It takes a village…

Well, Katie Freeman #5 is in the hands of my beta-readers! Yay! I spent the weekend taking a break and having a little fun. While they were doing the hard work, I was splashing in the pool with my nieces and nephews – they had the tough job of reading about Katie Freeman’s latest case and giving feedback.

Beta readers are an important part of my process. It’s through them that I know whether or not my book hits all the buttons that I intended. They tell me if something is off, or doesn’t flow, or just doesn’t fit. Sometimes, they say, “Are you sure you want to say that, it doesn’t make sense?”

Basically, they keep me in touch with reality. It’s thanks to them that I have a story without major holes. They have a very different job than an editor, but one that is just as important. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ Well, my beta readers are my village – they raise my “children” to higher standards and help make them the books they become. So, here’s a huge THANK YOU to Michelle, Sarah, Nancy, Laura, and Dana – I couldn’t do this without you!

Self-care

I’ve had a rough two weeks. I’m sure all of you all can relate – more to be done than there are hours in the day? My pay-the-bills job has been over-the-top for the past few weeks – I hired two new employees who report directly to me, so I have to train them. We had a board meeting and then I had to prepare for facilitating a two-day seminar. All of that while still staying on top of Katie Freeman #5.

Good news: the book is written!

Slightly less good news: It’s in the editing stages. Whoa can editing be a chore. I’m not one to edit as I go. Some authors do, but I get so bogged down and change the story line too many times. So I do a full version and then go back and attack. Sometimes that’s good – I have a whole manuscript to look at. Other times, that’s bad – I have a major mistake that will require rewriting major portions of the plot…but that’s how I do things.

What I’ve learned over the past few weeks is that self-care is very important. I didn’t do a good job of it and as a result was completely exhausted this weekend. So, I decided to treat myself. I took a float out to the pool on Sunday and the most strenuous thing I did all day was roll over. I’m slightly burned…but much more relaxed. Now I can finish Katie Freeman and get her newest escapade out to you!

*Happy Dance*

Productivity…why have you abandoned me?

Ever have small stuff interfere with getting things done? It seems every time I boot up my computer I have seventeen different updates that need to be done. In the past month, I’ve also had a few electronic malfunctions. First, the batteries in my mouse exploded, leaking battery acid everywhere. You’d think that would have been an indication that I should check all the batteries – especially given that I purchased the computer with the mouse and keyboard at the same time. But, alas, I did not. I sat down a few weeks ago to finally get Katie Freeman wrapped up only to find that the batteries in the keyboard had also exploded… I had battery acid slowly expanding out of the battery cover and power button slots. Definitely not a good sign.

It’s funny, really. Neither the mouse nor the keyboard were even slowing down. They worked one day and the next day…nothing. Just acid, slowly eating away at my productivity…

Today, I finally replaced the keyboard (the mouse was replaced instantly) with a brand new Mac Magic Keyboard. And to my utter delight, the new keyboard is even better than the last. My first keyboard was just a simple, small Mac keyboard. Now, at my “pay-the-bills” job, I am forced to use a PC. But what I love about it is that there are “Delete” and “End” keys on the keyboard – one of very few advantages the PC had over my Mac.

I never really noticed how much I used them until they weren’t there. It was the biggest downside to using a Mac…those two simple buttons. I know there are keyboard short cuts for those two functions. And I am a HUGE keyboard shortcut person. But for some reason those shortcuts just wouldn’t stick in my brain and I found myself reaching for the mouse.

But now…I have my keys back. And productivity is back underway! Let’s work some Magic!

Can you ever just be whelmed?

10 Things I Hate About You is probably one of my favorite movies – it’s based on a Shakespeare play, why wouldn’t it be?!?! One of the most famous lines from the movie is when Bianca is talking to her best friend and says “I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed. But can you ever just be whelmed?” It cracks me up every time. But the question can actually be applied to a broader number of situations. Such as: why are there no “normal” women in romance? You have thin/beautiful and you have BBW. Why is there rarely a middle ground?

The average woman is a size 14. If you shop in any clothing store, a 14 can be found in the Misses section, and the Women’s section – that is NORMAL! Yet, if you write a sexy romance about a woman who is a size 14, you have to put the disclaimer of BBW on it. Why is that?

Is this something you notice when you read? It’s something I’ve become more aware of as I write – and also when I read other authors’ work. Perhaps the world be would a better place if we only saw people.

