First Meet

Indiscreet cameraIn the world of romance novels, the “first meet,” the scene when the hero and heroine first lay eyes on one another, is an important hook for the reader, so I give my characters’ first meet a great deal of consideration when I begin a story. I for one, love amusing first meets, where the situation is a little embarrassing for one or both of the characters. Jill Shalvis and Kristan Higgins are known for their hilarious first meets.

Along this vein, in Ship of Dreams, my heroine gets her stiletto heel caught in a sidewalk seam and the hero rescues her (and her shoe). For the record, this actually happened to me — the heel in the sidewalk thing — not how I met my husband thing.

A romantic suspense might introduce danger into the first meet — the heroine is in the middle of a bank heist, and the hero is the cop who comes to the rescue. In a historical romance, the hero might see the heroine across a crowded room and wonder who she is.

I love real life first meet stories, too. I want to know if a happily married couple met on a sidewalk or in a hallway and did that little dance — you know the one where you try to pass one another but you keep shifting in the same direction, so instead you just keep running into each other. Or did they meet when she dropped an armload of books which landed at his feet? Or maybe he was lost (both literally and metaphorically), and asked her for directions (which she gave him, both literally and metaphorically).

My first meet story is nothing so funny or sweet. My husband and I were fixed up by a mutual friend. It was a pretty standard fix-up. Our mutual friend asked us both to meet her for drinks, and after an acceptable period of time, glanced at her watch and said she had to dash, leaving him to either behave like a gentleman and ask me out to dinner, or make up some excuse and get the hell out of Dodge. He asked me to dinner.

Dinner went pretty well. I found him fascinating. He was well-dressed, polished, and he’d traveled all over the world. When it was time to go, he politely walked me to my car — much to my chagrin — because the night before someone had stolen all four of my hubcaps and I had yet to replace them. Ironically, his gorgeous black Mercedes sedan was parked right next to my Chevy, which without hubcaps looked, well, ghetto.

He didn’t ask for my number, and I figured another one bites the dust. Did I mention he traveled? So about three weeks later my backline at work rang and it was HIM. Only our mutual friend had my backline, so I know he’d called her to get my number. He’d been traveling (as opposed to avoiding me), but he asked me out to dinner, and the rest, as they say, is history. That was twenty-two years ago. We’ll celebrate out twentieth wedding anniversary in May.

So, while our first meet wasn’t the stuff of romance novels, I have fond memories of it.

What’s your favorite kind of “first meet” story? Better yet, what’s your “first meet” story? The best story will win you a free download of your choice of one my romance novels and a $20 Amazon gift card. You can go here to tell me your story.




The Writing Process Blog Hop

I know! A blog post on a Sunday! What’s up with that?

I was asked by fellow Soul Mate Author, Christina Kirby, to participate in a Writing Process Blog Hop. Writing can be a messy business, and you know what they say about making laws and sausages – it is better not to see them being made – so read at your own risk. : -)

There are as many different writing processes as there are authors, so here’s an inside look at my writing process, with links below to other’s.

What are you working on right now?

I’m currently polishing Ship of Dreams, the second book in the Dreams Come True Series. The first book, Dreams of Perfection, was released in May, with Ship of Dreams scheduled for release in February 2015. I’m also hard at work with the preliminaries for Dreams of Her Own, the next book in the series. Writing often involves spinning a lot of plates, and making sure none of them stop.

How does your work differ from others in the genre? 

In the same way I differ from my best friend, my sister, and my neighbor. We’re all unique. We may all have blond hair, but I’m champagne, while my best friend is honey-blond, my sister is strawberry blond, and my neighbor is golden blond. The same applies to books in my genre, or any genre, for that matter. There may be a hundred friends-to-lovers books out there, but they’re all different. Dreams of Perfection adds a dose of humor and a dash of fantasy to the often-used trope.

Why Do You Write?

Because I have to. It’s what keeps me sane (even if there are little voices in my head). I went through a mid-life crisis (yes, they really do exist) a few years ago, and I think the reason I came out the other side in one piece was because of writing. I needed a creative outlet. I can’t sew, draw a straight line, play an instrument, or sing a note, but writing – well, that’s something I can do.

Those little voices in my head are my characters, talking to me, telling me their stories, and clamoring for me to write their stories down. I feel so privileged to share their stories ::wipes teardrop from eye::.

But seriously, writing allows me to explore my world, challenges me every day, and rejuvenates me after a long day in the salt mines. For me, a hard day at writing beats an easy day at my day job.

How does your writing process work?

