Thursday, May 26, 2016

A New Royal Scandals Book - The Wicked Prince

Great news! Book five in the Royal Scandals series, The Wicked Prince, is now available for preorder. Isn't the cover delicious?

The Wicked Prince is the long-awaited story of Alessandro Barrali, the rebellious twin brother of Sarcaccia's crown prince, Vittorio. If you read Slow Tango With a Prince, you likely remember Alessandro.

To whet your appetite, here's a brief excerpt of a scene between Alessandro and Francesca "Frannie" Lawrence, a woman who just might be Alessandro's match:
Alessandro’s kiss was like a blast of sunshine after a long bout of bone-chilling cold.  Soft and comforting, yet all-encompassing.  She opened to him, and he angled his head to deepen their connection, warming her to her core with the most tender, romantic kiss she’d ever experienced.
He pulled back, but kept his hands tangled in her hair, holding her forehead to his.
“Frannie.”  His whisper was dark, a stark contrast to the gentleness of his touch.  His chest rose and fell, once, twice…and his breath went ragged on the second exhale.  “Oh, Frannie, what are you doing to me?”
It was a chastisement and a warning.
She didn’t care; the risk had already been taken.
“Shh.”  This time, when her lips touched his, he didn’t hold back.

The Wicked Prince is set for release on August 2. Want your copy as soon as possible? The ebook can be pre-ordered now on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Print editions will be available on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble on or soon after August 2, and an audiobook edition is also planned. Sign up for my newsletter to be notified when new editions are on sale.

I can't wait to share the rest of The Wicked Prince with you. Alessandro's story was flat-out fun to write!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Updates on Your Favorite Authors

In my last series of blogs, I tackled the frequently asked question, "What's your writing process?" Today, I'll address another common reader question: "What's the easiest way to hear about new books or booksignings by my favorite authors?"

The best way to know when your favorite authors have a new book is to go directly to the source. Many authors have their own websites and offer a newsletter. Sign up! I'm a reader as much as I'm an author, so I subscribe to several authors' newsletters. If it gets spammy (some do), you can always unsubscribe. But that way, you know you won't miss a book you've been waiting to read. You're also likely to hear about sales, contests/giveaways, and new versions of your favorite books, such as when an audiobook is released.

To sign up for my newsletter, go HERE. I also have a box on each page of my website where you can fill in your email address to register. It looks like the image on the right. (To prevent unauthorized subscriptions, I'll have you confirm your intent to subscribe.)

If you want more information than an author newsletter provides, there are other resources on the web for learning about upcoming releases, author events, and even book sales.

The first is Goodreads.  Goodreads is a large online reader community. Members can post reviews, maintain virtual bookshelves (listing books as "want to read" or "didn't finish," for instance), enter contests to win books, and join discussion groups. There are even groups for audio books. If there's an author whose books you love, check to see if they have a Goodreads page. If so, there's a box you can click on their page to follow along.  Just look under their photo. Here's what it looks like on my Goodreads page:

You'll also see a "Ask me a question" box on my page. Not all authors have this, but many do. If you want to know about upcoming books, events, or why an author did something specific in a story, type in your question. I check my page frequently to answer any questions. I know other authors do, too.

Second, if you're a Kindle user or if you buy your books from Amazon, check to see if your favorite authors have a page there. As with Goodreads, you can sign up to follow an author. Amazon will automatically send you an update when the author is about to release a new book, and it will include a link directly to the product page. Here's what the follow button looks like on my Amazon author page:

To find an author's page, type their name in the search box at the top of Amazon's home page. It should bring up a list of their books. Click on the author's name on any of those listed books, and you'll be taken to their author page. Then click on the yellow follow button.

Finally, I've discovered several great authors via BookBub. BookBub is, first and foremost, a site that announces book deals. Sign up for their newsletter to receive sale information daily. You can filter your emails to limit the notifications to the types of books you most enjoy (say, nonfiction, romance, and mystery.)

BookBub also allows you to sign up for announcements about particular authors. I love the author feature, since it not only sends me a notice when an author has a new book out, it notifies me whenever that author has a book on sale. It's a fantastic resource. To use BookBub, go to the BookBub website and register. To find a particular author, type their name in the search box. If you type in my name, this is what you'll see:

Click the "Follow" button on my page and you'll receive a notification whenever one of my books is on sale, or whenever I have a new book out.

