten the approach all wrong. I was looking at the journey…and not the most important part. That hand reaching out. Because it doesn’t matter if we travel through history and see impossible and dazzling things, if you don’t want to take hold of that hand, then it’s all for naught.

I’ve been itching to start sharing teasers the last few Teaser Tuesdays, but that would be really premature. So I wanted to tease without teasing. And maybe reassure.

First off, never fear, the Lean Dogs aren’t going anywhere. I have some Legacy books I promised (Fox, Albie), and Hellhound is spawning more stories. So Dartmoor is going to continue going forward. The new series won’t replace it; they’ll run along at the same time. So think of it as gaining something new without losing anything. I really hope everyone will give it a chance. It’s a new genre, yes, but it’s going to be a wild ride.

Speaking of. This new series (currently titled the Sons of Rome Series) is full of those questionably loveable characters I mentioned before. It has a big and varied cast. Intrigue, action, romance, steam, heartbreak, friendship, angst, history, flashbacks. Bad boys, and tough girls, and lots of pushing the envelope. It’s a series I’ve toyed with, scribbled notes for, and wanted to bring to life for a long time now. It’s got everything you guys love about Dartmoor, and the potential to continue book-after-book.

Originally, I thought it might be best to publish it under a pen name, to create some separation between the two series. But, in thinking it over, that’s a flawed idea. Sometimes, stupidly, I allow the publishing business’s preoccupation with genre-adherence to bother me, and that’s a mistake. I’m only a one-trick pony if I allow people to label me as one. And I’m not. Or maybe I am – but the trick is in the characters, and not the setting.

On that note, I can’t wait to start sharing teasers when it gets closer to time. And a title, and the cover, and all the requisite goodies. It’s going to be a busy next few years, guys, and I for one can’t wait.

Happy Wednesday.