August 31, 2015

what starting a new project looks like

Over the weekend I did some plotting (and even writing) for the third book in the Queen of the League series. While I went into this quartet with a general idea of some of the key character development and milestones that would happen for Harper Duquaine, the heroine of the stories, I didn't necessarily know all of the particulars.

Now that the first book will soon be available to you readers, and the second book is in the hands of beta readers, I have a better feel for who these characters are and how they can get to where they are supposed to go in the journey that is this series. It's kind of an exciting place to be as a reader, because this is where a lot of the magic happens.

I've shared some of my practices for writing and editing (you can view an archive of some of them under the "Writing Tips" tab), but I thought it would be fun to share a few of the tools I have used to create this particular story.


Before and After
Last week, after finishing the second draft of book two, I paid a visit to my sister's bar and made a list of where Harper would be at the beginning of the third book under the "Before" column on a few sheets of paper. In the other column, under "After" I wrote where I hoped she would be by the time the story ended. I mulled this over for a couple of days, changing a few things here or there. I also considered which of those plot developments or changes might be the most interesting to focus on.

(Note: I skipped that last part of the Before and After test when writing the second book in the series, and I imagine that's part of why I had so much reshuffling and revising to do. Lesson learned. This is a constantly-evolving process, my friends.


Ten Scenes
With a better idea of the main plot elements and themes of this story, I used the Ten-Scene tool to shape the major plot arc of the story. I recently reorganized my desk and stumbled upon quite the collection of index cards, which I used to help me visualize the flow and ebb of this book's story.

See how pretty that looks:


This was snapped before I wrote out the actual plans for each of those scenes, because I didn't want to give any spoilers, but you get the idea.

Once I could actually see how these ten key scenes would play out, I was better able to visualize what would need to happen in between--and some other smaller plot elements--which is where the next part comes into play...


Working Synopsis
This is actually still in progress, but using those ten scenes, I'm shaping out what will happen in each chapter and each scene in between to get us to those key moments. This is the part of the process that will be most loose. I like to leave myself open to making some changes as the story progresses. That frequently means cutting, adding, or changing a previously planned scene--hopefully before it's written.

I sketch down some of my ideas in a notepad while I'm out and about, but I do most of it directly in Scrivener by organizing my folders and the scenes within them. God bless Scrivener for speaking to my Type A plotting tendencies.


Brief Sketches for New Characters
I'm introducing a few new characters for this book. They needed names, personalities, and an explanation of their purpose to the story.


Plotting the Fantasy Football Season
This is an added step unique to this series, but each book in the Queen of the League series has to have a fake football season play out. As part of that, I need to know how Harper's team will perform and how it is affected by or shapes the rest of the story. For example, I can't have Harper being in an amazing mood if she's just lost a major game to her opponent, can I?


So that's kind of where I am with this story. I'll admit, I wasn't planning on writing this one next, but after spending a little time away to write a Christmas novella and reading through the first and second books again (not to mention the upcoming start of football season) I was in the mood. Wish me luck!


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August 27, 2015

a look back at my fantasy football prince charmings

During the past three years, I’ve managed five fantasy football teams with mixed results (and never a title), but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Each time I drafted a team, I sought to find a group of players worthy of the title “Fantasy Football Prince Charming” to help me secure my rightful throne as queen of the fantasy football league.

In retrospect, perhaps I should have looked for a knight with an army to do my bidding rather than a figurehead (think Daenerys Targaryen in "Game of Thrones" rather than "Cinderella"). I suppose it’s only inevitable I was confused. Most of my experience about attaining nobility is limited to Disney movies and romance novels. I should have studied up on the War of the Roses rather than stopping to smell the roses.

During the last two seasons—and drawing from four teams—I documented my ill-fated attempt to find a Fantasy Football Prince Charming to rule by my side. And despite my failure to secure a title, I “met” a few nice dudes along the way. I'll hope to find some more candidates during this year's fantasy season.

To honor them—and the forthcoming release of my fantasy football-driven novel First & Goal—let’s take a look back at the best and worst of my contenders for the crown.


Best

Peyton Manning (read about him here and here) – Peyton is my constant. I’ve had him on one of my fantasy teams each of the past three years, and he has only on one occasion let me down (and everyone has a bad week). Sometimes a woman needs to be able to depend on a man—or quarterback—to even believe in love—or the possibility of winning games.

