Monday Mayhem – I’ve been up, down, all around…

I’ve been feeling completely unmotivated lately.

For most of this year, actually.

At first, I didn’t worry about it too much. I’d finished another NaNoWriMo in November. December had been its usual whirlwind, but with the special added bonus of a software conversion and move at the day job. Then January came, and I ran out of patience with the life I’d been living. Cue another big life change…

Is it possible I used up whatever motivation I had focusing on getting out of one day job and into the new one? Because, I don’t seem to have anything left for the writing. I’m even writing this blog post late because I am so daunted by the thought of facing this damn blinking cursor that I will do endless loads of laundry to avoid it.

It’s a phase, I know.

At least, that’s what I tell myself.

I can’t leave all those plot bunnies lingering in their hutch indefinitely. Something’s going to start to stink in there.

Every author knows the ebb and flow. Some stories pour out like water. Most are prized out with pliers. Genre fiction writers have been on a roller coaster ride for the last half-decade. As the authors who drive most of the revenue in the industry, we’ve been expected to produce more, faster, better, and cheaper than ever before. And we’ve answered the call…but at what expense?

My first book was published in 2011. Next week, my 33rd (A BOLT FROM THE BLUE) will hit the digital bookshelves. Crazy, huh? I’ve written and sold 33 novels and novellas in 6 years. Numbers 34-37 are already written and awaiting editorial. I’m scheduled for release through number 38 in the fall of 2018.

I should be riding high, right? I ought to be psyched. But mostly, I just feel tired. Like Madeline Kahn in Blazing Saddles tired.

This weekend, Fodder and I hit the flea markets and excavated some awesome old albums. I came home with this fabulous Barry Manilow double album. And while Sally may not appreciate my rendition of Weekend in New England, I totally understood where Barry was coming from when he sang about Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again.

There are times when I worry that I’ve fallen out of love with writing. Moments when I wonder if I could just walk away from it—leave all those bunnies in the hutch to battle it out until all that’s left is one single killer rabbit of a story with nasty, pointed teeth living in a deep, dark cave.

But I won’t. I can’t. So, I’m still meditating every night. I started doing yoga again. Mainlined Grace & Frankie season 3. And, hey, look—I just wrote a 500 word blog post whining about not wanting to write.

I just…need to find a way to get my storytelling groove back. I’m hoping the Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass album I scored for $2 will help.

 

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Monday Mayhem – Another first

I had my first day at the new job this week. I think I’ll let this picture speak for itself.

No, the fountain is not in my office.

Yes, it is free.

No, I haven’t figured out how to get my mouth under there without getting a Coke Zero in my eye, but hey, dreams do come true!

Rather than bore you with the details of the first week on the job, I thought we’d play a little game of firsts, then I’d introduce you to an author who is celebrating her first release this week!

**giveaway alert**

Thanks to all who chimed in last week. Congratulations, Michelle Kelly, I’ll be sending a signed copy of LOVE & ROCKETS out to you!

This week, play along and I’ll give one winner the choice of any book from my Maggie Wells digital backlist, or a signed print copy of the first book I ever wrote, CONTENTMENT. 

Here are the questions and my answers. Copy and paste into the comments, then replace my answers with yours. Ready?

  1. First job with a paycheck: Mr. Quick Hamburgers – my uniform was brown double-knit polyester.
  2. First celebrity crush: I think Donny Osmond edged Barry Manilow out as the first, but it was close.
  3. Title of the first book you remember choosing for yourself: ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET. I’ll let you guess why I picked it.
  4. Your first set of car keys unlocked a: 1976 Ford LTD Country Squire station wagon.
  5. First album you bought with your own money: Queen – A Night at the Opera
  6. First thing you eat most mornings: Yogurt
  7. How old were you the first time you got drunk/tipsy: 18-ish. I was a freshman in college, so I may have still been 17.
  8. Where did you have your first kiss: In the back of the Musicland store at College Hills Mall.
  9. The name of your first pet or first furry friend: We had toy poodles when I was born. Sisters named May and Gay. Sweet girls.
  10. The first street you lived on was: Washington

****

Tomorrow, one of my fellow Kensington/Lyrical authors, Kari Lemor, will know the thrill of seeing her work out there in the world. Hard to top that for a first… Please take a moment to check out this bit from WILD CARD UNDERCOVER. Congratulations, Kari!

All that glitters in Miami is not gold . . .

Lured in by a bad ex-boyfriend and the moonlight of Miami, Meg O’Hara is trapped in a nightmare situation, waiting tables for a crime boss and fearing for her life. When undercover FBI agent Christopher Shaunessy offers her a way out, she seizes it. Getting the goods on Salazar Moreno might not be easy, but she’ll do anything to be freed from her servitude and Moreno’s sexual advances, even if it means moving in with the charismatic agent.

