Category Archives: Writing

So, nanowrimo

Nanowrimo what? National Novel Writing Month, aka the frenzie in November every year in the writing world. Did you join in? I’ve never participated in Nanowrimo because the timing has never worked out. I haven’t been at the starting point for a novel before November, and I have a pretty set schedule (or rather habit) of writing a novel in three months. I tend to write three novels a year plus a novella or other project, and this year I added in translations. I’m working with translators, but I need to answer questions quite often. So I’ve never felt compelled to time a project with nanowrimo, but sometimes I’ve wished I could.

However, it hit me just the other day that I started and finished a novella this month, and was able to send it to three beta readers within the 30 day period. I have a completed and polished novella, blurb, cover and even the series planned out.

I’ve read a few articles about nanowrimo rebels that make up their own guidelines, so I guess I can say I’ve done that now! My project isn’t a 50,000 word rough draft, but I think I’m happier with having something competed and ready to upload to Kindle. I already published three full length novels, and I had a blast working with this shorter format. I’m picturing my new series much like a television show with episodes: each novella has its own story questions, conflict and arc, and there’s a bigger story at play as well.

Writing a novel is a long journey. Writing a novella is like a fun adventure, with quicker pay offs, but a challenge of telling a full story in one third of the length. I was able to send it out for feedback and get comments within a few days. It showed me the weak points. I revised, added content, and then went through the entire novella several times to work on different aspects. I can perfect every scene and each element of storytelling, all within a month’s time. I hope to publish a new novella about once a month, and I plan share more about this adventure along the way.

Congrats to all the Nanowrimo participants! Even if you didn’t end up with 50k words, it’s quite an undertaking, and you still have a great chunk of material to work with. (And I think that’s the point.) Hope it was fun as well. :)

A story behind a story

Do you like behind-the-scenes stories that show you how a movie or book came about? I love learning what inspired a great story. The other day I was skimming through my journal and noticed something new about how I got the idea for It’s All In My Head. On February 6th, my husband and I planned to drive to Eugene to watch Jerry Seinfeld. We were super excited, to put it mildly. Then… a giant snowstorm hit and buried Eugene in snow and ice. It was fifty degrees here, an hour and a half south of Eugene, so it was extra frustrating. The show wasn’t cancelled, either, so we emailed our tickets to someone who could use them. That night, we watched the start of the winter Olympics instead. I got hooked on watching the snowboarders and their tricks in the halfpipe, flying twenty feet up into the air to flip upside down. It’s amazing what they can do. The following Monday, I was driving on our country highway and looking the pretty green hills here when a book idea hit me. I wrote 10,000 words in a week.

So if I got to see Jerry Seinfeld, I might not have watched the Olympics and gotten that idea. Funny, huh?

The book flowed at an amazing rate–the idea took over my life the way Marcus took over Avery’s!

By the way, here’s the inspiration for Marcus, a real snowboarder who competed in the Olympics, Sage Kotsenbrug. He thought he was after a gold medal… and didn’t realize he was inspiring a book! If you’re not familiar with him,  Wikipedia says, “He won the first ever Olympic gold medal in men’s snowboard slopestyle at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russa, and became the first gold medalist at these Olympics.”

Marcus  - Sage Kotsenburg

This is a photo I snagged from his FB to help me write my novel.

The character of Marcus is fictional, of course, with his own quirks and beliefs. I was mostly inspired by Sage Kotsenburg’s attitude, and then his determination. I was surprised when I listened to all of the snowboarders talk–they were competing in a highly competitive, international stage, but many were funny, supporting each other, and enjoying themselves. Like, really enjoying themselves and the love of what they could do on their board. That’s what I wanted to capture in my character, Marcus.

I’m not sure where the story idea really came from–it just hit me, what if some normal girl had the voice of one of those guy’s in her head all of a sudden?

If you’re wondering about Avery, I had a picture of her in my mind and happened to come across a picture in Glamour magazine that matched what I envisioned. So I clipped this and kept it in my inspiration folder.

M AveryI was after an off-beat, unique beauty. People are beautiful in their own way, and there’s so many different faces and traits.

