Monday Mayhem – I’m conflicted

One of the cornerstones of writing any type of fiction is the need for conflict. At the start of every project, writers ask themselves at least two very basic questions:

What does our hero/heroine want most?

What is standing in their way?

Obviously, we delve deeper into the opposing forces as we move forward with a book, but those are the bare-bones basics. Internal and external forces are equally important, but require a different approach. This is where I stumble over one piece of oft-repeated writing advice.

We’re often told to imagine that ultimate goal, and then throw obstacle after obstacle into the path our protagonist has to take to get there.

Warning: Unpopular Opinion Ahead

I think there are times when an author can insert too much conflict into a story. As a matter of fact, I just read a book where it was literally one thing after another, page after page. No downtime. No breather. For me or the heroine. Nothing but one supposedly funny/sad/mortifying moment stepping on the heels of the one in front of it.

After the first few hits, I stopped buying in.

I know it’s fiction, but no one’s life is that non-stop. I mean, at some point, someone has to have a bio break, right? I’m telling you I would have locked myself in a filthy gas station bathroom and never come out if I were that poor heroine.

Warning: Unpopular Opinion #2 Coming At You

The other night, Jewels was talking about the big grovel scene in books… You know the kind, the one where one character does something so unthinkable that the only way they can possibly be forgiven is if they are willing to completely prostrate themselves at the other’s feet.

Yeah, I’m not a fan.

It’s not that I don’t want or appreciate a decent grovel as much as the next girl, it’s just that I don’t think they happen all that often in real life. Therefore, the whole set-up-overblown conflict/grand gesture/grovel comes off a bit too Hollywood for me.

I’m not saying a little groveling can’t take place. But, in my experience, there’s more awkward silence after a big blow-up than grandiloquent speechifying. I’d even go so far as to say that once we get past the oh-so-dramatic adolescent stage, most conflict is resolved with less than a paragraph’s worth of words.

And forgiveness doesn’t usually come with the big prize, but rather a small gesture.

Internal conflict usually plays a big part in my novels. Sure, I add a dash of external to turn up the heat a bit, but to me the story comes from the inside out, not the outside in.

Authors are frequently told to torment their characters, but I don’t. I figure they’re better at tormenting themselves than I will ever be. I just try to capture it all and put it on the page.

How about you? Are you a fan of the grovel? Has anyone ever hit you with a grand gesture. Tell your tale, and I might be inclined to give away a signed copy of Love & Rockets in celebration of this week’s exoplanet discovery!

Oh! And there’s a newsletter hitting inboxes tomorrow. If you aren’t on my list, sign up at the top of the sidebar >>

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Monday Mayhem – Persistence

Been there, done that, and my T-shirt is on the way.

Here’s the one I ordered:

I think the blue will really make my eyes pop. 😉

Persistence. If there’s one thing women know, it’s persistence. I have five older brothers. They didn’t always want to let me play with them, so they used their superior size and strength to try to muscle me out.

Nevertheless, I persisted.

With five boys and little hope of ever growing grass, my father covered our backyard in asphalt, installed a regulation basketball hoop, and marked the free-throw and three-point lines with spray paint. The ‘no blood, no foul’ rule was instituted. I was never big enough to mix it up in the games, but they would let me play H-O-R-S-E with them. Of course, they could stand behind either of those spray-painted lines and knock me out of the game in five quick rounds.

Nevertheless, I persisted.

Being a small girl, I had little hope of developing the arm strength for shots from field goal range. I needed to develop another weapon.

And so, I became the queen of the backwards bucket-shot.

With a little practice I could (and still can) sink a basket from anywhere within the arc by turning my back on the basket, spot-checking my alignment with the goal, then hurling the ball up over my head from between my knees.

I did what I had to do. I persisted until I found a way I had a chance to win.

I’m planning a program on goal setting and business plans for my local RWA chapter next month. In doing so, I’ve had to take a long look at my own goals and plans and how they have morphed in the past six years.

The publishing industry seems to shift and change like clouds on a windy day. I have a plan in place for 2017. Who knows if it will be relevant in 2018? *shrugs*

But I have to start somewhere.

Either way, I will persist.

Oh, and here’s a snapshot of me honing my skills on my First Communion day. What can I say? I was dedicated.

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Fresh Starts

I’m still working on finishing the draft of Easy Bake Lovin’ (Play Dates #2), but with the start of the Build a Book 365 day challenge I gave myself permission to play with one of the Silver Fox ideas I have rattling around in my head.

Meet Leonardo Sbaraglia. He doesn’t know it, but he’s currently serving as my hero inspiration. I promise, I will try to do him right. Ahem. I mean do right by him.

Finding photographs of heroes and heroines who fit the images in my head is not always easy, but I knew the minute I saw him, he was my man. More specifically, the man to model my hero, Dominic Mann on.

I’ll be sharing pictures of people who remind me of my characters as the year progresses. We have a lot of books coming in 2017-2018. I hope you’re ready to meet them all!

