I plot. I spend weeks figuring out characters, locations, and flaws. And then I dig in deep. I plot my story out, by acts and beats, down to each and every scene of my story. And, sometimes, those scenes have beats and entire stretches of dialog in the notes.

Thinking Through Our Fingers: In the Mind of an Outliner – Arcs and Structure.

This is front loading a story with lots of work. I know this. But as a teacher, mom, wife, and all the other things, I realized I was doing more work trying to keep a story in my head than taking the time (several weeks) to really think through where I was going. Having a structured system lets me see the big picture and the small picture.

Like the quote says, I realize it’s a lot of work. I once bemoaned how long my writing process takes me and the wise K.M. Weiland tweeted back to me, to paraphrase, that’s the least important thing in writing I could worry about. And she’s so freaking right. Getting the story right, and layered with resonance, is the most important thing. How we get there are just details.

I have to add that once I start writing, it goes pretty fast. I can do up to 6k a day because everything is already in place, except the actual words. That becomes the easy part, at least in the first draft. I sprint with my friends, the words flying from my fingertips because I know where I’ve been, I know where I’m at, and I know where I’m going. Need to foreshadow–no problem.

I highly recommend that people try plotting, to their own comfort level. There are some things in your story that you will need to work out. Doing that ahead of time prevents writer’s block.

Best resources for plotting

Good luck!

P.S. Don’t forget my new novella, out now, My Fake Vegas Boyfriend. It’s book one of my Viva Las Vegas series set in 1958. Books 2 will be out in early April and book 3 in mid-June. Read chapter one here.

Today my book, My Fake Vegas Boyfriend, was released. (Did you know you can read Chapter 1 right here, on my site? Check it out.)

This is book one in my Viva Las Vegas series and the other two will be released in April and June. There’s so much I love about this series–the characters, the setting, the clothes, but today? The music.

There were 3 songs that inspired this book (and then, in turn, it became a series because I wasn’t ready to leave that world). The songs may not have been out in 1958 (when the stories take place), they may be older or may not have been out yet. But when the bud of an idea for this story first began, it was about evoking a feeling for the time and the people who occupied it.

The first song was Sway by Rosemary Clooney. That beat, the passion in the lyrics, the back-and-forth of two people falling in love was my foundation for the story ideas.

In writing this story, and after listening to Sway, I knew there would be a dance scene. I’ve never written one of those before, and the logistics of how to write that without it becoming, “He twirled her. She spun,” was intimidating indeed. I think I pulled it off. In fact, it was one of those things like dancing, where I just let myself access the moment and went with it and when I was done, I thought, “Damn. That’s actually good.”

But then to pick the song they would’ve been able to dance to. It had to be something I connected to, something that spoke to where they were emotionally in the story at that point, and something released before or in 1958. I chose Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You by Frankie Valli and, seriously, if you listen to the song and read that scene… it works well.

Finally, a song that helped me access the core conflict for Layla. It’s not an exact replica of her feelings, but it speaks to the situation she finds herself in. I don’t want to say anything spoilery, so I’m just going to leave the song here and hope you enjoy it– Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow by The Shirelles.

I’ve very much enjoyed this walk down memory lane with you. These stories came about when I was in a dark place emotionally and I literally wrote myself out of a depression. They’re magical, I’m very proud of them, and I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did.

My Fake Vegas Boyfriend

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I’ve got a lot of books coming out this year. For now, let’s focus on the Viva Las Vegas series. The first book, the aforementioned My Fake Vegas Boyfriend, will be available February 6. Based on my understanding with the publisher, the second book (My Big Fat Vegas Wedding) will debut in April and the final book (My Vegas Comeback) in June.

These stories center around the Rosas siblings–two older brothers and their baby sister. Layla gets to tell her story first. I’m so pumped for you guys to read this story. It’s like nothing I’ve written before and (disclaimer) it takes place in Las Vegas, 1958. I had to do so much research! At one point, in the third book, I had my heroine making coffee with the hero’s fancy coffee machine and then my brain shot out a, “Double check that,” and in 1958 one would’ve used a percolator to make coffee. Mr. Coffee and his progeny didn’t make their debut for a few more years.

On the fun side, researching the clothing, the hairstyles, the fashion and beauty icons of the time. All of that is included in the story to help you immerse yourself in a time you might never have lived through (I didn’t!).