Of course, there are other resources for author updates. Like many authors, I have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed. However, it's easy to miss a tweet if you have a busy tweet stream, and Facebook doesn't always show posts to those who follow a page (ah, the quirks of Facebook!) I've discovered that if I don't want to miss information from my favorites, author newsletters are number one way to keep updated, followed by (in no order) Goodreads, Amazon author pages, and BookBub.

Readers, please share in the comments: what resources have you discovered? Which have you liked, and what hasn't worked for you? What do you wish you could see? And...if you're subscribed to author newsletters, what information do you wish they'd include? (Because I'll make sure I include it in mine!) I'd love to hear your opinions.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Process, Part III

This is part three of a three-part blog on my writing process. In The Process, Part I, I discussed the origins of my books--how I get ideas and organize them. In The Process, Part II, I discussed how I flesh out those ideas to create a workable plot and characters. Today, I'll cover the nitty gritty: how I schedule my writing and get ideas onto the page.

Once I have my plot notes and have listened to my plot group tapes, I create a rough outline of the story. It always changes as I write--I come up with a lot of twists and turns as I put words on the page--but the basics are set.  At that point, I create a schedule. Early in my career, I used an actual calendar to mark off how many pages I should write each day, then I'd highlight my goal date. However, I once attended a workshop with author Susan Mallery in which she discussed her schedule. Her method resonated with me (thank you, Susan!) so I now use a format similar to hers.

Below is an actual schedule I followed to write one of my young adult novels. The contract called for a book of approximately 50,000 words. I had a three-month window in which to do the writing. At this point, I'd already done the brainstorming and had a good grip on the characters and where I wanted the story to go.

To create this schedule, I worked backward from the due date to figure out how far along I needed to be by certain dates. The number listed on each Sunday is the word count I expected to have complete by that date.

I blocked off the days I knew I would be at a Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference, since little to no writing gets done then, and I blocked off the time I knew my plot group planned to meet. During this period I also had an article due for an RWA publication. I blocked off two Saturdays to work on that article, since I didn't want it to cut into the time I needed for my book.

If you study this schedule, you'll see that I generally write 5 - 6 pages on the days I have blocked for writing. At 250 words per page, that's 1250-1500 words a day. Some writers do less, some do more. I know that this is a comfortable pace for me. When I agree to deadlines, I have this pace in mind. I also build in cushions. Look at the last half of July. By writing to this schedule, I finish the book on July 15. Maybe a day or two before, depending on the length of the book (remember, it's contracted for 50,000 words...I can go a few thousand above or below.) I left myself several completely empty days for reading through the finished manuscript and revising it.

I also am careful to build in Emergency Days. I never know when an emergency will crop up, so I schedule these in and float them. If, for instance, I'm perfectly on schedule on May 30, I'll go ahead and write my May 31 pages that day and continue on. If an emergency crops on on June 6, then I use that Emergency Day.

Similarly, I know from past experience that I need a day or two to catch up on mail/email when I return from a week-long conference. Because I've been away from my manuscript for several days, I also like having a day to reread what I've already written so my head is in the story. I build that time into my schedule. I also include an Emergency Day right before I leave for a long conference so I can pack and run errands if necessary. If it's not necessary, I work ahead to give myself a cushion on the back end of the conference.

I'm a visual person, so I color code my weekends, trips out of town, and deadlines. I consider those non-writing days, though if I get behind, I will write on the weekends.

Knock wood, but I've never missed a deadline. By building in a one- to two-week cushion, plus accounting for potential trips/conferences, and emergencies, I hope I never do.

This isn't a process that's for everyone. As I said in the first part of this series, every writer I know follows a different method for getting from point A to point B. This is what works for me. I'm a planner. I thrive on organization, so I like seeing a schedule that maps out what I need to accomplish each day. Working out the major plot points ahead of time--even if they change as I go along--and then keeping my brain engaged by maintaining a regular writing schedule prevents me from getting stuck. For writers who aren't wired the way I am, a schedule like this might cause more stress than it eliminates.

If you're a writer, I'd love to hear from you. How does your process differ? What works best for you? What have you tried that hasn't worked? Please share in the comments! And readers, please add your this what you envision when you picture a writer's workday? 

