I’m joining with several (and I mean several) new-to-you writers to put out a newsletter every other month. This doesn’t replace my newsletter, which you should totally sign up for right now.

Each newsletter will highlight four different authors. You’ll find new excerpts, books on sale, book boyfriends (<3), and author spotlights. Each newsletter will also feature contests (plural) that you’ll automatically be entered to win by virtue of just being a subscriber.

We’re having a Sign-Up Contest now. Every subscriber will be entered to win one of three (3!) prizes: a $50 Amazon Gift Card, a $35 Amazon Gift Card, and a $20 Amazon Gift Card. In addition, we have a Facebook page which will be teeming with info about us all and you should go like it after you sign up for the newsletter below.

The winners for the prizes will be drawn on December 31. They will be announced on the Facebook page and emailed.

Sign up below to discover new stories and win contests. It’s literally win/win.

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Dating Advice from Romance Novels: Magnate by Joanna ShupeI recently finished Magnate by Joanna Shupe. This first in a trilogy gripped me until the very. last. page. Like, I went and bought the prequel novella, read it in a day, then pre-ordered the other two books. This month and January will be good reading months for me.

And even though it’s set in New York City’s Gilded Age (which Wikipedia tells me is from the 1870s to about 1900), I decided a book this great had to offer some quality dating advice. So, you’re welcome.

  1. Don’t have silly, girly ideas, like thinking for yourself or working. That’s beneath the elite women. Unless, you’re awesome, and even though you are from old money, you still want to earn your keep and save your family from financial ruin.
  2. Do hit up your brother’s friends for help, even though you know it would make him, like, crazy mad. And ruin your chances to form a good marriage. Because see number one.
  3. Don’t assume that when a man invites you to a private dinner at a trendy restaurant, and then he kisses you (which means marriage, pretty much), that it was actually intended for you. Brothers are wicked matchmakers.
  4. Honeymoons aren’t for sex. They’re for being lonely and cold. And arguments. And jealousy. And a little bit of sexy kissing on the stairs.
  5. Oh. my. gosh. Do have sex with your husband, as soon as you can find a blizzard to hit New York.

I’m totally off to mine Joanna Shupe’s backlist.

What books or new-to-you authors have you discovered recently?

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revisit toolsSeveral years ago, I was working on my second manuscript and I wrote about what tools I used to get the job done. (It was a terrible story that I never did finish, but that’s irrelevant. I did mine secondary characters from it and gave them their own story, so it was useful, at least.)

What did I use then?

Paper. Fancy journal, legal pad, graph paper, steno notebook–whatever makes you feel good.  We’re writers, and if you want to be a smart writer, you will write everything down somewhere.  Might as well make it a central place.  And believe me when I tell you, when that paper is full of your story, of your imagination, your muse at work… you’ll know why you write, if only for a moment.

I’m still a paper fanatic. And I still use a plain old spiral notebook. I write down character sketches, outlines, scene notes–you name it. It nearly always starts on paper before making its way onto the computer.

A binder, preferably one-and-a-half inch, sheet protectors, and a hole punch.

I don’t really use a binder anymore. I’m more likely to keep things in Evernote or, as I’m going to discuss later on, Scrivener.

An All-in-One Printer.  First of all, they’re just not that expensive anymore.

I definitely still use a printer. I print pages multiple times for edits. I just edit better on paper (no surprise there).

So what tool do I use the most now?

Scrivener. Although I still make use of paper, I keep my entire outline in Scrivener. I didn’t for the story I wrote before my current one. I kept them on index cards. Then I got sick and didn’t write for a month. And misplaced my cards. Scariest week of my life, thinking I was going to have to recreate that outline.

I also keep all my research in Scrivener, as you can just drop entire web pages in there and access them from the program.

Further, all those character sketches and pictures of what my characters look like? All in the research binder.

It’s basically my go-to for everything.