Chris Shaunessy pretends to be Meg’s lover in order to keep her safe, but he steels his heart against further involvement. Passion has no place in the sordid world of organized crime. And yet, the closer they get to cracking the case, the stronger his feelings for the spirited waitress shine. It’s a dangerous game he’s playing, and taking Meg in his arms for real could prove a fatal misstep . . .

Excerpt:

“Does that man never have a day off?” Margaret Kathleen O’Hara grumbled, grabbing her tote bag and sarong to move surreptitiously along the chairs by the pool. If the hotel manager saw her here again she’d be toast. He’d more than toss her out. Threats to call the police had been thrown at her for months now. Although in her case, that might be a better deal.

With her eyes trained on his location and the Miami sun beating down on her exposed skin, Meg backed along the water’s edge attempting to leave the area before he spotted her. She needed to shower the chlorine out of her tangled hair and change for work soon. He looked in her direction and she rushed behind the closest object. It was six-foot-plus of blond-haired gorgeousness. The man’s eyes were glued to something on the upper deck. Her boss was sitting there with one of his expensive bimbos. Did Blondie like that type? Maybe he wouldn’t notice her little game of .

She leaned around him, ducking back when she saw the Pool Nazi still present. Getting caught was not an option. She already owed more than she could ever repay.

“Are you okay?” Forest green eyes stared down at her, puzzled. Would he buy that she was simply looking for shade? He was big enough to provide it.

With strong hands, he reached for her shoulders and Meg reflexively batted them away. She got enough of people groping her at work. Scorching curses froze before erupting from her mouth as the hotel manager moved, staring in their direction. Her mind kicked into overdrive, scrambling for a way to hide in plain sight.

“Sorry,” she squeaked. Grabbing the man’s head, she planted her mouth solidly on his. Short, thick strands of hair tickled her fingers. Firm lips yielded no resistance to the increased pressure of her mouth. Better make this look good.

An electric current skittered over her skin causing her heart to race. Maybe too good? Slowly he pulled her closer with his muscular arms. Her eyes flew open and she broke the connection. His hair-covered chest was too close for comfort. And much too tempting. Distance, she needed distance.

Her eyes darted around, seeing no signs of the manager. A sigh escaped. Time to make her exit as well.

“Sorry,” she mumbled again, looking up. Big mistake. The stranger’s curious eyes captivated her. They were soft and tender and filled with something she could…trust? If she still had any of that left in her. His hands were gentle as they held her. A tiny smile played about the full lips she’d brazenly kissed. She couldn’t believe she’d done it. Her mother would be appalled. But it had worked.

The chlorine scent from the pool faded into the background as sweat and suntan lotion wafted off the man’s damp skin. Her stomach did cartwheels followed by a few back flips. Dangerous.

“Let me go,” she hissed as reality returned. She gave a swift shove at his well-defined pectorals, rushing to get past, to escape from this distraction and the possibility of being caught. Her head whipped around at the sound of a splash and water droplets from behind. Gorgeous was just breaking the surface of the pool. Had she pushed him that hard?

“Oops.” No time for apologies. He looked like the forgiving type. She had to blow this joint before the Pool Nazi came back. Grabbing her fallen sarong, she ran across the deck to hustle inside the luxury hotel.

“Damn.”

The manager stood sentry near the front door. A crowd appeared at her back making that way impossible. The stairwell to the left would have to do. She’d go up a few floors then down to the side entrance. She wrapped her sarong around her as she carried out her plan to avoid being seen…and caught.

Meg should stop coming here to use the pool: this proved it. Sneaking in was adding to her already hellish life but swimming always helped work out the stress and the pool here was more accessible than any other on the strip. Pretending she had money to stay in a place like this, rubbing elbows with all the beautiful people, yeah, that got her through too. She’d learned the best times to come and not be seen. Well, for the most part. It was well worth the risk to get away from her dump of a room and its enchanting neighborhood. She’d leave this all behind her soon. She kept telling herself that. Had to believe it for her own sanity.

Footsteps behind her pushed those thoughts away. Her bare feet padded silently along the lushly carpeted hallway. Heart racing, she ducked into the ice machine alcove, her sigh echoing in the silence. She glanced down. Her bag? She must have dropped it as she rushed off. How had she not realized? It couldn’t have been the threat of being arrested. Or the crooked smile of the handsome stranger she’d kissed. The one with the kind eyes and gentle hands. No, she couldn’t allow herself to be led astray by a pretty face. Not again.

She continued down the hall, her trip cut short when someone grabbed her by the arm and spun her around.

* * * *

Buy it now!

Follow Kari Lemor on her website:  http://www.karilemor.com/

FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/Karilemorauthor/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/karilemor

Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/karilemor/

Good reads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9756283.Kari_Lemor

 

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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 – Shake it up!

So…life took a couple of turns for me last week. I turned the first book in the new Play Dates (Kensington/Lyrical 2017-2018) series in to my editor, and, I turned in my two-week notice at the day job.