This is where it gets messy. I’m what’s called a pantster – I fly by the seat of my pants – no outline, just an idea. I enjoy the journey of watching my story unfold, the same way I enjoy the journey of reading someone else’s story. I don’t know where it’s going to go, but being romance, I know it’s going to end with happily-ever-after.

Also, no two books have followed the same process, for one reason, because I learn from my mistakes with each book. I learn what works for me, and what doesn’t, so the process changes a little each time, hopefully getting not only better, but getting more efficient.

The inspiration also dictates how I write the book. You can read more about that here.

Some books start with a premise, like what would happen if a best-selling romance writer fell in love with her heroes, and one of them came to life a la Pygmalion? Dreams of Perfection was born from that one question. With that book, I had to come up with my characters, figure out who they were, what they wanted, and who or what stood in their way.

Other books start with the characters. With Ship of Dreams, I already had two characters who were competing for the same thing, but I didn’t know how they were going to achieve it, who was going to lose, and who was going to win.

Before I start a new book, I mull it over, allow it and the characters to percolate in my head. I get to know my characters, where they came from, what shaped them into who they are, and how they might need to grow in order to obtain what they want from life. And, of course, to get their very own happily ever after.

Then I begin. I spend a lot of time creating that first scene – the hook – that draws the reader in. I build the story scene by scene. When I get stuck, I skip to a scene I’ve been thinking about, and write it. At that point I may not know where that scene will go, but eventually I figure it out when I finally stitch the pieces together (and I said I couldn’t sew), until I have a complete quilt.

I research as I go, after having made the time-consuming mistake of researching things for my first book, that I never even used. I use the Internet, Google Earth, books, music and images for my research. For writing, I use Scrivener for Mac. Love it. I can store my research and images in my digital notebook and have it with me wherever I go. Because I never know when inspiration will strike, I use my Notes App on my iPhone to jot those things down.

In the end, I go through at least three drafts before the manuscript is polished and ready for my editor. Then there’s at least two more rounds of edits after that before it’s ready for prime time.

You can read a little more about my year-long writing process here.

To read more about the writing process, visit these authors:

Christina Kirby | Susan Kicklighter | Meda White | Alina Field




My Life as a Book

Sadly, it takes me a year to write a book. I wish it weren’t so, but with a full-time day-job and a non-profit foundation to run, there’s no way around it.

I recently finished Ship of Dreams (Book #2 in the Dreams Come True Series). Woohoo!  It took me — you guessed — a year, give or take. When I look back over that year, I remember wondering if I could pull it off.  If I could finish a book already under contract, on time. I really didn’t know.

spreadsheetBefore I began this series, I created an Excel spreadsheet (complete with ::gasp:: formulas) for the first book to keep track of my word count, and my weekly word count goals. I dutifully listed each Sunday date on the spreadsheet (the start of my word count week), for one full year. I replicated the same spreadsheet for Ship of Dreams.

I recently revisited that spreadsheet, analyzing my goals and whether I’d met them, and found — not surprisingly — there were days, even weeks, where little-to-no words were added. Then there were days, even weeks where the word count was off the chart. I could tell you by looking at those numbers where I was physically, emotionally, and intellectually. I can correlate my unproductive times to our non-profit’s “busy season,” to college football season (I live in a university town where football is practically a religion), to illness, and to just plain ol’ shiftlessness.

The same can be said for my productive times. I can pinpoint the three-day weekends, times when my hubby was out of town (or I was out of town), or, at the very end, when I had to get my butt in gear and finish the damn book.

When I reread my manuscript, I can even tell you where I was when I wrote a particular scene — at my writing desk, on my back porch, on a plane, or in a hotel room. And I can tell you how I was feeling about my writing and about my life at each step along the way.

Over the year it took me to write Ship of Dreams, I had surgery and recovered; fracturedOpen-Book my tibia (and recovered); attended writing conferences and day-job conferences; celebrated birthdays (including mine), holidays, and anniversaries; took a vacation; decided to own my gray and took steps to help Mother Nature along; and edited and released Dreams of Perfection, Book #1 in the Dreams Come True Series. I also learned a lot about myself and my writing.

So now, as I’m set to begin Dreams of Her Own, the last book in the Dreams Come True Series, and I create my word count spreadsheet, listing all those Sundays between now and August 31, 2015 (my contract deadline), I wonder what that year will bring, and where I’ll be on say December 21, 2014 or April 19, 2015. Hopefully in a good place, meeting or exceeding my word count goals, learning more about myself and my writing. And living.