What do you use to keep your writing organized or to get more accomplished?

I’m fascinated by other people’s process, so please share in the comments!

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What tools I use now to get the most bang for my writing buck. How about you? Click To Tweet

Starting Your Story Too LateI’ve recently been puzzling over a story that seemed to have everything going for it… and it just faltered. I’d written a hundred pages and blah, boring, and the heroine was just bitchy. It wasn’t working. Then I realized I started the story too late. We’ve all heard the warnings about starting a story too soon, but this was different. All the good, clicky stuff happened before the story started. And I just figured, hey, great backstory. Except it should’ve been story.

I kept playing with it in my mind, turning it around, and I would always come back to what if I wrote about the before? And then I decided that’s how you make a story dull, because the story starts when the action starts. Except, obviously, actions happen in a backstory, right? I felt like the serpent eating its tail.

I sort of wondered, is this a common problem? Do other people make this mistake?

If you open the window too early, your readers have to drum their mental fingers waiting for the action to start. Open the window too late, and you’ll find yourself desperately filling in with flashbacks and infodumps.

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Trust me--I hate flashbacks almost as much as infodumps. Click To Tweet But dumping is what I did–what I had to do. The story didn’t make sense without that info. I mean, a tried to dole it out slowly and hide it in conversation, but a dump is a dump.

That story has gone from a benched story to a to-be-written one. At least, once I figure out how to change those first 100 pages. Anyone else got battle scars like these? Have you ever started too soon or too late?

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More Reading:

Then

12.19.08
The Importance of Pre-Writing

I tried looking at pictures. Incidentally, Apartment Therapy is an awesome site.  So I bought a graph paper pad and I just drew the dance studio/apartment in no time.  I then described the way the rooms looked.  I included whoever’s viewpoint popped into my head, because different people see different things.  This helps me in two ways: 1) I can visualize these important places and the events that took place there easier and 2) I’ve got ready made description when I write scenes in those places.

I was amazed at how much such simple pre-writing work actually ignited my imagination.


Now

I still pre-write like it’s a lifeline to storytelling.  I call that creative time when you’re first planning a story, and the ideas are flowing like Niagara Falls, creative crack. It’s amazing and fun. And so much of writing isn’t all fun–it’s hard, hard work.

Using Pre-Writing as a Tool for WritingIn that post, I talked about planning out spaces to make our fictional places more real. Since then, an incredible tool has taken over the internet. You can look on the right and see it’s become a passion of mine: Pinterest. Obviously, I don’t just use it for writing.

But, with Pinterest, I can see my characters, interiors & exterior places, and even crucial items. And it’s “in the cloud,” accessible to me from any device, anywhere I can use the internet (which, let’s admit, in this age, is everywhere). In the novella I just finished writing, I used Pinterest for character placeholders, info about Vegas in the fifties (the setting), and clothing trends of the time. I deeply needed my research to make that story happen.

I’ve also noticed a trend: other writer’s are using it, too. I went to an online book release party, and all the authors shared their Pinterest story boards. Are readers interested in these? I was. I loved seeing the historical clothing, the shipwrecks, the cool clubs.

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Pinterest has become the author's new best friend, letting us pile up valuable research. Click To Tweet

dating advice HOC3JI mentioned last week that I’m reading the trilogy that inspired House of Cards (also the name of the first book). I have since finished and thought I’d throw down some rules.

Dating Advice from Romance Novels: House of Cards

  1. Don’t get crushes on married men. You may* not die, but you’ll definitely get hurt.
  2. How many times do I have to say it? Go for the nice guy!
  3. There’s this thing called age-appropriateness. No rule is true in every case, but if someone was pushing four decades when you were born, it’s got to make you wonder what you have in common. For example, my husband and I both grew up in the 80s. So when we run out of things to talk about, we can always rehash old Dukes of Hazard and A-Team episodes.
  4. It’s okay to not want romance. Empowering even, maybe. But don’t lie to yourself. If you secretly want to hook-up with a married power-hungry politician, sort that shit out. #blog… Click To Tweet
  5. Don’t let your libido prevent you from seeing that he’s a sociopath.

