Review Excerpts


Sunday, October 18, 2020

Nothing to Be Afraid of Here

We're well into October, and everywhere I look, people are embracing the Halloween season. Honestly, I don't have strong feelings either way about Halloween. I mean, it's fun enough, but I was never the type to go completely crazy over it. And I'm old enough to think having leftover candy in the house is more dangerous than fun.


With that blasphemous intro, I'm sure I've lost a lot of readers by now. If you're sticking with me, thanks!


During this shitshow of a pandemic/lockdown/whatever we're calling it now, I've been trying to make more of an effort to connect with people, from reconnecting with old friends to making new ones. I've been spending more time on Twitter, for better or worse (though I still refuse to put it on my phone), and interacting with people I've "met" via the #WritingCommunity tag. It seems like so many writers have something in the horror genre, or paranormal, or anything else that can fall under the "spooky" umbrella in honor of Halloween that they're talking about and...I don't. I'm neurotic enough as it is, so my interest level in horror is so low it's practically non-existent, and while I've read and enjoyed some paranormal books/stories, it's also not really my thing. Obviously, not every writer is going to write in every single genre—in fact, it's probably the opposite in that most find one thing that works best for them and sticks with it—but it's no fun to feel left out.


But then I got to thinking about the books I have written, and their origins. And I remembered once upon a time, very, very long ago, what eventually became Elysium was originally going to be a ghost story. If memory serves, I think I saw some sort of writing contest for either Halloween or Christmas, and I got the idea of a woman somehow getting together with her dead husband. However, this was when I was in college (I TOLD you it was a long time ago!), and life was quite busy back then, and the story never got written. About ten years passed before I revisited the story idea, and I don't even remember how I made the leap from "dead husband is a ghost" to "dead husband appears via virtual reality", but I finally wrote something based on that old idea.


I've probably said it before, but even now, I still think Elysium is one of the best (if not THE best) things I've ever written. Its origins as a ghost story are way in the past, but maybe I'll choose to celebrate it this October anyway! (Should we have an excerpt of the first appearance of the dead husband? Sure, why not?)

Elysium

I noticed the billowing skirt swishing against my knees. It belonged to the yellow striped sundress I’d worn to a friend’s barbecue a couple of summers ago. I’d always liked this dress, but I hadn’t worn it since.


Crouching down, I pressed against the paved trail. The stones were cool and solid beneath my touch. I reached out and tugged at a single blade of grass. It snapped off and I rolled it back and forth. A green smear darkened one fingertip, and it even smelled like grass. Incredible.


I didn’t have long to marvel at Drew’s genius, for footsteps approached behind me. Straightening, I gradually turned in the direction of the sound. What I saw froze me in place.


He wore his dark hair buzzed short like always, and his skin was tanned as if he’d never spent one day out of the sun. A plain blue T-shirt the color of his eyes stretched over his thick chest, tucked into his favorite pair of jeans. He strode toward me, every detail of his movements captured with perfection. I even saw the scar from a childhood accident spanning the top of his left hand.


He stopped a foot away from me and grinned. His lips, his teeth, his jaw, everything flowed into the cheerful expression I’d missed so much.


“Hey, kitten.”


His voice sent shivers down my spine. I clapped one trembling hand over my mouth and rocked from side to side. The corners of my eyes stung with a whirlwind of emotions and my throat tightened so much I could barely whisper.


“Kevin….”

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Structure/Pacing in Romance (specifically THOSE scenes)

I'm still happily chugging along on Elemental Forces. I passed the 20K word mark and have plenty of story left to tell. While I don't have a firm word count estimate just yet, this is shaping up to be the longest book I've written in quite some time.


Believe it or not, I don't have a written outline here. At this point, everything's plotted out pretty well in my head, so maybe I'll never get around to making one. But as I've been thinking over the structure and pacing in this project, I realized that I have two distinct categories for my books, and most romances probably fall into one or the other. And those categories are differentiated by...wait for it...*drumroll*...the sex scenes.


(The rest of this post will probably not be sexy. Sorry to disappoint.)