The story developed into all kinds of layers. Avery had a crush who was starting to take notice. She also had some pain in her past, ambition and plans, and a weird situation with her friends: her bestie is with her ex, and they all hang out together.

I took the manuscript through a week-long workshop and found even more emotional depth and complications, so by the end of the writing process, I had my longest and most complicated book. It’s about two opposite people thrown together who learn to see the beauty in each other, all while Marcus is a voice. I called it an inside-out love story, because yes, it’s very romantic and (I hope) surprising.

Here’s the blurb for the story that resulted in all of this:

He’s taking over her life, but is he even real?

Avery Waldorf wakes up from a concussion to find a voice inside her head—an adventurous male voice belonging to Marcus, who doesn’t know where he came from, but has an opinion on everything about her life. She just wants to work on her screenplay, go to her writing classes and flirt with the guy of her dreams, Nash, who is finally noticing her.

Marcus wants to get up at dawn, run, snowboard, and basically take over her life, and even her body at times. He thinks she’s freaking hot and does not like Nash touching her. Marcus may be smart, talented at snowboarding, drawing and playing the guitar, but he’s not real! When she needs help, she has to call Nash.

She can’t tell anyone about Marcus without sounding like she’s crazy. Meanwhile Marcus doesn’t know where he’ll go if he leaves her mind. Maybe she is losing it…

* * *

It’s All In My Head is on special for 99 cents this month in Kindle, or you can get a gifted copy by signing up for my newsletter.

Why am I running a special and giving away copies? Because November is my birthday month :) and I want to share this awesome story with you.

New Release: It’s All In My Head

So… It’s All In My Head is out!!

It's All In My Head

Avery Waldorf wakes up from a concussion to find a voice inside her head—an adventurous male voice belonging to Marcus, who doesn’t know where he came from, but has an opinion on everything about her life. She just wants to work on her screenplay, go to her writing classes and flirt with the guy of her dreams, Nash, who is finally noticing her.

Marcus wants to get up at dawn, run, snowboard, and basically take over her life, and even her body at times. He thinks she’s freaking hot and does not like Nash touching her. Marcus may be smart, talented at snowboarding, drawing and playing the guitar, but he’s not real! When she needs help, she has to call Nash.

She can’t tell anyone about Marcus without sounding like she’s crazy. Meanwhile Marcus doesn’t know where he’ll go if he leaves her mind. Maybe she is losing it…

Amazon    Kobo   Smashwords   Nook      Teaser Below!

This is my longest book to date, my first time writing in first person, and my first college age romance. I’m excited! It was such a fun book to write, and Avery and Marcus came to life. You might remember my writing challenge: that I want to write books that different, unique, and beyond what I’ve written before. This story is fun, flirty and very emotional, and full of surprises.

***

It’s All In My Head TEASER:

Then, mid-class, I realized that instead of paying attention, I was looking down at my notepad, sketching instead of taking notes or even trying to listen. It took a few slow seconds for me to see that I was drawing myself. And I don’t draw.

I stared in horror like it was a dead rat. Holeeee hell. Really, I can’t draw at all, and this was pretty good. Really good. I mean, it looked like me, even with expression.

Marcus, is that you drawing?

Oh … sorry. Bored out of my mind.

You’re good.

Wow, is that a … what do you call that? Oh, a compliment.

I scanned the few people around me who could see my desk. No one was looking my way.

How do you know what I look like when you’re on the inside, looking out?

I’ve seen you in the mirror.

He got all this from a few glances in the mirror? Marcus had a fine memory.

You have very striking looks. Now can I please get back to my artwork?

Worried and yet fascinated, I watched my own hand move the pencil in confident strokes, filling in my lips. When had Marcus been able to study me that much? The only time he saw my face was when I looked in the mirror. Speaking of my face, it got hot—for several reasons. First, I was drawing myself. I’d die if anyone noticed. Second, it blew up some of my theories about Marcus, or what was causing all this. If I can’t draw, I can’t make up a person who can, right? And third, he was drawing me in a certain mood. I looked … suggestive.

Excuse me, Marcus, but when have you seen that look on my face?

I have an imagination. A very vivid one at times.
Read the first 10% on Amazon.

