NaNoWriMo – a novel in a month

National November Writing Month… I’ve wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo for several years now, but I’m usually in the middle of a writing project when it starts. If you write year round, it can be trickier to plan a novel and start it on November 1. This year, however, I got an idea on Oct 30, and decided to jump in.

I’m still amazed that I did, but I finished on November 28 with 50,000 words.

What was the biggest thing I learned? It takes passion and excitement about your story to write that much in that short of a time. Because I’m also a freelancer, I had other writing and editing projects too. So my actual word count was around 80,000 for the month.

The second lesson was to use my creative time–I often worked on my novel at nine at night, when I have a really creative hour or two.

As far as my novel writing method, I’m not sure I’d recommend it to other authors, and especially not newer authors. But here goes:

I get an idea out of the blue (which actually means different things in my life suddenly mixing together) and once I see the story line, I start writing. With this story, and some before it, I busted out 10,000 words in the first day in my giddiness over the idea.

So at that point, I usually pause and realize I need some structure. I start putting in headers before my scenes (marked with Header 2 in Word) and open the Navigation Map, which displays an outline to the left of the text. I’ll start jotting down scene ideas too, right in the manuscript, so I have something to jump into when I sit down to write. I like keeping it all together in one file.

I write in a mostly linear way, but if I don’t feel too motivated on a section, I’ll jump to a different part. Then later, when I feel more focused, I go back and figure out why I wasn’t excited about that problem scene–because when it’s working, I love to write.

I haven’t always used this fly-through-the-novel method. When I began writing in grade school, I would create an outline and type it up on my electric typewriter. Then I’d write chapter by chapter, and if I changed the story, I retyped the outline.

Later on, I went through a phase in my twenties where I’d plan my novel, write it, and then go through a long revising stage where I’d rearrange the story and add quite a bit. A few times I even changed entire novels from third to first person and then back to third.

I think it’s all that writing that got me to my present method. But even though I jump right into it, I do have the story and characters clearly in my head. I even start by writing the book blurb. And on that note, here’s the blurb for my NaNoWriMo novel, Covetous:

Two couples are found murdered in their beds. The only link comes from their phone records, leading Detective Hounder to Lucy Marshal.

Lucy and her live-in boyfriend might be next on the hit list. She doesn’t know who she can turn to. If Luke knew the truth about Lucy, he would have more motive than anyone, but does he know? Her best friend Emma is someone connected to this mess—and hiding now. Her other close friend James was still in love with one of the victims…and involved with Lucy without knowing her connection.

She wants to hold onto everyone but can’t control the web she’s weaved around herself. Lucy can’t trust anyone anymore, not herself, and not the stranger leaving messages for her.

You may have noticed… it’s not like my previous novels. This is more of domestic thriller. (Murder mystery psychological thriller–is that a genre?)  I’m currently polishing the story, and adding to it because 50k is a pretty short novel, and then I plan to submit to agents. 

Will I try to write another novel in a month? We’ll see; maybe if I get another awesome story idea… like the sequel for this one.  

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Thanksgiving Giveaway!

It’s that time of year when we’re all thinking about the blessings in our lives and all we have to be thankful for. Many people are sharing daily on Facebook. I love making ‘thankful lists’ and do so throughout the year, either when I’m feeling especially blessed or when I need a reminder of the good things in life. This has been a very fun and rewarding year for me, thanks to the people in my life and because I can share my writing with so many of you out there.

I’m so thankful for all of you! So I’m having a Thanksgiving giveaway on Facebook.   To enter, go to my FB page, then like and share my contest post. 

Thanksgiving Giveaway Kristen James
Two winners will receive a $25 Amazon gift cards and eight winners will receive your choice of one of my ebooks. There are over 10 to choose from. I’ll pull winners this Friday (Nov 22) at noon PST. 10 winners total.

Hope you’ll enter — good luck! And thank you for connecting with me.

Summer Adventures

Sunset over the wilderness from a hiking trail

I love having a blog so I can share not just writing news, but pictures and stories from my different trips. This blog is full of photos from around Oregon that bring back great memories for me. I recently took the above picture while hiking on a wildlife reserve path near my home. The trail starts uphill right from the gravel parking lot and winds up into the hills. There’s several places to pause and look out over the valley on one side and the ridges of hills trailing off to the sunset on the other.

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It’s fun to travel far from home, but it’s also really nice to have places I enjoy so much close by too. It takes me just a few minutes to drive to the wildlife refuge, and I can also drive up the river to several different trails and waterfalls, and even farther to explore mountain lakes.  It’s all still in a day’s drive, and most of the hiking is kid friendly. My kids love to go hiking–it’s a tradition that started with my parents when I was young.

 

 

Hwy 101 and Florence on the Oregon Coast

Here’s a few pictures from this last weekend. I was craving clam chowder so my husband and I headed over to the coast. We’ve gone down to Coos Bay quite a bit, and I love it there, but we decided to drive north this time.  I went on quite a few trips as a kid with my family to Yachats and the area, so it was fun to revisit. Going to the coast means two main things: playing on the beach and eating seafood. We had chowder, fish and chips and found a new place called Tidal Raves at Depoe Bay. We shared seared scallops and cocoanut shrimp there. I LOVE scallops, and those were the best I’ve ever had.

