Review Excerpts


Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate! Not much new to report on the writing front these days, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to express my thanks to all of you who read my words, whether via my books, this blog, or anywhere else I ramble on. I'm trying not to think about how crazy the upcoming holiday season is going to be. I should be able to squeeze in some writing, right? Right? (Maybe.) Thanks again! <3

Saturday, October 20, 2018

So Dramatic

Soooo...that chapter I was working on at the time of my last blog post, which was a month ago? (Oops.) Still not finished. (Oops again.) But! I have a good reason, I promise! I've been working on a short story for submission to an anthology instead, and THAT has been going well. I came up with a fitting idea right away, and both the word count range and the deadline were reasonable. I even thought of the perfect title right off the bat! And we all know that only happens about half the time, if I'm lucky!

The theme of this anthology is romance in a dystopian/post-apocalyptic/whatever you want to call it setting. Since it's a short story and has to be less than 7,000 words, I couldn't spend too much time on worldbuilding, but I'd like to think I established something compelling in the limited space I had. It occurred to me while I was writing that it's been a while since the setting has been a source of drama and conflict in one of my stories. Granted, I've been writing a lot of contemporary lately, so in a way, it's been fun to have my two main characters band together against outside forces in their environment, rather than just deal with interpersonal issues.

Fiction needs conflict to drive the plot forward. Luckily, that conflict can come from all sorts of places. I'm sure I've mentioned here before that I do have a fondness for what my college friends would call "fuck the pain away" tropes, and I similarly enjoy "the two of us vs. the world!" storylines. And since it's romance, everything has to be wrapped up with a neat little bow by the end. Hey, even if it's a crapsack world, there's got to be some good in it, right?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

More Than Filler

I'm still plugging along on Sonata for Springtime, though between promo for Closing Montage and life in general, it's been slow. By my estimation, I think I'm around a third of the way done, which isn't too shabby. But since I write in order, I'm at a point that's a tad less exciting than the chapters around it.

Obviously, I want the book as a whole to be exciting, or at least enough to keep the readers engaged and satisfied. And it's not like the entire book's plot can be climax after climax. (Insert erotic romance joke here.) Pacing and moving things along between the key points, though, can be a challenge.

The previous chapter is the longest so far, and probably one of the most significant ones. I have an outline, and there's a lot of good stuff coming up in the next three chapters that I'm looking forward to writing. Unfortunately, I can't just jump ahead to the good stuff, as it would be jarring and mess with the pacing. Besides, there needs to be some aftermath to the GREAT REVELATIONS! of that prior chapter. I just need to make it interesting.

I hate the idea of writing "filler", but sometimes you just need to connect the dots and move from Point A to Point B. Will anything particularly noteworthy happen in this chapter? Probably not. But as long as it doesn't drag down the pacing too much, I'm fine with its function of bridging the gaps between more crucial scenes. As one of my college professors once said (about something unrelated, admittedly), you're never going to make an apple out of a potato. It is what it is.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Closing Montage - Release Day!


After some whirlwind rounds of editing, Closing Montage hits the e-shelves today! As always, I'm thrilled with the cover design here - very Nicholas "Imma make some women cry" Sparks-esque. ;) Get the tissues ready, because this one's a tearjerker! (In case you couldn't tell from the blurb, which makes the ending pretty obvious....)

Blurb:


Edwin Crawford is dying. His suffering is made even worse when he considers how he’ll be leaving behind his wife of over four decades. He contacts 1Night Stand and instructs her to communicate with Madame Evangeline in the hopes she’ll find another man and won’t be lonely without him.

Abigail refuses to entertain the idea of pursuing a romance with anyone other than her husband. When Edwin continues to insist she use the dating service he found for her, she eventually agrees. But he should realize, she reasons, once she makes up her mind about something, she’s determined to do it her own way.

With Madame Evangeline’s help, Abigail plans the perfect evening. Through the use of virtual reality, she can take Edwin anywhere she wants, across the world and back in time, without him having to leave home. It’s their last chance to remember why they were so deeply in love for so many years. Even though she defied his wishes, can she convince him to go on one more date?

