Category Archives: Writing

…and Upcoming Novels

So, on the writing front, I edited several novels over the last few months for other authors. It’s been a hugely fun process, and I got to work in romance, fantasy, historical, and crime fiction. I’ve been editing for ten years, and the last few years I’ve seen a dramatic increase in quality in terms of writing and the stories I’m seeing. I think it’s due to the Indie movement and all the content so readily available. There’s books, articles, blogs and Facebook groups that help writers learn about writing and the publishing process. So, it’s lots of fun all around!

And yes, I’m working on my own novels too. I’m working to finish the 4th novella in the Stranger series. It’ll be the final one and complete the story, although it opens the door for a new series if I want to continue it. Here’s the cover for the 4th book:

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-sexy-young-couple-love-image21300227 Meg finally learns the truth and has decisions to make…

(I don’t want to give the story away yet, especially if people didn’t read the first three.)

I’ll publish this one and then a full novel version with all four novellas.

And…

I also started another story inspired by a video on Facebook. You might have seen the clip of a girl at a cam when the kiss cam zooms in on her and her boyfriend. The guy ignore the kiss cam but a mascot runs over and carries her off. I love that video! And I wanted to start a story with that, so I did. It might be a novella – I’m not sure at this point. I’m just having fun with it and writing away. Here’s the cover. What do you think???

Marry the Mascot cover

This story is lighthearted and fun with a big dose of humor.

Working blurb:

The Trail Blazer’s mascot sweeps Abby off her feet, literally, but she doesn’t get his name. Luckily he happens to know she writes the “Honest Abby” column in a local paper. The mascot is a fun loving, hot guy, but he also has a sick father and a load of responsibilities that lead to a little complication.

Blockbuster Books, Broken Down – Plotting with the novel map

Blockbuster Books - workbook and Kindle ebookLearn from mega bestselling novels to build your own breakout plot!

Why start from scratch and reinvent storytelling? Instead, use a 7 point plot outline developed from wildly successful novels.

“Blockbuster Books, Broken Down” is a workbook style guide that reveals the structure and elements in huge bestsellers of the last fifteen years, many of which became movies. By breaking down these books, we can see how successful authors are breaking out by satisfying readers’ needs.

Part 1 deconstructs today’s bestsellers and offers insights and keys to blockbusters and the Blockbuster Novel Map.

Part 2 guides you in creating a breakout idea and developing that into a solid plot with a novel map. Build from the ground up with 7 points to ensure your plot will connect with readers.

Buy the workbook and you can get the Kindle book free through Kindle Matchbook.

Amazon – Kindle ebook and print workbook available

Covers these books and more:

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Twilight and The Host by Stephenie Myer

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Maze Runner by James Dashner

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Notebook and Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Includes:

Part 1: Deconstructing Bestsellers

Does Genre Matter?

Hook, High Concept, & HUGE Stakes

Bestselling Qualities

What’s Different About Today’s Blockbusters

The Blockbuster Novel Map

The 7 Point Outline with 3 Act Structure

The Key to Blockbusters

Part 2: Building Your Bestseller

First, Know Thyself

Your Big Idea

The Breakout Idea Checklist

From Idea to Plot

Which Came First: plot or character?

Writing Your Novel

Ways to Improve Your Writing

Make Any Story BIGGER

Writer’s Block: specific cases and how to fix them

Additional Resources

Your Novel Map

Novel Map Worksheet

From Novel Map to Outline

Your Setting/ World

Your Setting Notes

Character Sheets

*This is a hands-on fiction workshop packed with insights, exercises, and worksheets to quickly teach you breakout plotting and novel development.

Amazon – Kindle ebook and print workbook available

Writing & Publishing Roundup 2014

So, it was another crazy year in publishing.Trade book prices came down, overall book quality (Indie and trade) went up in my opinion due to increased competition, and the number of books on the market skyrocketed. Of course, that’s been a trend over the last few years. Kindle Unlimited rolled out in the US and then in countries all over the world, drastically cutting book sales for many authors. I think a few have profited, but I’ve seen a majority of authors saying their sales (including borrows) and income doing a nosedive.Yeah, publishing continues to change, and the playing field has leveled out once again, where Indies no longer have an advantage with lower prices and faster releases.

All of the above is good for readers. I’ll admit I’m happy I can get books from my favorite authors for lower prices. And, the truth is, being an author isn’t like other jobs. You don’t put in the time and schooling and then know you have a career path with steadily increasing pay. Being an artist of any kind has challenges. Authors are creatives and business people, and our books have to compete with Facebook, TV, free content, and all the other books out there. In essence, if you’re going to be an author, you have to do it because you love it.

What about me? I’ve been writing away as usual. I released three full novels in 2014:

Costa Rica,  In A Field of Oranges, and  It’s All In My Head 

Links to different retailers on my homepage. There’s also my Amazon book page.

And I recently released the first novella in a new romantic thriller series, Stranger in my Bed. This first novella doesn’t have so much of the romantic element in it–I’d even call it a psychological thriller.

2014 was a really great writing year for me. I pushed myself to offer something really different with each book. I took It’s All In My Head to a week long, intensive writing workshop, and it eventually became my longest work to date, and my first novel in 1st person. I just LOVE that story and the characters. Some books are harder to write, and that one had challenges, but I still smile when I think about the writing process, and remember it like a life-changing vacation.

I took the lessons learned while writing that novel and started my new series. There’s a lot of mystery in Stranger in my Bed. It’s great fun to write! I also wanted to try a different format, so I’m using a TV episode format, where I’m going to release novellas hopefully once every month. The entire story is much bigger than my usual novel length, too, so this format works well. I really like having smaller conflicts in each novella that will also build the overall problem. In the end, I’ll probably release a box set of the entire story.

I’m also finishing a noBlockbuster Books, Broken Down - so you can write your wonnfiction project–my first book about novel writing. I’ve held off on offering writing advice because there’s an abundance of that there. But I haven’t seen one that covered my content. I took my notes on bestsellers and looked at lists of books that were turned into movies, and something jumped out at me. It was one of those amazing moments when a light bulb turned on and I literally stood up in amazement. This happens when I see something about my writing or writing in general, but I’ve never felt my new insight was a really new insight for writers in general. This time I thought, wow, I need to share this! So I am.

The guide is actually about plotting, creating a blockbuster plot, and making any story bigger. I break down the plot of mega bestsellers to form a simple novel map that anyone can use to plan their novel with critical points that set stories apart.

Blockbuster Books, Broken Down is up for pre-order in Kindle and will release on January 30, 2015. There’s a workbook for the print version, and I hope to release that in January.

Well, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and New Year– I’m celebrating Christmas vacation with two weeks of sleeping in!

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.

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