My new writing goal (challenge)

There’s more books coming out each day than ever before, in all of history, which can be daunting to an author who doesn’t want to get lost in the tsunami of reading material available. Every year I set goals to improve as a writer, and then I read novels, read books on writing, and write. This year I went to a week long writing workshop. For the last couple of years, my goals included writing longer, deeper, more meaningful books.

Then, while writing It’s All In My Head, something clicked for me: an obvious epiphany, I guess, but I realized each new book I write has to have something completely new and different about it, something unique to offer above an awesome story that moves readers. I’ve known on some level for a while that a book needs to have a twist on common themes and story lines to catch readers’ attention, but I really feel it and understand it now. I’ve tried to offer that in previous books, giving reader a new perspective and kind of story. My married romances are a bit different, and I like to stretch normal romance genre rules, too. I like to think I write love stories that readers outside of the romance genre can enjoy. This new goal is beyond even that.

Here’s what I’m thinking: If the story isn’t new and different, why write it?

Maybe you just thought, “Duh!” But it’s a scary thing to put out there as an author. Think about it – are most new books really that different from what’s been written?

I could be wrong. Readers might want the same thing over and over. You know, you go to a certain author due to their brand, and you know what to expect. On the other hand, I want each new book to be special, even while having my voice and signature characters. So I’m challenging myself to offer something new and special in each new book.

Celebrate the Art

A lot of authors write about what success means to them in this ever changing world of publishing. I’ve thought and written about different levels of success, and something really struck me lately.

When my son finishes a drawing, that’s the end of the process. He accesses how he did, shares it and maybe saves it if it’s a really good one. He gets to feel successful and proud of himself right then and there—because he did a good job and put his best effort into it. Do you remember that feeling? You showed your picture to your mom, who proclaimed it beautiful, and you went away feeling great because you created something.

I did have a moment like that with my very first one. I wrote it on an electrical typewriter somewhere around the 6th or 7th grade. I remember shaking from excitement as I called my best friend and read her the last page. I finished a book! I did it!

In writing, at least as an adult, finishing a book is just a step in a much bigger process. Sometimes it’s easy to forget to celebrate that moment of the journey. Why? Because nothing happens. As adults, we’re waiting for the results. It’s not always about external results. In fact, relying on those external rewards can leave you feeling empty.

There’s a moment during the writing process where the novel really comes together for me. It happens when the idea is down and developed along with the plot and characters. There’s a moment, even before the draft is done, when I realize I have something good. It’s better than my previous books. The idea is different. I love spending my day with my characters. I feel proud of what I’m making, even if it’s not all of the way done yet. This moment is for me, when I can celebrate adding a new book to my body of work. It’s my success moment.

I recently took a two hour painting class with my son. The instructor walked us through painting a parrot. Mine turned out looking like a gorilla bird with very wide shoulders and a strong face. My son’s turned out like a happy Toucan. We have our paintings hanging together on the wall now and plan to take more classes. He’s a dedicated artist, putting in hours and hours, much like I did with writing when I was ten. It’s a huge joy to share his journey with him, and it reminds me that creative endeavors are about the art, whether it’s painting, drawing or stories. It reminded me to celebrate finishing a book, even if it’s not out there yet for people to read. I finished this book! I did it!

Where in the world is Kristen?

My title sounds like this will be a travel blog, but actually, I thought people might be wondering why I haven’t blogged in a while. I’m buried under words, thousands and thousands of words…

Two weeks ago, I went to the Breakout Novel Intensive Workshop taught by Donald Maass. It’s organized through Free Expressions Literary with Lorin Oberweger, who is one of the one-on-one instructors. I got to meet with five writing instructors who had read the beginning of my novel, and each meeting changed the book! I had heard this was a life changing experience for many authors, and I have to agree. Even after studying Donald Maass’ books and online articles, I learned so much about the craft of writing. The week long workshop shows writers how to take all of that advice and apply it directly to the work in progress. We had class in the morning with Don, and then writing time and meetings in the afternoons, for a week. I should clarify that “class” means interactive learning, where we dug into different students’ works to see how the methods actually worked. I changed my title, doubled my plot line, worked on upping the conflict and tension throughout the book, and worked on different ways to show emotion on the page. I learned SO MUCH and yet the best part of the experience was spending a week with industry professionals and almost 40 other authors.