Excerpt:


The modest colonial looked mostly the same as it had when I’d arrived home earlier in the day, though the paint was one shade lighter and weeds covered the flower beds flanking the walkway. I climbed up the steps and pushed open the front door. The hallway’s original dingy tiles greeted me, leading the way onto faded linoleum beneath our old, scratched kitchen cabinets. The house had been in need of updating when we acquired it, but from day one, it had felt like home.

Edwin appeared behind me in the doorway. “It’s empty,” he said, stating the obvious. “I guess this is the day we became homeowners?”

“Yup. We finally reached true adulthood by taking on the responsibility of a mortgage and property taxes.” I stepped into the foyer and spun around. “But most importantly, we had a place to make our own.”

I walked through the first floor, taking in all the details that had been rendered with surprising perfection. The shag carpet squished beneath my feet in the dining room. I smiled at the memory of when we’d discovered the beautiful hardwood floor underneath. The crooked closet doors squeaked when I opened and closed them, and the scrapes on the kitchen countertop felt rough beneath my fingertips. Back in the real world, little of our house remained in its original condition. Remembering its earlier state filled me with warmth, even as I relived its flaws.

Edwin leaned against the counter, hands clasped in front of him. “It’s hard to believe we ever fell in love with this place.”

“Are you kidding? At the time, this was paradise for us, a dream come true.” I rubbed my nose. “And we did get a pretty good deal on it since it needed a lot of work.”

“Fair enough.” He closed his eyes. “If I think back far enough, I suppose I can recall feeling like a king in his castle, shabby though it was.”

“That’s the spirit.”

Resting his head on his hands, he exhaled. “And it did make me feel good to accomplish this goal with you.”

I stood next to him and laid a hand on his shoulder. Turning, he looked up at me. Some of the boyish softness had disappeared from his face since the first simulated scene. Age and experience had never made him less attractive to me, though, especially with those stunning eyes that seemed to stare into my soul. “I’m glad to hear it,” I said, rubbing his arm. “That’s what I wanted tonight to be about.”

He straightened, closing the gap between us. The first hints of a wicked grin played upon his lips. “Other things about our early days here stand out to me, too.”

I swallowed. He toyed with the ends of my hair, his fingertips grazing my bare skin as he brushed it back. “Oh?”

One arm snaked around my waist. “How we made this place truly ours. I think we christened every room in this house within the first week.”

I giggled, and my cheeks flushed. “And that was before the furniture even arrived.”

“I believe your words were ‘who needs a bed?’” Edwin’s hand came to rest at the back of my neck. I inched closer to him, craving more of his touch. “As always, you were right.”

My body flattened against his when he moved in for another kiss. Our lips collided with force this time as his fingers fisted in my hair. Sentimental memories slipped away, replaced by the recollections of the more salacious feelings he awakened in me. I grasped the front of his shirt, my knees weakening.

A low growl rumbled in his throat, and his tongue plunged farther into my mouth. Seizing my wrists, he backed me against the refrigerator, trapping me with his full weight. Heat bloomed between us, a stark contrast to the unyielding cold behind me. The dizzying sensations intensified, everything from the taste of his mouth to the pressure of his grip melding into a surreal haze.

My hips rolled up as if drawn to him like a magnet. Sparks ignited over every inch of my skin, yet something held me back. “Wait,” I managed to get out between labored breaths.

“Hmm?” He abandoned my lips to kiss a trail down my neck.

I writhed beneath him when he reached my collarbone. “We can’t…I mean, you shouldn’t…not yet….” Shaking my head, I moved to the side and reached for his face to angle it toward mine. Breaking our contact felt like torture, but worry plagued me. “Let’s slow things down for now.”

Edwin refused to let go of me. “I don’t want to stop.” Hunger burned in his deep-set eyes, and his fingertips dug into the underside of my wrists. “You know what you do to me, Abigail. You’ve given me this younger body for the night, so why not use it?”

The edge in his voice, which had been absent for so long, drove me wild. Still, our love was about more than lust, and my concerns won out. I wiggled one hand free and groped around in my pocket.

At the push of a button, we were whisked back to our bedroom, in the same position atop the covers as we’d been when we’d started our date. Edwin removed his headset and looked at me as I did the same, annoyance tempered by confusion. “What happened?” he asked.