Learn more about My Fake Vegas Boyfriend on the book page or just go now and read chapter one.

One final note: don’t forget that today is the last day to buy Infamous for $0.99 and that the audiobook is now available through audible and amazon. Just go to the book page, find your vendor, and click to buy the book.

Much love for you all,

This month marks the one-year anniversary of my grandmother’s passing. She passed less than two years after her husband, my grandfather. They’ve been on my mind a lot lately. I catch my thoughts slipping into memories, like a bittersweet treat. I saw a typewriter today and thought I’d share one of the many reasons I love them so much.

When I was 15, I wanted a typewriter. I am a techie–always have been–and a writer. I take my wording quite seriously and always have.

This typewriter had a small word-processing feature on it. Not to give away my age, but this would’ve been summer of 1989. Believe me, when I tell you, this was cutting edge.

The typewriter would store one line in its memory and on the small screen. You could go back and edit that line or hit enter at the end and the line would be dashed off by the super-quick typewriting mechanism. I know it wasn’t the kind with keys that popped up for each letter. It was a grandfather to the computers that would come later and so it held the single line in memory then printed it off. There was also–and this was amazing–erasing tape. You could backspace and it would overwrite what had been written with a clear or white square.

I guess I saw this in the Sears catalog that my other grandmother would receive. (I’ve written about her before, too.) I’m not sure how much it cost. More than a hundred–less than three, I suppose. Which was exorbitant. My parents could never have afforded that.  I knew I would never get it, but it was so pretty, and technologically edgy, and perfect for someone who loved words. I knew I wanted to write, though nothing so specific as being a writer had formed. I think I was too scared of how much I wanted it to give it voice.

It was my birthday in July and my grandfather showed up. Now, with my children, he was very hands on. Went to all their school functions–that sort of thing. But with me… he was the big gun. I knew he loved me fiercely and would do anything within his power for me. That was more than enough.

He brought with him a box from Sears that held my beautiful Brother typewriter/word processor. My grandmother was with him, of course. He would’ve never known I wanted it if she hadn’t told him. I remembered wistfully telling her about all the features, how I was going to teach myself to type, how I could use it for school projects. I was… overwhelmed and grateful. I’m still grateful.

I did use it for school. I did teach myself to type, retyping magazine articles over and over until I could type at 90 wpm. I also wrote a few short stories on it. I kept it and used it in college, at least the first couple of years. Then computers took over the world and I managed to get myself one of those.

But, what a gift that was for a budding writer. The ability to write as many words as I wanted, neatly, cohesively. My heart says that maybe I wouldn’t be who I am today if they hadn’t been so generous and thoughtful.

I’m lucky enough to have my parents and a very special Aunt who has been like a combo second-mom/best friend to me over the years. I think the lesson for me is to enjoy each moment with them. Live in it. Feel the gratitude, be overwhelmed. Put the phone down and just be. I hope you’ll do the same this year, because we’re not promised any tomorrows. Let’s enjoy our todays to the fullest.

Here at the Sizemore home, we’re getting ready to celebrate Christmas. To those of you who celebrate differing holidays, like, say, Festivus (a holiday for the rest of us), I wish you lovely celebrations, decadent food, and happiness in the upcoming year.

It’s been a hard year, 2017. I lost my grandmother, I got a 3 book contract. I’ve watched my kids succeed and struggle. I got an Alienware computer (OMGYAY) and a new Nintendo 3DSXL. Not that I’m all about the things… I’m just looking for the stuff I can appreciate. It’s my way of coping. Don’t even get me started on the state of government. I’m kind of happy to see the backside of 2017.

I was hoping to have a cover reveal this week, but, alas, I have no pretties to show you. Yet. I do have a blurb for My Fake Vegas Boyfriend, the first in the Viva Las Vegas trilogy. It will be released on February 6–if you haven’t seen that yet.

1958 Las Vegas. She can ruin his career. He can save her freedom. What’s a little blackmail between strangers?

 

Layla Rosas has been burned too many times—by her cheating ex, her narcissist mother, and now her father who’ll put her in an asylum, for good this time, if she can’t settle down and be a good girl. She needs a quality boyfriend—now—to convince her dad she’s back on the straight and narrow.

 

Jace Russell is good at his job: keeping the wealthy elite who visit his casino safe and happy. When a photographer snaps a career-ending shot of a client, it’s Jace’s duty to do whatever it takes to stop that photo from hitting the press.