I think my novels have delivered emotional impact, but I wasn’t sure how my current storyline would do that. So I learned how to expand my current work in progresss with deeper emotions, much more plot and more character development. That’s a lot of writer talk that means this story will be HUGE! And by HUGE, I mean emotionally. And I’m so excited about the storyline too.

If you’ve missed my updates, I’m working on It’s All In My Head, which I was calling Star Struck for a while. Avery wakes up after a concussion with a male voice in her head. That’s just the starting point. (The ending point is how Avery and Marcus have taken over my head!)   So back to writing I go…

Costa Rica – sneak peek

Costa Rica (preview the first chapter on Amazon.) 

You can read the first 10% of any book on Amazon so I like to share from other parts of the book. This is near the beginning, before they leave Oregon:

Costa Rica by Kristen James

She barely registered when the front door swung open. Drew walked into the hallway and dropped his keys in the dish. The hallway light flicked on.

“Holy mother!”

His squeal spooked her into sitting straight up, and remembering why she’d been waiting for him. “Drew?”

“Annalisa? You scared the bejesus out of me. What are you doing sitting in the dark?”

She didn’t immediately answer. That must have clued him into her mood and he stepped closer, leaning on the door frame to wait. They’d always been straight with each other (ironic, isn’t it?) and skipped the lead ups.

“Vincent’s cancer came back. There’s another tiny tumor. It’s not treatable anymore.”

The air swooshed out of him. “Oh.”

He stood for a minute and then walked into the living room and slumped down in the recliner across from her. This was a painful moment, but he didn’t rush to her. He didn’t even sit with her. They sat in silence except for his occasional exhale. Drew didn’t really cry–this was as close as he ever came.

The light was just a soft one from the hallway, but it seemed too bright for this conversation. She waited a long time before speaking again. “They asked us to come over Friday night for a barbeque. I said we’d bring a salad. Vincent would have called you, but he said it’s been hard to get a hold of you.”

That last little line had a wealth of ill will. She’d been shell-shocked till that moment, but then she realized Drew had let his best friend down. Didn’t Drew understand that? Vincent was fighting for his life, and Drew was busy chasing skirt. And what if she had needed him? He hadn’t been there for her either. He had slowly and quietly packed up his emotional ties to her and left a shell. Her guilt, for that moment, evaporated.

Drew said not a word in response. Once upon a time this handsome man had been her rock, her friend and her guiding light. Now she wanted to slap him.

He finally realized she was glaring at him and glanced at his wristwatch. “It’s way too late to call him.”

“Yeah, it’s almost midnight.”

“You were out way past midnight just yesterday.”

“But I don’t do that all the time…” Her thought lost steam. “I’m not the one…”

Drew looked at her, really gazed into her eyes. His expression showed alarm and then dread. There it was, out in the open. Maybe they weren’t going to say it, but he had to know she was suspicious.

She had not once ever, ever doubted him. Even as they drifted apart, she didn’t question him, check up on him or wonder what he was doing. She envisioned a crack racing across that large stone bridge of trust, and it fell in a loud, painful crash.

She got up and went upstairs to bed. Drew never followed.

 

COSTA RICA

Annalisa and Drew have always dreamed of going to Play Flamingo, Costa Rica, with their best friends, Vincent and Melinda. But now they’re out of time.

Annalisa feels their marriage is just a shell for others to see–there’s nothing left inside. She wonders if they can rekindle their love in paradise, but there’s so little left. They gave up on their marriage along with their dream of having children.

Time is literally slipping away from Vince and Mel. Vincent’s cancer is back–his tumor is inoperable and he won’t do chemo again. This trip is now or never.

Costa Rica – the trip that inspired my novel

I realized I went to Costa Rica before I began blogging so I’m not sure if I’ve ever shared any photos. I did write about getting the idea while on the trip, actually while walking on the beach. I wrote a summary in my journal then and even started the story after we returned, but it would be three years later when I finished the project. There were all kinds of little details that I incorporated into the book–I’m finding more and more that I love to use a real setting so I can find little things to make the story come to life.