I Dream of Weenie

photo of I Dream of Weenie food truck in East NashvilleThe most difficult thing in the world for me is naming things. I blame this on my father – after all, he was going to name me Walter if I’d been a boy. Now, that’s not a bad name, per se, until you combine it with my last name. Walter Mellon – I’d have been the laughing stock of the playground! So, you see, I think I inherited the inability to be creative with naming things – people, places, pets – basically anything that needs a title.

As a reader, I always notice naming trends in books. You know what I mean – matching characters “Adam and Amanda” or “Chris and Christa” – even when siblings have the same letter to start their names (19 Kids and Counting, anyone?). I have to admit that I’m guilty of this as a writer. Sadly, I know real families who have done this to their kids. I guess that means that even if it sounds corny, people do this in real life.

My new series has a family of eight – yes, eight! – siblings, and they are all named for nature. It makes sense when you know more about the history of the story, so just hang tight and you’ll be able to read about it soon!

 In the mean time, have a laugh at one of the most creative names I’ve run across in a while. This is a hotdog stand in East Nashville – I Dream of Weenie…a romance author’s sense of humor can be a little warped.

Don’t Stifle the Creative Genius!

There are a lot of debates about writing styles. Are you a plotter or a pantser? This is one of those I hear most often. I think I’m a combination, depending on the book I’m writing. I come up with ideas from several places and my creative mind takes over. I can’t fully be a pantser, or my books would have no purpose or cohesiveness. They would wander from scene to scene without ever accomplishing a plot.

As I found out this week, I can’t fully be a plotter either. I generally start off by outlining a book – especially my mysteries. I need to have an idea of where the story is going. The evidence and innuendo needs to be set up so that it comes together at the end. I generally have an idea of who committed the crime before I start writing, though sometimes the characters talk back and let me know it wasn’t them.

Well, I’ve been writing book 4 in the Tip of the Spear series and I started with an idea for the occupation of one of the characters. I was determined that this character had to have this occupation. I researched what that would entail, how much money he would make, the restrictions he would face, etc. I’ve been working on this book for a few weeks, but over the last week, I’ve been stuck. No matter how I tried to tie the events together, it just didn’t work. I rewrote sections, I tried to mentally rearrange events to make them fit. I wore myself out trying to defend my decision that this character had to have this occupation. Finally, I put the book aside for a few days and let the ideas swirl – and came to the decision that he just couldn’t be what I wanted him to be. And you know what? The story started flowing furiously!

My conclusion: don’t stifle the Creative Genius!

Difficult Season in Life

This has been a really difficult summer for me. I wrote earlier about the death of my grandmother at the end of June. She was a fantastic woman who was loved by all who knew her. Her smile could light up a room and she always topped to talk to people – even those she didn’t know. I still miss her and probably always will. I was making a dessert for Labor Day weekend and it was the first time it hit me that I can no longer just pick up the phone and call her to ask what I’m missing or how much of something is supposed to go into the recipe. Our family truly lost a gem.

My second loss came at the beginning of August when my dog, Holly, died. She was 22 years old and still had so much spirit in a body that was failing. She was my companion through so much. We lived in several apartments and houses, and two different states. She saw me through heartache when relationships failed. She had such a unique personality that one of my friends affectionately nicknamed her Freek – spelled wrong, because she was too weird to spell it right. Holly even answered to Freek when I would call her in from the yard. She had such a large personality for a little body. Her death impacted my other dogs as well. How do you explain to a dog that her sister has died? I watched Ginny look around the house for her for a week. We would go to bed and Luna would look at me like I was forgetting someone.

Now, I am writing my next book – the first one that will be written without my foot warmer – a white, furry body that lay across my feet as I typed. Her snores will no longer echo through the room. I’ve already written a dog into this story in her memory. It’s small consolation for missing her, but maybe letting her live on in print will help with the healing.

Swag

swagHave you seen the posts from my social media? I’ve recently been enraptured by the amount of swag that can be personalized. I went online simply to purchase new business cards, and the merchandise they offered me at a discount for being a new customer sucked me in. I didn’t go totally crazy, but I started to dream. I mean all of this started by dreaming, why not think bigger?

I am now the proud owner of several mugs, pens, stickers, magnets, and tote bags with my logo on them! My social media coordinator, Michelle, is finally happy. We can start doing giveaways and prized and contests. She’s never had a problem thinking big, but I’ve taken a little urging to come along. Okay, a lot of urging. But as I told her, I can be taught!

Stay tuned for more exciting things to come!