How about you? Do you picture famous people portraying the heroes and heroines as you read? Care to share some thoughts?

News and notes:

In case you missed it, LOVE & ROCKETS received another fabulous 5 star review! This one from Epilogue Book Blog. Check it out!

Also, GOING DEEP (Coastal Heat #1) and A WILL AND A WAY (Worth the Wait Romance) are both on sale for $0.99! Tell your friends!

Snowed in? Give LONG DISTANCE LOVE a shot. You won’t regret getting to know Jack and Ellie better!

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – My stories, at the core

Last week, I asked what you expect when you open one of my books. Your responses were so moving. Thank you. You let me know that I am indeed already hitting some of the key points in what I want to write.

I spent a lot of time in 2016 examining my work, and trying to identify the elements I think are essential to what I wanted to say – what’s known as a writer’s core story.

(This may freak those of you who know me out, but I’m posting a picture of fruit:)

Trying to suss out one’s core story it a little like nibbling at an apple (or so I hear). I started with reviewing some of my books and works in progress as a whole, then began to examine certain elements in small bites. When I got down to the center, I had a better handle on the parts that were so important to me that they re-appear in novel after novel.

Here’s what I think my core story is:

Heroines: Powerful, independent, unapologetically sex positive, and feminist. Their journeys mostly involve examining, adjusting, and reestablishing their expectations of life and love.

Heroes: Confident and strong, but not the stereotypical Alpha male. They appreciate complex women and are up to the challenge.

My emphasis is almost always on character growth and reinvestment in themselves. In my books, women are not always relationship seekers and men do not necessarily flee from commitment.

Humor will always be an important part of my writing. I require moments of it in all forms of entertainment – even the most gut-wrenching dramas. To swipe a quote from Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” It’s true. If I can move a reader to one or both-or even at the same time-I consider it a win.

So how did my vision match up with your expectations?

Well, we got the humor bit down. A couple of you mentioned tears, strong heroines, and guys who are up for meeting their match, so I must be doing some things right.

This is the interesting thing about being a writer. The themes we tackle in our work grow and evolve as we do. If you’d asked me in 2011 if I considered myself a feminist, I may have hemmed and hawed a bit, shying away from the label. Now, I wear it proudly. Sex-positive? I never really thought much about how we view and judge female sexuality. The norms and constraints simply were what they were. Yeah, um, no.

But we’ll talk more about those topics in another post.

My point is, life is all about evolution. Conscious or subconscious, I’ve been seeing some shifts in my own work over the last year or two. Thanks so much for your replies last week. Your feedback is vital to me. After all, I’m telling these stories in hopes that you will connect with them.

As we type, I’m working on a few different things. I have sent the first book in the upcoming Play Dates series to the fabulous Julie Evelyn Joyce for critique. I’m inching my way toward the end of the draft on book #2 and hope to have it done by the end of the month.

Just for fun, I’m participating in a 1 page per day challenge for 2017, and for that I’m playing with something entirely different. There are a bunch of current and aspiring authors participating. It’s not too late to join in. There’s also a super secret Facebook group where we babble about what we’re doing. If you want to participate, tag me. 🙂

So now you know what I think I should be writing. This time I’ll ask a different question: How do you think I’m measuring up? Are there areas where you (as a reader) think I’m falling short? Maybe one or two where I hit it out of the park?

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Monday Mayhem – The heart of the matter

Welcome 2017! I’m making an effort to start the new year off with positivity. So far, it’s been pretty easy since I’ve been in my favorite place (home), with my favorite person (Fodder), doing my favorite things (a little writing, a little reading, making some chicken salad, taking a nap). I’m really good at napping. And, as my new author shots prove, hanging off lamp posts:

2017 marks my fifth year of blogging. Yep. If you check the sidebar, you will see that I type the truth. The archive dates back to January 2012.

It’s pretty much been five years of my checking in once a week or so and babbling at you. Well, I plan to continue to do so, but I do think I’m going to make a couple of minor tweaks. I still plan to let you know what I’ve been up to over the course of the week, share writing news, and dish out a little personal TMI, but I want to try to make my posts more topical.

2016 was a year of upheaval for me and for many people I know. Like many, I turned inward. I spent a good deal more time in introspection, trying to sort out what’s important to me, and how I plan to proceed in the midst of the social-political chaos that’s swirls around us now.

In the coming months, you’ll probably hear more from me on more serious topics than those we’ve discussed before. These are the bits of me that have been stealthily weaving their threads into my stories without me really realizing it.

I’ve stopped telling people that I write contemporary romance with a lot of kissing and stuff. Of course, I do, but that’s not what I think is at the heart of my stories anymore. You’ll probably be hearing a lot from me about my ‘core story’ in the coming months. By core story, I mean the common themes that you, as a reader, can expect to find in any Margaret Ethridge/Maggie Wells novel.

 

But before I start telling you what I think they are, I’d be curious to know what your expectations are when you open one of my books. I’m not looking for flattery (though I am open to it), just your initial reaction/expectation when you hear that I have a new book available.