Category 1: One Sex Scene

All the novellas go here, which makes sense. (Hey, sex scenes take a lot of words!) I guess in these books, the primary plot/conflict/focus/whatever you want to call it is the good ol' "will they or won't they?" and everything gets wrapped up in a pretty little bow at the end when the characters finally bang. Excuse me, get their "happily ever after." Sure, other plot stuff happens, but it's all leading up to the big moment. To be fair, in some of my novellas, the one sex scene doesn't come right at the end, as the characters still have to work out their relationship issues before riding off into the sunset, but the concept stands.


Nothing is absolute, though, so there are some slight exceptions. Elysium, while novella-length, *technically* has two sex scenes, but they're back-to-back, so lumping them together is fair. Likewise with Seductive Suspect, which hovers on the border of "long novella" and "short novel" - the two sex scenes are adjacent to each other, and then the resolution of the mystery part of the plot comes afterward.


Category 2: Multiple Sex Scenes

It's not a surprise that the longer books go here, and then that got me thinking about various plots and their purposes. "Happily ever after" is still always the primary goal of romance, but the length of the route to get there varies. I admit this is where I sometimes struggle with the pacing. When the main characters get together relatively early on, the plot has to keep moving. It's easy to say "time for a sex scene, yay!" but the scenes also have to mean something and not feel gratuitous. I also realize this is highly subjective, as a look at any book with conflicting reviews will indicate. This also probably gets into the topic of romance vs. erotic romance vs. erotica, which I'm not going to touch here.


When writing Disintegration (which I'll likely re-release sometime in 2021), I was extra super careful while plotting out the progression of the sex scenes in the book, of which there are many. Almost, if not all of them are relevant to the plot, each building on the one that came before it. On the other hand, in Fire Beyond the Frost, there might be one or two in there that aren't necessarily relevant to the overall plot, but hey, they're fun, so why not. Then, while I was reviewing The Edge of the Sphere for its eventual re-release (no date set yet), there was even a sex scene I'd completely forgotten about. OOPS.


So, those are my two categories I've discovered. Is one better than the other? No, of course not. Does one take more careful plotting than the other? Eh, possibly. Most writers have cut huge chunks of work out of their final product, and I'm no exception. As noted above, there's no right answer for when to include these scenes, or how many to put in, and so on. If it works, it works, and I try not to ask too many questions when it *does* work!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Hilarity May or May Not Ensue

So, I think we've all realized by now that I'm not one of those people who is SUPER SERIOUS, ALL OF THE TIME about her writing. That's not to say I don't write serious stories, because I definitely do...I just frequently laugh at myself while doing so. To be honest, I often find people who always take things seriously (assuming it's not a life-or-death situation) to be exhausting, but hey, you do whatever you need to do to get through your days.


I won't make any comments as to whether or not I'm "funny," as I know how subjective humor is. Maybe I've made people laugh here a few times over the years, maybe I've just made them roll their eyes at my flippant attitude before they move on. For what it's worth, while I have my "fiction writing" voice, as we all do, my "writing about writing/blogging" voice here is pretty close to what real-life me is like. I've said before, while I'm sure I'm not everyone's cup of tea, I like to think I'm fun to be around in most situations. But again, who knows.


On to the writing about writing part! I've written in a whole lot of romantic sub-genres, but I don't know if I've ever set out to write a true "comedy." Some of my books/stories are intended to be lighthearted and maybe a little fluffy, and even in some of my darker stories, the occasional odd situation or snarky remark slips through. (That might be tied to my "real me" voice, but I digress.) And now that I'm thinking about genres, I'm starting to wonder—can you even write "just" a comedy without including some sort of sub-genre? (Romance, mystery, adventure, etc.) Like, is "contemporary comedy" a thing just like "contemporary romance" is? Clearly, I am not among the people getting paid to create categories on Amazon.


(I just took a tiny break from writing this blog post to take a look. Lots of romantic comedies out there. There was a "wilderness" comedy on the first page of Amazon hits, which I would file under "adventure." And Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was also near the top, which I did enjoy, and parts were funny, but I don't know if that was the point of the story? Moving right along.)