Writing Erotica

JM & MFIf you have followed my blog at all, you’ve probably heard me mention Marie Force a time or two. I started as a HUGE fan of her work – I even went to her first Reader Weekend in Rhode Island where I got to meet her. I was a total fan girl! I had just started my journey on becoming an author. My goals at that time were to write and publish one book in that year…you’ve heard me talk about how that went…

Fast forward to today. Marie recently gave an interview on what it’s like to write erotic novels for a living and in addition to being a fan girl and reading it, I also related as an author. Now, I’m far from an erotic author – in fact, by most standards, I’m really tame. But I could definitely understand the reactions she encountered from people who knew her when she published her first erotic novel (Virtuous – in the Quantum Series – an excellent book/series). I was born and bred in the Bible Belt – we simply don’t talk about such things. And we definitely don’t admit to reading them! Imagine the surprise from the people who know me when they picked up the first Tip of the Spear book!

I published my first romantic suspense novel, In the Shadows, in March of 2015. This was the first of what will be six (possibly seven) books in the Tip of the Spear series. I will admit that I had to be totally alone to write the first sex scene of my career. I’ve yet to progress to being able to dictate one… When it was finished, I re-read it and thought it was not too bad. There wasn’t anything too graphic. I avoided all the weird words for body parts that drive me nuts as a reader. Overall, I thought it walked the line between too much and leaving you wanting more.

Then my family read it…

My aunt was the first to call me. Thankfully this conversation took place over the phone. All she said was she had gotten to “that part” in the book. She was surprised that something like that came from me – the good girl of the family. I think I turned five shades of red. Really, I don’t know why I was embarrassed. I mean everybody has sex, don’t they?

Then my mother called. Thankfully I live in a different state. She said, “Julie Louise (in the south, pulling out the middle name is dangerous…), I cannot believe chapter sixteen!” We now use “chapter sixteen” as a euphemism to warn about upcoming questionable content. I’m just thankful that she hasn’t read the Devil Mountain Shifter series!

I’m still not sure why they found it so shocking. But I do know that if I ever venture into anything more steamy, I’ll be using a pen name!

Top 5 Things I need to Write

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Every writer is different. We all have our own system in place to be productive. For me, I start with a time limit on social media! Most days, I come home from work, eat dinner, and then start writing. My Saturday mornings consist of grocery shopping – followed by writing. Sunday mornings consist of laundry – while writing. Working full-time means I have fewer hours in the day to write. I sacrifice a lot to be able to give my characters a voice. For this system to work, here are five things I can’t do without.

1. My note pad. I’m old fashioned. I love to hand-write notes. This actually comes in handy when I’m at my day job. I can keep a notebook on the desk and when an idea strikes, I can write it down before I forget it. I also carry pen and paper with me to various appointments – like the doctor, or getting my oil changed. I use it to map out characters or plot lines. I’ve got a great new series being plotted right now. Of course, I’m keeping that on the back burner until I have all of the Tip of the Spear novels finished! I don’t think I can handle more than two series at a time! It’s very rare that you will find me without a means of writing something down.

2. Mac Book. I generally write on my Mac Book Air, though I also have an iMac in my home office. The screen on it is bigger, so I generally use it for edits and the more tedious aspects of writing. But usually you’ll find me in my recliner with my laptop propped up on a blanket, usually surrounded by at least two of my three dogs. Maybe I should have added the recliner and dog cuddles to this list….

3. Scrivener. I discovered this software on an author forum that I subscribe to. It has a unique layout that authors either love or hate. It’s not without its idiosyncrasies, but what it lacks in user-friendliness, it makes up for in formatting. This program has saved my life (or rather, the life of my computer) when formatting frustrations threaten to get the best of me. I don’t do well with electronics that don’t cooperate – just ask the last poor DVD player that malfunctioned on me!

4. Dragon Dictate. I heard so many complaints about dictating software that I was hesitant to purchase any. Then I flipped out of my hammock in the back yard and injured my wrist. For an author, not being able to type is a death sentence. My solution? Dragon Dictate. It took me a while to admit that I liked it. In fact, it wasn’t until I started using the transcription functions on it, instead of dictating, that I found it was worth the cost. The “How to Train Your Dragon” facebook group has also been a lifesaver. I doubt I would have come so far without the support and encouragement.

5. Books. Yes, you read that right. Books play an important part in an author’s life. To be a good author, you have to love to read. For me, reading is a way to escape, to live another life – even if only for a few hours. I usually take a week to binge read the books that I’m saving up during my deadlines. It serves as a reset button on my brain to enjoy someone else’s words instead of my own.

So, there you have it – just a small peek into my world. I’m sure if I put my mind to it, I would have no problems coming up with another 20 items I could list here…