I fluffed out my hair, which had returned to its shorter, graying state. “I wanted to make sure you were okay.”

He crossed his arms, the movements stiff beneath his pajamas and bathrobe. “Was I complaining?”

Dropping my gaze, I fiddled with the corner of the bedsheets. “No. But I admit I don’t know everything about how this stuff works, and I didn’t want you to get overtired, and—”

“Abigail, I’m fine.” The words came out in his usual level voice, though there was a hint of sternness to them. “Haven’t I been voicing any concerns as they’ve come up?”

“I know, I know.” A long sigh left my lips. “I’m fussing over you too much again, aren’t I? I need to remember I’m not one of the nurses.”

Edwin reached over to touch my hand. “It’s okay.” He drew his thumb across the top. “If I start to feel unwell, I promise I’ll let you know, all right?”

I nodded. “I’m sorry.”

“You don’t have to apologize.”

I held up the pair of headsets. “Should we pick up where we left off, then?”

He smirked. “I think the moment’s passed.” When I frowned, he shook his head at me. “Let’s keep going,” he said, folding his hands behind his head as he reclined. “I want to find out what else is in store for me tonight.”

Before replacing his equipment, I knelt and pressed my lips against his forehead. “Whatever makes you happy.”

His words sounded muffled as I adjusted my own headset. “You make me happy.”


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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Imperfection

The first round of edits for Closing Montage is done. The nice part about it being such a short novella is there wasn't a whole lot to be done there. Or, more importantly, there weren't many moments that made me go "oh god, I'm such an idiot," which might be a first. We might be able to do a release date at the end of this month, so stay tuned for news on that front.

Despite the edits not being too extensive, I still had to, you know, sit down and actually do them. Which turned out to be a little more challenging than usual. My family (the four Landens, plus my parents) is on vacation and...well, it hasn't been our smoothest trip. My parents own the house, so at least we're not out any money, and we're still managing to have fun. But some of the highlights of things not going well include both the washing machine and the central air dying, the worst thunderstorms this area has seen in years, and me getting an order for a crapload of work for the day job that seriously made me want to cry when I first saw it. (Yes, I brought my work stuff with me. Yes, that sometimes sucks.) I'm probably missing some things, but I think those are the worst. It'll all be fine eventually, though. And at least the torrential downpour meant there wasn't a whole lot to do, and I knocked out most of my work the other day.

Somewhere in all of this, I'm also still trying to work on my current project. I at least wanted to finish the significant chapter I'd been working on before we left, but though I came close, it didn't happen for various reasons. One of the reasons it's an important chapter is because a lot of the second half deals with how the hero, the POV character, views the heroine/eventual love interest/whatever you want to call her. (I have decided to call her Natalie. :P )

In some ways, Natalie has been proving more tricky to write than I first anticipated. Most of the time, writers want readers to fall in love with our main characters, or at least like them. And likeability is subjective, of course. Characters can't be perfect people, or else they'll be unrealistic, but too many flaws can make them off-putting. It's a hard balance to achieve.

So, Natalie: she's outgoing, bubbly, and has some hidden and not-so-hidden talents. It's also pretty obvious right from the first chapter that she's not making great life decisions and is setting herself up for disappointment. I wanted that particular conflict to be set up right away, but at the same time, I don't want her to come across as overly childish or naive, especially considering her other traits. In other words, while she's perky and optimistic (maybe even "cute"), I don't want her to come across as a blithering idiot. There's a fine line there. And all this is complicated by the fact that we're seeing her through the main character's eyes, and I don't want readers wondering why he's attracted to her in the first place.

I'll get there. She'll get there. We'll all get there. Ironically, in the beginning of this current chapter, I wrote about the characters doing laundry, so they're already ahead of me on that front.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Life Imitating Art

This past Saturday was my birthday. I'm now 34 years old, so pretty firmly into adulthood by now. It sounds stupid, but sometimes I forget that being a responsible independent adult has its perks. Like, I'll think, "Oh, I wish I could (do whatever thing)" and then remember hey, wait a minute, I can! A cool event is happening in the city? LET'S GO! A funky end table that my mother wouldn't approve of? IT'S IN MY HOUSE RIGHT NOW! Granted, having kids has prevented total spontaneity (and, um, dangerous home decor), but still. Way better than being a teenager.