We stayed by Playa Flamingo, just like my characters, and walked or rode bikes around the area for ten days, through warm rainstorms and sunshine. We went in July, the wet season, and I set the book around the same time so I could describe the area as I experienced it. My characters went to the same restaurants and beaches we did, although I made up the resort at the end to make the plot work. Annalisa and Drew even rented bicycles from Claudia as we did. We were riding along on a muddy road in our swim suits, barefoot, when a Tico waved and called “hello,” and I used that in the book too.

While the book is filled with tension and conflict, along with high moments and the beauty of Costa Rica, our trip was all fun. My husband has an uncle living in Costa Rica, and we ate a few authentic meals with his tios and got advice on navigating the area and culture. We also went fishing off the beach for rooster fish…and I ended up catching  sting ray. We took turns fighting what we thought was a fish for forty minutes while a crowd gathered, but when we got it in closer we realized what it was. Luckily for us, the line snapped and we didn’t have it free it by hand.

We spent our time walking or riding all over the place, to different beaches and places to eat. Getting away from our normal lives gave us space and time to think, and that sparked my creativity and my new story idea.

When it was time to return home, we rode the local bus back to Liberia and the airport, which was a fun experience in itself. A man stood up during the ride to play a guitar and sing. Then we stayed in an ancient motel–the building was 200 years old. We just don’t see that in Oregon. I think we spent something like fifteen bucks for the room.

Here’s a few of my pictures:

 

honeymoon 004 honeymoon 006  honeymoon 010 honeymoon 019  honeymoon 040 honeymoon 041 honeymoon 042

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

honeymoon 037

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few fun little things. Whenever we were out walking, we would hear or see big iguanas fall out of the palm trees. It didn’t seem to hurt them. There were also little geckos everywhere that chirped at night. We spotted glowing fish in the waves. While walking through the jungle to the beach, we saw hundreds of tiny bright orange crabs. There was color everywhere and new things to see. Of course I’m dying to go back!

Because I live close to the Oregon coast, it was hard not to contrast the two places. I hinted at that in the book, too. The rugged and wild Oregon coast, where the book begins, captures how the characters feel. Then, in peaceful and tropical Costa Rica, they begin to work through their problems and discover what’s important to them.

I want to share a sneak peak from the book too, but I’ll make a separate post for that.

My 100th Blog Post!

It was almost three years ago (and 100 posts!) when I started this blog/website. That was right after I had launched my author page on Facebook. It’s been an amazing three years with my professional life centered around what I love to do. And oddly enough, I’m most thankful that I can see lots of ways to grow as an author. It really is about the journey and not the destination! I like to think I’m still in the beginning of a fulfilling and exciting adventure, one with lots of twists and turns and milestones to celebrate, and more importantly, people to share it with. :)

I’ve shared about quite a few hikes over the last couple of years, but I have so many more places to go. Of course I want to revisit all my favorite places in Oregon. That’s one thing I love about where I live: all the hiking and wild areas to explore in the mountains and on the coast. I’ve started visiting Eastern Oregon more and finding a different kind of beauty there. I recently learned there’s a small number of moose living in the North Eastern corner of Oregon, and I’ve been dreaming about exploring there in the summer and seeing if we can spot them. They’re some of the smallest moose and have little antlers. So here’s to new horizons and more writing!

I thought I’d celebrate my 100th blog by adding another freebie to my list – this one is free today and tomorrow. If you haven’t read The Cowboy Kiss, now’s the time! It’s short, fun and flirty. This joins my two perma free books, Embers of Hope and The Fairy and Her Giant.

Here’s a view back at my house (somewhere out there) from a hike to a mountain top.

20140101_154918 - Copy

 

 

 

A Change of Pace, new work in progress, and a few updates

There’s reasons to love every season, but it seems most people like the feeling of change that comes with autumn and spring. Changing things up is exciting. I was looking back to last year, and remembered writing Point Hope in January and February. That story was a change from romance to married romance and family drama. It kicked off a phase, I guess, because Costa Rica also features a married couple, and then In a Field of Oranges is an emotional romance but with heavy undertones.