Outside of my little website here, I have written stories explicitly intended to make people laugh, in the form of fanfic. I'd even venture to claim I was successful, in that my old Dragon Age and Mass Effect comedies were always my most popular fics, and they're still getting hits and comments and bookmarks and everything 7-8 years later. (UGH, I'M OLD.) Recently, I've been experiencing the same trends with my Fire Emblem: Three Houses fanfic. So, I know I *can* do it, but I'm also aware of the contextual differences between writing something humorous in an existing universe vs. starting from scratch with everything.


I'm still making great progress with my new project, Elemental Forces. I'm still not sure if we've established it can be a "comedy," but it's definitely on the more lighthearted end of the spectrum. I'm not attempting to land joke after joke after joke, but I made an effort to set the tone early on, and that tone (hopefully) is "this book will make you smile and feel good." As I mentioned in my last post, it's heroic fantasy and, of course, romance, since I consider myself a romance writer first and foremost. Since it's romance, there will be some emotional and poignant scenes in addition to the fun ones, because I'd argue you can't really have a romance without those, but THAT is another topic for another post.


In the meantime, I'll switch back to my Word document now, because I am still writing up a storm and it feels GOOD! (Might as well end on a "smile/feel good" moment!)

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Full Speed Ahead

 (requisite reminder that Blazing Justice is available on Kindle Unlimited now!)


Guys. Everyone. Y'all. Something crazy is happening.


I am writing and I am writing fast.


Well, fast for me, anyway. I know there are writers who crank out thousands of words a day and go back to edit them later, and I know there are writers who lovingly pore over each word as it caresses the page and have little editing to do at the end. Neither of those approaches is right or wrong. I personally tend to hover near the slower end of the spectrum, like it or not.


I've discussed before about how once I had kids, it was often difficult to 1) carve out time for writing and other hobbies, and then 2) actually be productive and not just zone out in a rare quiet moment. The kids are getting older (they started virtual kindergarten this week!), and while I wouldn't necessarily say things are getting easier, the new sets of challenges maybe aren't as physically draining all of the damn time. There are definitely days where once they're in bed, I just want to park myself on the couch and click around on the internet, but I often try to at least get something done.


So. The new project. I spent some time this summer writing Fire Emblem: Three Houses fanfic and marveled at how quickly I could pop out a short story. Maybe it was finally time for me to apply that to my own original writing?


I decided I wanted to stick to a similar genre in the hopes that the energy would carry over, so I started my new heroic fantasy* romance on August 30th. For the most part, I've been maintaining my pre-childrearing rate of at least 500 words a day, and I'm four chapters in. Since it's fantasy, I'm relying on some popular tropes (because everything uses tropes to some extent anyway and you will never convince me otherwise), but I'll be playing around with some of them at the same time. It's light and fluffy, but the characters have depth and heart. Most importantly, I'm having fun, and that's contributing to the words spilling out on the page. 

 

*Before getting started, I spent some time, of course, on TV Tropes reading about the differences between high fantasy, low fantasy, heroic fantasy, etc. This is definitely heroic fantasy. The dragons show up in the third sentence.

 

Will I be able to keep this up for the whole project? Perhaps. I'm bound to hit a slump eventually, or have to deal with a section that's just not working out quite right, and so on. But for now, I'm really satisfied with my writing output for the first time in a very long time.

 

New title tag in 3...2...1....

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Blazing Justice - Available Now!

 


It's release day! As promised, my little experiment with Choose Your Own Adventure-style romance is available on Kindle now. Free for Kindle Unlimited people, $2.99 otherwise, because formatting this thing was its own adventure. I'm working on setting up some promo events, so as always, watch this space. (Standard reminder about signing up for the mailing list.)


In the meantime, here's the blurb and excerpt. Happy reading!


Blurb:

One murder case, three sizzling endings….

In the suburbs of New York City, prosecutor Celeste McConnell is called to a crime scene in the middle of the night. The gruesome stabbing is the most brutal murder the quiet little town has seen in many years, and both the police and the District Attorney’s office are determined to arrest and convict the killer. Celeste is resolved to follow the proper procedures and seek justice for the victim, but as the case progresses, she wants to be sure the right person is held accountable for the crime.

Choose Celeste’s path in her quest for the truth and decide who she can trust the most. Whether she follows the lead of her suave, assertive boss at work, confides in the charming and sweet detective assigned to the case, or embarks on a thrilling adventure with the potentially dangerous murder suspect, each unique ending offers an unforgettable night of passion for Celeste and her chosen partner, as well as a conclusion to the murder case that brought them together.