So, my birthday. And doing things. When I wrote Seductive Suspect, which is about a murder mystery weekend gone wrong, I was pretty much making stuff up as I went along. I'd never actually done something like that, but I'd heard enough about such events that I figured I could cobble together something realistic. Or at least believable.

I wrote the book. Went through submission, editing, release, promo, blah blah blah. And continued to think, "boy, it sure would be fun to go to a murder mystery weekend."

It finally hit me. WHY NOT? I'm an adult!* I started doing my research, and long story short, Mr. Landen and I spent the weekend in the Victorian mansion that served as the inspiration for the Haunted Mansion in Disney World and participated in the murder mystery events. It was super fun, we had a blast, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who's interested in that sort of thing!

In comparing it to the setup for Seductive Suspect, there were similarities and differences. We were all assigned characters and were supposed to act them out at the scheduled times. (Though I don't think the drunk guy from New Jersey ever fully grasped that....) We got information sheets before each round with what's going to be revealed, what should stay secret, etc. None of us was the murder victim, and although one character was the murderer, he/she isn't told that. We all stayed on site, some meals were provided, and there was a full bar. (YES!)

As for the differences between my real-life experience and what my imagination concocted -  when I first saw that this was in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania, I was imagining a secluded, creepy mansion. Nope. It's actually kind of a tourist-y little town, and the mansion is within walking distance to the main strip of shops and restaurants, plus some outdoor activities. I thought we'd have to be in character the whole time, but we actually had a good chunk of the day on Saturday to ourselves. (Mr. Landen and I browsed the shops, ate lunch, and went for a little hike in the woods.) All the clues came out during our discussions and roleplaying; no searching the mansion with a magnifying glass or anything physical like that, minus a little bit in the "murder" scene.

I got one of the biggest, most significant roles, so happy birthday to me. (Not the murderer, though!) The guy who runs the murder mystery part usually doesn't get the chance to spend a whole lot of time with the guests before having to assign parts, but he said that he's been doing it long enough that he gets a good read on people and usually does well. I would say for our group, he did a really good job and most of us fit our characters well. (Except for maybe drunk Jersey guy.) There were lots of laughs, fun in-character interactions, and we got to know each other a little bit outside of the mystery parts, especially during the special dinner on Saturday night. Mr. Landen had read some reviews online before we went, so he was forewarned that things get a little raunchy in the mystery story, but no one in our group seemed particularly offended. All in good fun!

Year 34 is off to a good start, and again, I highly recommend this place. If you go, tell Inspector Bob we say hello!

(*Yes, that link goes exactly where you think it does. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE GROUND!!!)

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Lazy Summers

I know today is the first official day of summer, but we've already had quite a few hot days up here in New York. (And just think, not long ago we were complaining about the brutal winter! We're all so predictable.) I've been plugging away on the WIP, but after a good start, I've lost some momentum.

I started thinking about previous years, and I realized that for some reason, I've never really gotten a lot of writing done during the summer. Going away on vacation is one part of it. I'd like to say getting out of the house and enjoying the warm weather is another part, but that would be a lie. (More on that later.) Maybe it's the former teacher in me, and summer is supposed to be the time to relax and take a break from more stressful things. Or perhaps it's just like my natural inclination to write at night, maybe I just do better in colder weather? :P

The way things have worked out the past couple years, though, is I've usually had something to edit over the summer. (I guess editors don't take the summer off!) At least it makes me feel like I'm doing something writing-related. The words always get onto the page eventually, but hopefully I can knock out quite a few before September rolls around.

And since I mentioned it up there, another contributing factor to me being too tired to write some nights is for various reasons, I've decided I need to be more active. A lot of my hobbies—like writing!—involve being plopped on a couch, and while I could get away with that when I was younger, I know I need to be moving more. I actually joined a gym/started taking fitness classes (Orangetheory, if anyone is interested, and I love it!), and have been scooting out early in the mornings for walks/jogs around the neighborhood whenever my schedule allows. I know it's good for me, but some days, I'm just tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiired and don't want to do anything but loaf around on the internet. If someone figures out a way to write and jog at the same time, let me know!