So far this year, I’ve been busy publishing Costa Rica and In a Field of Oranges, and starting a new project. It’s a very different kind of story for me, but it’s one of those that began with a sudden spark. I’m writing in first person, with a new genre of New Adult, and with a somewhat unique format with two main characters sharing thoughts. While I’m a bit nervous about how my readers will react to something so different from my previous books, I’m always happiest with these ideas that come on in a flash. Point Hope started that way: a big figurative boom went off and a story exploded into existence, then I raced to write it.

I’ll share the blurb and a sneak peek below. First, some news on More Than Memories – the audiobook is in the final stages of production, so I hope it’ll go live in March. I also recently sold the German rights to AmazonCrossing, and they’re producing that version for release later this year. I’m excited about my first book in German! I still get excited about Trent and Molly’s story; they were such great characters to work with.

So, here’s more info on my work in progress.

Star Struck – working title.

Avery Waldorf wakes up from a concussion to find a voice inside her head. An oversexed male voice belonging to Marcus, who doesn’t know where he came from, but has an opinion on everything about her life. She just wants quiet so she can read, go to her English classes and flirt with the guy of her dreams, Nash, who is finally noticing her that way. Marcus wants to get up at dawn, run, snowboard, hike and basically take over her life. She can’t tell anyone without sounding like she’s lost it. Meanwhile Marcus doesn’t know where he’ll go if he leaves her mind. Maybe she is losing it…

A Tiny Teaser:  (This is close to the opening, when she first finds this strange man in her head.)

“Morning.” The voice belonged to a fifty-or-so doctor in a white coat, salt and pepper hair, and a kind smile, and he was sitting on a stool or something right next to my bed. His square jaw and warm brown eyes projected safety and serenity. Encouraged, I tried to take in my settings. The room around him was painted cream but the light was too bright.

“Hi…” My voice came out like everything was okay. Maybe it was.

“You took quite the tumble yesterday.” He gave me a fatherly smile. “So I’m very happy to see you’re awake and alert. I’m Dr. Hartley. Can you tell me your name?”

Marcus.

What? I glanced around but didn’t see anyone else.

The doctor’s head shifted to the side, just slightly, and one eyebrow moved. My hesitation worried him. But I knew my name. Duh. “Avery Waldorf.”

Marcus. My name is Marcus.

Dr. Hartley relaxed. “Oh, good, Avery. Do you know what day it is?”

“It was Saturday when I crashed down the mountain. February second.” Why, oh, why did I go with them? I could have stayed home, read my book, drank cocoa and pretended it was snowing outside.

“Ah, yes. Now it’s Sunday morning. It sounds like you’re doing great. We ran a scan yesterday, and everything looked good to go.”

I tried to smile, and even that sent a whiplash of pain through my head.

He stood and went to the bag up on a pole, checking the level I guess. After making a note on the chart in his hand, he smiled at me again. “I’ll send a nurse for your morphine. The pain should clear up shortly. We’ll probably keep you for the day, just as a precaution. Your scans were fine. You’re alert. It’s just a good idea to keep you here.”

I managed to keep a straight face until he walked out the door. I would have been best to tell him, a doctor after all, that I was hearing some weird guy. I glanced around, something I had been afraid to do in front of the doctor, and confirmed the room was empty. None of my friends were standing behind the hospital bed, suppressing a laugh at their joking around. Where were they? They left me at the hospital?

What the hell is this?

The voice was definitely in my head. I must have hit it hard…so why didn’t something show up in my scans?

Hello? I hit my head?

No, I hit my head trying to freaking snowboard.

I looked around again, even knowing I wouldn’t see anyone there. How could a concussion make me hear voices?

You’re not hearing voices. What the heck is wrong with you? Why am I in the hospital?

He didn’t sound worried. I could hear, by my heartbeat, that I was. The day before was clear in my head, from driving up to the sky resort, playing around on the flats for a while, and then letting Kristina talk me into going up the hill with her. There wasn’t anything that unusual, not anything that should cause something like this. I closed my eyes, trying to relax my body, and breathed in and out. Just in and out. In and out.

Still here, babe. And still not sure what’s going on.

Who was this guy? Okay… so I can hear you talk but can’t see you…but you don’t know what’s going on?

~  ~  ~

Updates to come!

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