 

Layla didn’t intend to take a compromising shot, but that doesn’t mean she won’t use it. When Jace realizes a few fake dates are all she wants in exchange for the negatives, he’s all in—with the added agenda of getting the crazy but beautiful woman between his sheets. But Layla refuses to gamble her heart on the toe-curling kisses of a fake boyfriend. It’s just a few dates. How hard can it be?

Doesn’t that sound like delicious fun? The answer is yes, lovelies. And it is.

For now, from me to you, happy holidays!

Note: This post is about Exactly Like You, which is on sale this week until December 1. Here’s a quick buy link from Amazon or hop over to the book’s page for a list of retailers.

Further note: I discuss in this post heroines I’ve written with depression and one who is a former cutter, so trigger warning.

When I wrote my last book, Exactly Like You, I wanted to do something I didn’t often see done–tackle depression in a hero/heroine. I know I’m not the first to write about this, and won’t be the last. And that’s great news because the stigma associated with mental illness needs to be blown away.

Roxie’s life had been decimated by some difficult situations (her sister’s suicide and a traumatic event at her former job as a social worker). She’s not sad or down; she’s lost in the quagmire of clinical depression. And it scares her parents and, eventually, Aidan so much they sort of stop seeing her and only see the disease.

I wanted to accurately portray the illness; no instantly getting better because of true love’s first kiss or anything. And I think I did a good job. The Genre Minx, who reviewed the book, had this to say:

I loved that Ms. Sizemore was able to write a story dealing with a difficult subject and not make it cliche or overly dramatic. Roxie’s struggle is real and she owns her struggle.

Natalie Rowe gave this glowing praise on the topic in her review on Goodreads:

The story tackles an issue of depression, it also portrays it so well! Roxie’s mental battle is so well written, you can really understand her anxieties and irrational thoughts that come with depression. I’ve read a lot of books where somebody is battling with depression and everything is just constant sadness. Which isn’t what depression is. This book portrayed it perfectly.

Falling in love doesn’t solve every problem and it shouldn’t make a character complete. What it should do, in fiction and in real life, is make us want to be a better version of who we are, the whole person we can be–if we’re willing to put in the work.

It’s why I love writing romance and why I’ll keep creating messy, real characters to populate my books. Next year, the first book in my Viva Las Vegas series, My Fake Vegas Boyfriend, debuts on February 6. The heroine of that book is a former cutter who uses photography as an outlet for the strong urges she still has to bring emotional relief with cutting. I love her, I love the hero and heroine’s journey.

For now, check out Exactly Like You while it’s on sale and get ready to Vegas it up next year, fifties style.

One of the big things I struggle with when starting a story is likeability. The general premise is that a reader needs to be able to connect with a character, that the character should have redeemable qualities so that the reader can like him or her.

I have two issues with this. First of all, I’ve written nice alphas and I’ve written jerky alphas–no one cares. These guys don’t have to be likable. They need to be heroic. They can be jerks and still live by their own code of ethics. I have zero problems pulling this off, but it bugs that heroes are given so much more latitude than heroines.

Second, I have a hard time making likable heroines. I’ve written everything from the wilting flower (who everyone loved, right off the bat–not my typical heroine) to, shall we say, more abrasive heroines (these are the ones I usually start out with). I prefer to think of them as complex.

Because, here’s the thing. My characters are not happy when the story starts. Their lives are usually in shambles or, they think they have everything under control, but it’s all just a house of cards waiting to fall. And people with difficult lives are not happy, likable people.

It really annoys me that I have to try to make my heroine conform to being “likable” in order for her to be identifiable. Um, look… I’m a likable person. But sometimes, I’m a wreck. Sometimes, I’m a handful. And, you know what? I think more people can identify with me than can not.

Starting right now, I’m going to fight this stereotype–that women only like to read about sweet, light, giving creatures. The Snow White, whistling while she works as birds light upon her finger. I never even liked Snow White. Or Cinderella. They were both basically doormats for their antagonists. Why would I want to write that?

Please, give me your opinion on heroines at the beginning of a story. What do you love and hate to see? Call it research, because I really need to know.

I was recently asked what my dream reading area would be like. My imagination immediately started conjuring this room. Yes, room–not a nook or an area, but a whole room.