While I’d love to say I’ll be writing for a living, that’s not the case…yet. What it came down to was the need to make a choice for happiness. And, extreme caffeination. For that reason, I chose to try something new. I’m going to work for our local Coca-Cola distribution center.

As Fodder pointed out, the only job that might have been a better fit for me would be some sort of quality assurance for at Steak ‘n Shake. 😉 Mm. Steakburgers. *sigh* A girl can dream.

This is another big step for me, but one that I think really highlights my evolution through my 40s. I went into this decade of my life with a lot of “somedays” in the back of my head. You know the kind. They sound a lot like, “Someday, I’ll write a book.”

My adventures in publishing have given me so much more than a sense of personal accomplishment. I’ve had to learn to accept and embrace criticism and rejection. I don’t like either of those two, but I can deal with it. And because I can, I now have the courage to make choices based on my potential for happiness.

The main thing I’ve learned in this decade is that life is too short. There’s no guarantee that you’ll ever see Someday. All we have is THIS day.

So, do something risky today. It doesn’t have to be big, or life altering, or even thrilling. Just take a chance, make a leap, do something that makes this day different from all the others. If it doesn’t work out the way you hoped, try something else.

Life is a series of chances, not a one-and-done.

The only true failure in life is the failure to make an attempt.

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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 – Hello, December!

Well, here we are! It’s December. NaNoWriMo #8 is in the bag, and the 1st draft of Play Dates #2 is 4/5+ done!

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I started tracking my #31brightspots this week. I’ve been sharing them on Twitter and FB, but here are the highlights so far:

12/1/16 Walking in the door and hearing this guy squeal, “Moogie!” Day = made. #31brightspots

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12/2/16 – Fodder got me Labrador socks! Now he’s taking me and Sally to Sonic! #31brightspots

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12/3/16 – “Writing” at Panera with Kim Ward McPhersonParker KincadeLacey Thacker Meislohn, and Brinda Berry. My bright spots for today! #31Brightspots

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It’s not too late to join in. Just pick a bright spot (no picture required) and share it with the world!

Now that we’re into December, I’m in full blown planning mode for 2017. I’ll probably be doing some updating around here, so if there’s something you would like to see from me, please let me know!

Happy Monday, my friends! Hope you have so many bright spots it’s hard to choose!

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Monday Mayhem – Thankful

It was Thanksgiving in the States this past Thursday. If you read the news (and my Twitter feed), you’d think that there was little to be thankful for in America, but I think we can all agree that the media skews things a tad, right?

Right.

Yes, there are things happening that no one likes, but there are so many more things happening that are good. Family and friends spending time together, neighbors helping neighbors, and all of the many, many blessings that we enjoy – food, shelter, clothing, Netflix, bubble baths, nacho cheese Doritos, books…

The month of November was a rough one – I won’t deny that. There’s an ever-growing cadre of us who believe all of 2016 can go and stuff it now. I even gave up putting slips of paper in my happiness jar sometime around April. It wasn’t that good things weren’t happening. It’s just that they kind of got buried under the headlines.

But I’m going to try to go out on a high note. I have until Wednesday to squeeze in my NaNoWriMo numbers. I’m over 45k as of this writing, and should be able to make it again. If I do, I’ll post my winner-winner-chicken-dinner badge here next week.

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The end of NaNo means Thursday is December 1st. Yeah, I know, duh. But this is the last month in what many of us consider one of life’s crappier years, so I’m going to try to see it through as in the same way I hope to start 2017 – full of positivity.

For the month of December, I’m going to try to write one happy/positive thing down each day. Doesn’t have to be anything big or monumental, just bright spot. When I prepare this post on Sunday evenings, I’ll update you on what I’ve collected, then put it all together in the end. I may even tweet a few, just to counteract all the other stuff in my timeline.

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31 days of bright spots. Should be totally doable. I bet you can too. Who wants to play along?

P.S. In case you missed me blabbing all over the place – LOVE & ROCKETS released last week. Please read. Please review. Please tell your friends to do the same. *puppy dog eyes*

P.P.S. I can’t even with the Gilmore Girls yet. Still processing so much of it, but let me just say: Like Lorelai, I’m happy. So happy I haven’t even had a single fanfic idea. Thanks for making my life easier, ASP! *ducks and runs*

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Monday Mayhem – A positively Gilmorian giveaway

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

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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 – It has begun

Here it is, November again. That means it’s NaNoWriMo again!

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This is my 8th go-round with NaNo, and each time it proves to be a formidable foe. This year, I’m working on book #2 of my new Play Date series (working title: Easy Bake Lovin’)

I’m just over 12k in and cruising right along. Check back with me in a week or so, I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune by then.

I love this challenge. It’s crazy and it’s a killer, but there’s nothing like chasing a number.

Wish me luck!

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