Calvin Johnson (read about him here and here) – Oh, Megatron, how I missed you last season. Calvin was a star on my team during my first two years of fantasy football, and he was a big playmaker. I’ll admit there were moments in the first season when I wondered why he wasn’t performing as well as I’d like, but I soon learned that it isn’t always the wide receiver’s fault when a quarterback is figuring out the game.

Jordy Nelson (read about him here) – One of the few Packers players I’ve had on my team, Jordy Nelson has the “old reliable” components of Peyton with the stud factor of Megatron. When Jordy and Aaron Rodgers collaborate on the field, magic happens. I contend that their partnership is one of the greatest bromances happening on the field in this era. Knowing he won't be on the field this year breaks my heart. He could have been "the one."

LeSean McCoy (read about him here) – When Shady is at his best, it doesn’t get much better. During my Cinderella season of 2013 (where I started the season in last place and ended up finishing as the first runner-up) LeSean was the perfect first-round draft pick and an obvious keeper for the next season in my keeper league.

Worst

LeSean McCoy (read about him here) – When Shady isn’t at his best, he has the ability to break hearts. After a wonderful 2013 together, 2014 was filled with disappointing numbers that made me question everything we had together. We finished our season with a losing record, and it still tears me apart.

Eli Manning (read about him here) – We had one good game together, and that was all it was. Two ships passing in the night… While I’m fortunate for our time together, there’s no way I could commit to him. Especially not when his brother and I have such a good thing going.

Jamaal Charles (read about him here) – Maybe I was expecting too much from him too soon. Maybe I should have been more realistic. But when you take someone with your first draft pick, you expect him to put up some big numbers week in and out rather than spending half of his life on the will-he-won’t-he play-this-week bench. Sorry to put you here, buddy, but I'm also not sorry, because this just didn't work out well for us.

So, watch out men of the NFL. I'm drafting the first of my new teams on Sunday, and I have a bunch of blank spaces waiting for your name.


Now that you’ve read my best and worst fantasy players, it’s your turn to weigh-in. Who are your favorite players in the league?


About the Book
When Harper Duquaine’s no-nonsense approach to work unintentionally ruffles the wrong feathers at her new job, she joins her co-workers’ fantasy football league to prove she can hang with the guys. Only problem: she doesn’t know a sleeper from a keeper (or any of the other lingo thrown her way).

Embroiled in a world of lineups, stats, and trades, Harper’s quest to make nice topples when her competitive streak emerges. And her promise to herself that she’ll be a strong, independent woman and leave the drama and heartache behind is seriously tested when she catches the attention of her two biggest competitors: J.J., a local celebrity determined to win a fantasy championship, and Brook, the mild-mannered coach who seems too good to be true. Both threaten her resolve to remain single… and, more importantly, her chances at winning the prize pool.

With a slew of conflicting advice in her real and fantasy worlds, Harper must figure out how to play the game and come out a winner.

Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Marching Ink on 9/9/15. 
Add it to Goodreads


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August 25, 2015

what's on my bookshelf? bonus treasures


Blogger's Note: After years of sharing my thoughts on books through book releases and #bookselfies, throughout the month of August I'll be giving you a closer look at what books are in my home library.

I still have more shelves and favorite stories to share, but today I wanted to showcase a few of the little extras that make my little home library uniquely mine.


This beautiful Murano glass pen and ink set on my Garwood to Gibson shelf was a gift from my little sister. During a trip she took to Europe a couple of years ago, she found this set in a shop in Venice, Italy, and brought it home for me. And I adore it. Not only is it a perfect gift for a writer, but it's beautiful and looks particularly pretty in the morning sunlight. It has added meaning, because it came from Sarah.


The Ariel and Belle bells on my Montgomery to Robb shelf were another gift. A couple of my friends brought them back to me from Disney World as a thank you present for checking on their dog while they were on vacation. Again, these are two presents that mean a lot because of the givers and because it's always nice to know your friends get you and what you like.


This is a memory jar, located on the writing resources shelf of my library. I've blogged about this before, but basically this jar contains little mementos from some of my travels. Notable pieces are train and tube passes from my college trip to England, a VIP pass to the backstage of the 2008 Scream Awards, and a sea shell from the beach where one of my best friends got married.


This is a never-before shared shelf, but I like to think of it as my nerd nook. I ran out of room on my regular bookshelves, so I keep the boxed sets to my Song of Fire and Ice, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings collections on top of one of the shelves. For a little flare, I have this metal "&" decoration, which I snapped up at Michael's during a trip to find supplies for a project.