To enter my reading room, first off, you have to find the secret door. It’s hidden behind a bookshelf. Ironic, right? Or maybe not, but clever, at least. So, one opens the secret bookshelf door however one does and walks in. I don’t know, for sure, as I’ve never actually encountered one of these doors in real life.

The first thing that strikes you is the scent. There are a few scented candles placed strategically–all the same scent because I’m obsessive that way. Something fruityor foodie like pineapples or apple pie. Nothing too flowery or frou-frou. This is a serious room, for serious readers, and we don’t like pretention.

Look around at the bleached wood floors with colorful throw rugs. You just want to go stand on them, feel the softness under your toes. The room is a seating delight. There’s a chaise lounge int he corner, with a floor lamp behind it, and lots of plump pillows to settle into. There’s a window seat, of course, because that’s where one does the whimsical reading. You can curl up on the cushioned seat and watch rain bead on the windows or birds gather in the garden outside.

In the center of the room is a plush, enormous, couple-of-adults-sized poof. You can just sprawl out in the bean bag of your dreams, flopping onto your stomach, then shifting to your side, finding just the right position to get lost in a good book.

There are discreet pockets of light throughout the room. Enough brightness to read by, but low enough as to inspire a feeling of intimacy and immediacy. The reading is crucial, it’s right now, it’s all that happens in this space.

This room is a sanctuary–hence the hidden door–and only the truest book lovers can enter. One needs to know that smell an old book produces, a little bit vanilla, a little bit heaven, just to access it. Troubles are left at the door. There is comfort here, of the physical and emotional sort.

This isn’t just a physical place, it’s a mindset. A dedication to books and those who love them.

I’d love to know what your ideal reading space is like. It doesn’t need to be as detailed as mine (though that’s just as welcome!). Just leave me a comment with a bit of description or even just to say hello.

xx

I want to preface this by saying that I was contacted by Aleksandra Lechwar, who runs a great Etsy shop called Just 1 More Chapter. Apparently, my Christmas post of great reader gifts was sending Aleksandra some traffic (yay, right?) and he wanted to thank me. He offered to let me pick out a couple of pieces for free, which I gladly did because they looked so cool.

I chose two pairs of earrings. One, Wicked, because I adore Elpheba and her story. It’s one of my favorite books. The second set, The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe, was because that was a book my English major grandmother gave me when I was a teenager. If you read my blog, you know she passed away in January after a long battle with Alzheimer’s, I miss her, but I’d missed her a long time–that will make sense to anyone who has had to live with a family member slowly descending into this horrible disease.

The earrings came quickly and they’re so cool. They not only have the book cover, they have the spine, back cover, and even little “pages” along the side. They’re very true to life.

Here are a couple of pictures of me wearing one pair and a detailed picture of the other. I also want to add that I’m allergic to nickel and most earrings make me itch, even some that claim to be nickel-free. I wore these earrings all day and didn’t feel even a twitch of itchiness in my ears.

All of this is to say that now that I’ve tried out the products, I can’t recommend Just 1 More Chapter’s products highly enough.

PS. I was in no way asked to leave a positive review of the product and have received nothing in compensation for doing so. I just really wanted to share these super-cute and well-made products.

Today’s the day these two characters I’ve grown to love so much get set free into the wild (that’s your, the reader’s, hands). Hint: If you make it all the way to the end of this post, there’s a giveaway.

Read a little more about them…

Former social worker Roxie Fisher believes she’s cursed to never find happiness and an invitation to Cupid’s Café isn’t going to change her situation. All the same, against her better judgment, she gives it a try. What else does she have to lose?

After the death of his wife, accountant-turned-firefighter Aidan Craig, can’t stop taking ridiculous risks and never turns down a dare. So an invitation to Cupid’s Café is an offer he can’t refuse. What he doesn’t expect is to meet the social worker who helped him through the darkest days of his life. Now she’s the one struggling, and he’s compelled to help.

The two experience an immediate attraction, but Aidan swore to never become involved in another relationship, and Roxie can’t imagine daredevil Aidan being interested in a boring, cat-rescuer like her.

Can Roxie find the simple joy of taking a risk? Is Aidan willing to risk his heart? Or will they both lose out on a chance at true love?

Buy Links

I’ll update these as I can. For now:

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A hot little excerpt when you click read more (and giveaway details)…

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