Excerpt:

Chaos erupted at six o’clock on the dot, when several things happened all at once. “This is getting ridiculous,” Lattimer said. The force with which he stood up sent his chair skidding backward into the wall. “I don’t know what else I can tell you, and I’d really like to go home now.”
 

My cell phone rang again. “Celeste? What is going on over there?” Hints of annoyance tempered Colin’s voice. “I expected to hear from you by now.”
 

As I filled him in on what had happened since arriving at the police station, two more officers entered the room. They spoke with Captain Redding, whose eyebrow shot up at whatever they told her, and she looked over at me. “Hold on one second,” I said into the phone.
 

“They came from the crime scene,” the captain told me. “And they found a bloody knife in a garbage can behind Nick Lattimer’s unit. We won’t know if it’s Sherri Strahan’s blood until the tests come back, but….”
 

“Right.” I turned my attention back to the phone. “I don’t know if you heard any of that, but what could possibly be the murder weapon just turned up near Lattimer’s apartment.”
 

“Hmm.” Colin sighed. “Between this discovery and the thing with his brother, it’s enough. I don’t want this guy disappearing on us.”
 

“Got it. I’ll see you in a couple hours.”
 

Lattimer paced back and forth behind the table. “You can’t just keep me here like this,” he said, moving toward the door. “I’m leaving.”
 

That was my cue. I entered the room; now it was my turn to block his path. For a fleeting moment, our gazes locked together. His gold-flecked eyes burned into me and my breath caught in my throat.
 

“Miss McConnell?” Delgado said, shattering the growing tension.
 

I looked away and swallowed. “Arrest him.”

Friday, August 28, 2020

Change of Plans, and a Sneak Peek

Over the past few months, I've been discussing releasing old projects that never found a home, plus the new situation of having the rights to a lot of my old books revert back to me when the publisher closed and having to decide what to do there. I thought I'd had a plan for at least what to do next, but as we all know, plans can change in an instant.


I was chatting with friends in an online group about a month ago, and some of them mentioned how fun it would be to have a book that was like those Choose Your Own Adventure books we all read as kids, but an adult romance. As luck would have it, I had exactly that sitting in my files. A number of years ago, I wrote the story for a particular website that dealt with CYOA romance, but then the site shut down, and I didn't think I'd be able to successfully shop it around anywhere else, so it's been sitting untouched...until now!


One friend did mention that she'd read an Austen-esque CYOA romance; when I did some poking around on Amazon, I found a couple more, but not a huge amount. I went back to my Word document to reread and decided I still liked the story and characters, so I abandoned my plan to re-release The Edge of the Sphere at the end of the summer and focused on cleaning this up instead. I think it's a fun concept, and who knows, if other people feel the same way, maybe I'll think about writing more of them.

 

This is just the sneak peak, so for now, I'll just mention that I have the book up for pre-order on Amazon, AND I'm also trying something new and I have a few ARCs available on Booksprout. If you find joy in reading books before anyone else can and writing reviews, go take a look!


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Starting Something New (Spoiler Alert, It's a Newsletter)

All the cool kids have one, so I guess I should too? Something like that. A few posts ago, I mentioned how the rights for some of my earlier books have reverted back to me, and I plan on gradually re-releasing them. Combined with me also occasionally releasing shorter works that never found a good home, this all means that maybe, just maybe, I might have more than one new release a year. Either way, it's not a bad idea to have a quick way to announce news for people who don't check the blog and/or social media.


The form to sign up is over there in the right column, or you can use this link if you're on a mobile device or tablet. I promise I will not spam you. Hell, some months I barely remember to keep up with this blog, right? My current plan is to send an email whenever I have a new release or a big sale going on, and maybe a monthly roundup of blog posts or something like that.


I'll be keeping it simple and I'm sure I'll be working out the kinks along the way. If there are glaring issues or if you just want to say hi or whatever, the contact form in its own tab always works, as does emailing me at thea at thealanden dot com.


(See? Short and sweet. Just like any mass emails I'll send.)