I adore the ceramic white owl that stands on top of one of the shelves. I found it at a vintage shop earlier this summer, and I like how it looks sitting in front of that picture frame (another gift from a friend, it is the framed ISBN number for my debut novel, Hard Hats and Doormats).


And last but not least, the story behind the picture you've seen a lot of throughout the month. Those are framed paper-art portraits of my beloved Jane and Bingley created by my sister for me as a Christmas present. These came about, because I fell in love with some artwork my sister was creating to give to a friend for a baby shower. After months of not-so-subtly dropping hints (which ultimately led to me saying, "All I want for Christmas is cut-out pictures of the cats") I was beyond thrilled to find these sitting under the tree. The ceramic squirrel is another gift from my sister, and it doubles as a tea light holder.

Mr. Squirrel is sitting on top of three gift books, including The Wit and Wisdom of Jane Austen, Downton Abbey Rules for Household Staff, and A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen.


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August 20, 2015

my jealousy can go fly a kite

It's been a while since we had one of these posts, but grab your jackets and meet me at the park down the street. Let's go fly a kite...


If you're new to the blog, this is a moment where I'm telling someone (usually myself) or something (usually a bad habit of mine) to go fly a kite. And if you're not familiar with that little diddy, basically it's a nice no swearing way to say go eff yourself.

So back to why we're flying a kite today. This is nothing new, but lately it's reared its ugly head in my life again, and it's getting out of control. The green monster that sneaks out and sours what should be sweet and for lack of a better description, turns me into a bit of a mean wench. I'm talking about jealousy.

I've been feeling a lot of jealousy lately. It happens almost every time I'm on Facebook. It happens every time I see a post from a friend or acquaintance (particularly fellow writers) when they share what is great, wonderful news for them and their careers. Instead, I see the "my book is a best-seller" and "I just received my first advance" and "my fans keep saying this" and, well, I get jealous. I'm sure it's a perfectly normal, natural thing, but I don't like what it brings out in me. I don't like that instead of thinking, "way to hit that best-seller list" or "you earned that reward" or "you have such wonderful fans," I turn into an Ursula-like monster who grows bigger and badder until she's about to explode and thinks rather loudly HOW COME I DON'T GET THOSE THINGS TOO??? (She also tends to write insanely long run-ons, but she doesn't have the self-discipline or energy to rewrite them into smaller, more user-friendly sentences.)

I kind of touched upon these feelings last week with my post about wishing my life away (read it here). That envy feeds me jealousy. And that's a bad thing. I mean, when you watch a lot of TV shows and movies or read a book, one of the major motivators of any villain is his or her envy/jealousy of someone else. I don't want to be the villain in my own life.

Which is why right now--and it's not going to be easy or as simple as flipping a switch--I'm going to do my best to adjust my mind-set and get over being so jealous. I'm not entirely sure how that works. I suppose one thing would be to spend less time on social media, but who are we kidding? I can't quit it (I have a blog and novel career to run!). But maybe I should handle it the way a counselor advised me to handle my panic attacks. I should recognize the triggers and avoid them. And when that isn't possible, I should know the starts of an attack and be prepared to handle it. For the panic attacks, I'm supposed to walk it off or go to my happy place (which is actually a list of five things that bring me a lot of joy that I focus on). Maybe I do the same with the jealousy.

And maybe I should work harder at being happier when other people succeed. Because at heart I am happy for them. They've worked hard. They've earned their rewards. They don't deserve someone begrudging them their joy.

So that's going to be one of my new goals for the near future. I'm going to manage my envy and tell jealousy to go fly a kite.


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August 17, 2015

join the 'first & goal' team


Thank you for all of the kind words and support since I revealed the cover and release date for my upcoming novel, First & Goal. For me it's always a kind of exciting and terrifying time when you're about to share your book baby with the world. This time around, it was twice as scary, because I designed the cover myself. So the compliments meant even more to me.

Today I wanted to extend an invitation to all of you to be part of my release week team helping to spread the word about First & Goal when it is released. I'm looking for fellow bloggers wanting to feature a guest post, interview, or promo. I'm looking for social media fanatics willing to spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. There are lots of ways you can help. Use the sign up below to let me know how you'd like to help, and I will be in touch with you soon.


Thanks in advance for your help spreading the word on my new book baby. Your support means everything. Please let me know if there is ever a way I can repay the favor.


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