(Of course we had a great time, but this is all research too! When I was writing Point Hope, I went and revisited all my favorite places in Coos Bay so I could include them. The Pancake Mill in Point Hope really is in Coos Bay, and they do have gluten free pancakes. You can also really visit Sunset Bay State Park.)

Can you guess where this is?

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It was snapped from the outside viewpoint of the Sea Lion Caves by Florence. The location has this viewpoint, and an elevator that takes you down 200 feet to sea level to look inside the world’s largest sea cave. It’s usually full of see lions that are busy barking and growling at each other.

I took the next picture from inside the caves, looking out over to the Heceta Head lighthouse.

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We drove north for a while after that and explored the beaches–we found a great little beach that was sheltered from the wind by a giant rock structure. Here’s me with my dog Deco exploring.

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We stayed in a cute little motel, and our room even had books in it! I happened to have some copies of Point Hope with me, so I left one there. 🙂

There are so many special places along the coast. Maybe I can include all of them in a story at some point!

Photos from Washington

We went north this last week for my husband’s family reunion in Washington. It seems like I end up driving through Washington a couple times a year, and I usually see something unusual along the way. Last time I saw what looked like horses standing on a trailer with just a strap to hold them there–it was fake horses of course. I also saw two drivers get into a road rage spat. I don’t know what started it, but I saw one driver throw a water bottle out of the sunroof and onto another car. That car sped up, passed on the shoulder, and tried to run the first car off the road. Scary! We backed off and let them get way ahead of us. Luckily I didn’t see any wrecks after that. I guess the heat got to some people. But dangerous drivers aside, it was a great trip.

Here’s a few pictures of the skyline as we drove through Seattle.

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This one captures what I think of in Northwest cities: tall buildings and tall evergreens!

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Space Needle!

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We stayed up next to the Canadian border for a few days and visited Birch Bay. It’s so different from the rough Oregon Coast! There aren’t any waves, and the water was warm compared to what I normally experience. We couldn’t wait to go change into swim suits! You can walk out for a couple miles if you wanted to, and we found crabs, fish and even a live jelly fish.

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We went back twice so we could swim and explore the beach. And even though we didn’t cross over into Canada, we took some pictures with Canada in the background.

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I returned home Monday and took off Tuesday for camping out by the South Umpqua River, so it was a fun and busy week. I was surprised (again) because the river was so warm. We go every year, and there’s been times when the river was so cold it burned when I jumped in. This time, it was more like cool pool water, and we played in the river for two full days. I came back in time for fireworks at the house with all our kids–it was great to watch them having so much fun. I did take some time to sit around the fire and work on plot ideas for the two stories I’m working on. Next week, it’s back to writing!

Point Hope is out on Kindle and Print!

Click here to preview and purchase on Kindle                       NOW AVAILABLE!

The mighty Pacific has a rugged, rough, unforgiving beauty—like Trey’s life.

 

After an IED brought his Navy career to an end, Trey became an EMT in his hometown of Coos Bay, Oregon. He struggles with PTSD, which affects his ability to do his job and connect with his family. His wife seems to be living life without him.

Rosette can’t figure out what happened to her marriage, or to Trey—the man she once so desperately loved. It feels like she’ll lose everything along with him. Meanwhile, he’s enclosed in his own world without her.

Their marriage is on its last legs when their family is faced with two deaths and an orphan. They’re already raising two young children and Trey’s teenage brother, Alex. Trey and Rosette make a shaky agreement: to play “family” for now so they can take care of Trey’s recently orphaned niece. But can faking it ever be enough?

It’s make-it or break-it time. If they split apart, who will raise Hope?

Read the first chapter.

Get it for Kindle here      Paperback

I’m so excited to share my latest novel with you–this is my biggest story yet. Point Hope is my longest novel, has a larger cast and more point of views. I so enjoyed working with the different people in the story, from the main couple Trey and Rosette, to teenager  Alex and troubled Summer. Several characters came to life and made the writing even more fun. It was an emotional journey, too, as writing all novels are.

If you’re from Coos Bay or have visited, you’ll recognize quite a few places and landmarks!

SNEAK PEEK:

Rosette awoke to the faint sound of Trey’s cell phone ringing downstairs. Funny how a mother wakes to the quietest noise, even a soft newborn cough. Thank the good Lord they were past those early years with the kids. She rolled over in bed to squint at the alarm clock.

It was midnight. Who would be calling him so late? It didn’t sound like he’d answered it, but he could be returning the call. Rosette sat up, feeling alternating chills and waves of heat, as she feathered out the suspicions creeping in. Did he think they’d already severed their tie, and he was now free to talk to other women?

The landline phone on the nightstand rang.

Her heart skipped a couple beats. Something had happened, she could feel it, but what could be worse than Ricky dying?