I look forward hearing what you have to say, as well as sharing my thoughts with you, but for now, I hope that your 2016 at least had a happy ending, and here’s to a passel more happily ever after in 2017 and beyond!

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Monday Mayhem – First Christmas

I confess, I am writing this post way early. You see, this past weekend was my first Christmas of the season. As I type this, I’m plotting and planning for the 9 hour ride to see my family. Chaos will ensue on Saturday, then we drive back Sunday. I figure I probably won’t have the energy to post when I get home, so here I am, writing like it’s Monday on a Thursday night.

How’s your December going?

Mine has been incredibly busy. Major changes at the day job this month and next month will keep me hopping. I’m also doing the behind the scenes stuff for the Play Dates series starting next fall, and one day hope to actually finish the book I started writing in November.

Oh! And I re-released Long Distance Love! Look at this gorgeous cover. If you haven’t read Jack and Ellie’s story, you need to. Grab your copy today!

Amazon ~ Apple~ B&N ~ Smashwords

Other bright spots this week included some quality time with a dog and her chicken:

And my friend, Kendra, gave me a Tribble!

Okay, it’s just one of those puffy keychains, but I like to think it’s a Tribble. What’s bright and shiny in your world this week?

 

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Monday Mayhem – A positively Gilmorian giveaway

Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I’ll LOVE & ROCKETS ya, tomorrow! It’s only a day away!

Love and rockets_final

Can’t wait for you to get to know Darla and Jake better!

In the meantime, I am still toiling away at the NaNoWriMo goals. I’m up to date and should finish on time. I have to admit, it’s been hard this year. The day job is super busy. As you know, there’s some birthday-ing going on around here (Fodder’s is tomorrow! Tomorrow! I’ll Love & Rockets him tomorrow!), there’s Thanksgiving on Thursday, and the year’s most anticipated event on Friday.

No, I’m not talking about Black Friday.

No, not even thinking about the (so-called) Battleline Rivalry game between Arkansas and Mizzou.

I’m talking Gilmore, and you know I am talking fast.

That’s right, this Friday, my pal Lulu and I will be snuggled in on my sofa with a smorgasbord of junk food, ready to live a year in the life with our beloved friends from Stars Hollow.

I CANNOT WAIT!

To celebrate, I’ll offer a little prize. Comment on this post with your favorite line from Gilmore Girls (any episode, any season, any character) and I’ll draw one name for a signed copy of LOVE & ROCKETS.

Did I mention that Darla is a spunky single mom of a brainy teenaged daughter? No? Yeah, well, you know how it is….

Now go forth and comment! I’ll pick a winner Friday, November 25th!

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Monday Mayhem – News edition

So, I’ve been sitting on this for a couple months:

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Official Announcement
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Unofficial-but-fun newspaper headline

That’s right! NaNoWriMo is about to start and I’m heading back into the cave to start work on book #2 in this series!

So if I don’t see you… Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll be back next Monday with an update!

Have a great week!

And Happy Halloween from my tiny-face pumpkin, Pumpito!

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Monday Mayhem – Sprinting

It’s going to be a bust week!

First off…did you see this?

a-bolt-from-the-blue

Pretty, huh? Mark your calendars for April 4, 2017 or pre-order now at your favorite e-tailer!

Secondly, FLIP THIS LOVE is on sale for $.99 this month!

Nothing draws a magnate like a steel magnolia...

Third – I’m giving away this adorable journal to one of my newsletter subscribers. If you aren’t on my list, enter your email address in the space on the sidebar >>>>>

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FOURTH!!! I’m sprinting to hit deadlines this week. I’m polishing up RANSOMED HEART (Silver Foxes #2, 2018) and scrambling to complete a novella for submission. Wish me luck!

And fifth – If I’m not downing a fifth of something boozy by the end of the week, it’ll be a miracle.

How about you? What’s happening in your corner of the world?

 

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Cover reveal!

It struck like A BOLT FROM THE BLUE! Here’s your first peek at the awesome cover art for my next Worth the Wait Romance coming in April 2017!

a-bolt-from-the-blue

True love, like lightning, never strikes twice—or does it?

As a free-spirited young woman, Hope Elliot was desperate to escape her snobbish high society family. So she ran off to Paris, where she lived for twenty-five years. Now widowed, she’s come home to settle her family’s massive lakefront estate. But before she can put her mother’s house on the market, it needs a major renovation. Enter master electrician Mick McInnes, a traditional guy who’s about to turn her life upside down . . .

Aside from the fact that Mick is hopelessly attracted to his latest client, Hope represents everything he doesn’t want in a woman. She’s ridiculously rich and adventurous, yet she doesn’t seem to know much about the real world. Besides, his policy is to never get involved with clients. But he can’t seem to resist the Chicago heiress’s sizzling advances—and soon enough finds himself in her bed, feeling like a teenager once again. And like teenagers, the two of them will just have to convince their families that opposites can not only attract, but they can also make the perfect match . . .

A Bolt From the Blue – April 4, 2017, Kensington/Lyrical Press

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