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Process, Part II

This is part two in a three-part blog about my writing process.  Here's the link to The Process, Part I, where I discuss how my stories originate.

Once or twice a year, I get together with friends and fellow authors Christina Dodd, Emily March, and Susan Sizemore for what we call plot group. We meet for three days. Before we get together, we send each other lists of our upcoming projects and we set up a schedule of what we want to plot. This is when I pull out my idea file. I might send the others an email along the lines of, "I'd like to plot a new Royal Scandals book. Here are the characters I have in mind..." and I'll send along what details I have. I'll also say, "here's what I have so far on the book" and include several plot points I've fleshed out from my idea file.

Plot group in Sonoma, California, with (l to r): Christina Dodd, Emily March, Susan Sizemore, me

When we get together, we take turns brainstorming each other's books. Now, this isn't WRITING each other's books...far from it. It's talking through them aloud, discussing different possibilities for the plots, fleshing out the reasons characters might make certain choices, and anticipating problems. Each of us have written books that are part of series, and we're familiar with each other's works, so sometimes we'll be discussing a plot point and someone will say, "If you do X, won't it be in conflict with what you wrote in the third book in the series, where Y happened?"

In the end, we come up with major plot points. Often times, the finished book will deviate greatly from what we plotted. The purpose of plot group is to help each author brainstorm different ways their story could be written. I can't tell you how many times I'll read a book we discussed at plot group and discover that it's nothing like what we discussed! On the other hand, I can usually see how the finished product evolved from the concepts we tossed around, which is fascinating.

We do have a few rules for plot group. First, the author is the arbiter of all. If the author whose story we're discussing doesn't like what we're brainstorming, or the direction feels wrong, out the window it goes, no matter how great the idea. I've frequently said, "That would make a killer book, but the character I have in mind wouldn't do that. Instead, I want to explore this direction...." Second, if a story idea isn't working, we put it aside for another day. We frequently start discussing a story, get stumped, then discuss it again a few hours later and have several solutions to the earlier problem. Third, we need good food. When we're together, it's work, not social hour, tempting as it is to kick back and shoot the breeze. We need to feed our brains to be productive and focused.

During breaks, we each hide out in our rooms and write. We tape record our discussions and listen to them, either between sessions or on our flights home, so we can get back to each other with questions. At that point, each of us is on our own to put meat on the bones of the story.

Next, in The Process, Part III, I'll tackle the hard part: producing pages and editing.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Process, Part I

The question I'm most frequently asked is, "When will your next book be out?" Usually, I have an easy answer. However, a close second would be any of a dozen variations on, "What is your writing process?" In my next few blog posts, I'll tackle the answer.

First - I should note that there's no one way to write a book. Every writer I know uses a different method to get from point A to point B. I start with an out-of-the-blue idea.  It could be spurred by an overheard conversation, a snippet of a book or a movie, or an interaction I witnessed on the street or while traveling. Sometimes, believe it or not, I get ideas in dreams. Whatever the origination, the idea itself comes from asking myself, "What if?" What if that couple I overheard discussing the awful service at a restaurant vowed to take revenge on the waiter? What if the little boy I saw holding his dad's hand as they cross the street decides to find his dad a date?

From the idea file for Slow Tango With a Prince
Basically, I let my imagination run wild. I'll scribble down these snippets, then file them away. (Yes, I literally have an idea file.) However, an idea, in and of itself, isn't a complete story.

At the same time I file away possible story ideas, I think about characters. Characters often come to me the same way ideas do. I might sit up late watching SportsCenter and think, "What is day to day life like for a skiier on the World Cup circuit? Do they have difficulty maintaining relationships when they travel so much? What if they have a significant other who can't--or won't--travel with them for some reason? How would they handle it?" (That "what if?" line of thinking gave birth to Justine Cornaro, who became the heroine of The Royal Bastard.) Characters go into the idea file, too.

While I work on other projects, I let those characters and story ideas simmer in the back of my mind. From time to time, I pull out the file and add more details to the notes on certain characters or ideas.

Next time, in The Process, Part II, I'll discuss how I flesh out those ideas and characters to create actual stories. This involves my plot group, where I brainstorm with friends and fellow authors Christina Dodd, Emily March, and Susan Sizemore.

Then, in The Process, Part III, I'll tackle the hard part: producing pages and editing.