She always answered the phone with “hello,” but this time she picked up the phone and spoke with a shaky voice. “Yes?”

“Rosette?” a rough voice asked. Harry. Trey’s boss.

“Y-yes?”

“It’s Amanda. She has you and Trey down as her emergency contacts. We just brought her into the ER. We need you here right away. I tried Trey and couldn’t get him. Is he there?”

She said yes again and listened without hearing the rest of Harry’s words before ending the call.

OhMyGod OhMyGod OhMyGod. Rosette threw back the covers and ran out of the room, down the stairs, and into the living room, hitting the light switch on her way as she almost charged right into the couch.

She startled Trey so badly that he threw up his hands, flinching and turning away. Great. Not a  flashback now. She needed him.

“Amanda’s at the hospital. We need to go.”

He shielded his eyes from the light. “She’s in labor?”

A momentary relief sank through her, warm and comforting. Of course Amanda was just in labor. Why hadn’t she thought of that? Because Harry sounded… “I don’t know. Harry called and said she’s in the ER, and we need to get there right away.”

Autumn & Cory’s Wedding (The Cowboy Kiss)

What better way to end a love story than a wedding? I recently realized Cory and Autumn needed a wedding to end their romance in The Cowboy Kiss. This was really fun to write–my husband and I got married on the river too.

If you haven’t read the story yet, you can get it on Kindle for free,with the wedding scene included.

The Cowboy Kiss…

She’s a cutting-edge travel blogger—he’s a fishing guide with strong ties to their small hometown.

She thought they were arch enemies—he always thought they’d end up together.

 

If you’ve already read The Cowboy Kiss, here’s the new wedding scene:

People sat in chairs and on blankets to fill the riverbank under the oak trees. The sun wasn’t yet over the hilltop so the river appeared a deep green in the soft light. All along the opposite river bank, leaves decorated the oak trees in shades of red, pink, burgundy, orange and brown. A few of the colorful leaves had fallen in the water and dotted the river, floating along in the slow current. It was a breathtaking backdrop for a wedding, and even this late into the fall, it was a warm morning.

Lily sat at a piano, playing, and she faded the song and began with a distinctly familiar wedding processional. Every head turned toward the resort behind them, with some people whispering while others fell into a hushed pause. They were waiting for Cory to appear, of course, since he wasn’t standing up front with Pastor Andy. But no one stepped out of the resort.

The murmurs grew but were overtaken by motor noise. Andy turned to look downriver.

“Look over there!” A little girl squealed and pointed.

A drift boat motored upstream toward the pastor with Cory standing in front with his hands clasped, looking long and trim in his tux. Most people probably wouldn’t notice or remember his tux—except for the pictures of course—because his smile was so radiant, proud and expecting. For once, his hair wasn’t imprinted from his cowboy hat.

A photographer, hidden down by the water, snapped pictures of the tall, handsome cowboy with all of nature’s glory as his backdrop. Ripples fanned out from the boat, giving the reflection of the trees, boat and Cory a nice artistic effect.

His boat slowed and Cory hopped up the stairs. He smiled at the crowd and turned back toward the river.

Now Lily began the wedding march.

A boat came around the bend upstream, gently floating toward them. The crowd gave a collective, “Awwww!”

The bride wore a long, simple white dress that made her look even more beautiful and elegant. A crown of delicate flowers, in fall colors, adorned her curled blond hair. With the river behind her, and such joy in her eyes, she could have easily been the cover for a bridal magazine.

Autumn beamed, her eyes on her fiancé, until the boat glided to the dock. Her father stood at the back, guiding the boat, and then helped her out. Randy took her arm and walked her up front, where she grabbed him in a long hug.

Teresa had walked to the front to hug Autumn too, and then Randy and Teresa sat down together in the front row.

Autumn turned to Cory. He stepped closer and took her hands. A tear plopped onto her cheek and ran down her face. His eyes were shiny too.

Silence fell except for a robin chirping somewhere and the breeze humming in the oak leaves. Many weddings begin with, “We are here today…”

Not this one.

“Many years ago,” Pastor Andy began, “Young Autumn was busy digging worms in the yard to take fishing. Cory snuck up to see what she was doing, assuming she must be making mud pies. Well, she wasn’t, but Cory ended up getting a mud pie to the face by the end of the day.” He waited through the laughter. “That marked the beginning of a long friendship that grew into much more. Cory?”

“I’ve loved you a long time, Autumn,” Cory said, looking into her eyes. “Ever since we started walking home from school together, sharing snacks and talking about all our big ideas. Ever since we built that old tree fort in your apple tree and spent stolen hours there. Ever since I chased you around at grade school, and later when I chased you around for a date. Even when you left for college, I loved you. I came to understand that we each needed to grow into our own person. I loved you when you came back, and we discovered that link and love was there and stronger than ever. I’ll always love you.”

She felt more tears roll down her face. “I’ll always love you,” she mouthed.

They weren’t to that part but Cory suddenly leaned over and stole a quick kiss on the mouth—a cowboy kiss!