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*Spoiler Alert: You’ll totally die.

Read More

Specifically, four years and four months older, which was the average “ideal” age gap as reported by a survey of 2,000 adults.

If you’re anything like me and most of the planet, you binge-watched House of Cards on Netflix when they debuted the entire season (like they do) in February.

Confession: I’ve watched Seasons 1 and 2 three times. Once for each new season because this is a show you have to pay attention to. The smallest detail, especially on the part of Frank or his wife, can mean huge repercussions later.

Why are we so obsessed with Francis Underwood and his dirty doings? How is someone so amoral the protagonist of the story? To answer that, we have to talk about anti-heroes.

According to dictionary.com an anti-hero is:

a protagonist who lacks the attributes that make a heroic figure, as nobility of mind and spirit, a life or attitude marked by action or purpose, and the like.

That’s a place to start, but it doesn’t really explain how so many people can be fascinated by a character that is, essentially, a bad, unredeemed and never-to-be-redeemed person. For something a little closer to our purposes, I’ll add Writers Digest to the mix:

Antiheroes can be obnoxious, pitiful or charming, but they are always failed heroes or deeply flawed. Often riddled with paradoxical traits and qualities, they resemble real people more than any other type of fictional characters do, and they are increasingly popular these days in fiction, film and television.

Now that makes my brain get clicky. Obviously, they’re not heroes, but failed heroes. A failed hero does not arc, but chooses to continue handling whatever life throws at him in the same way, or worse ways. What I find most interesting is the notion that anti-heroes are the most realistic of fictional characters.

I hate to think that’s true. As someone who has worked in mental health for many years, I’ve seen my share of people who get it, where they’re making flawed choices, and completely turn it around. On the other hand, people who make the same mistakes are more common than not.

Does that mean anti-heroes lack self-awareness? Not the best of them. Definitely not Frank Underwood. I think one of the qualities that make him so much fun to watch is the deliberateness of his every move.

I’d love if you’d share your fave anti-heroes. I’m currently reading the House of Cards trilogy and the main character (who is British, not Southern) as well as the story are different enough to be enjoyable unto itself.

Tweet: House of Cards and Anti-heroes. Why are we so obsessed with Francis Underwood and his dirty doings? http://goo.gl/bTF1kc

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Dating advice from the novel Party Girl by Rachel Hollis

This week, I finished Party Girl by Rachel Hollis. It’s true stories of the author’s experiences incorporated into fiction (like The Devil Wears Prada).

Dating Advice: Party Girl

  1. Don’t bounce between boys (or girls) like a ping-pong ball. It’s just never attractive when someone only likes another someone when the third someone is persona non grata. See how confusing that sentence is? That’s why your love life is confusing. Pick a person. See it through. If it doesn’t work out, I swear you’ll be okay without a back-up.
  2. Don’t get drunk with other people you may like and you know like you when you’re heartbroken. I realize we’ve probably all made the poor choice of drinking our troubles away. Except, you know, the trouble is still there when you sober up. And I can’t imagine how sleeping with that other someone doesn’t make the trouble increase exponentially.
  3. In fact, don’t get so drunk you black out, ever. This is not a good time. It’s not a typical Saturday night. If you do this, it’s bad. Like maybe you should talk to someone about your drinking bad. Do not seek out this type of oblivion.
  4. Take responsibility for your life. That's not just dating advice; it's good advice all-around. Click To Tweet If you’re unhappy, it’s up to you to change it. If your life is a mess, what are you going to do about it? A friend sent me this great quote the other day, and I think it does an awesome job of finishing this up:

No one is ever a victim, although your conquerors would have you believe in your own victimhood. How else could they conquer you?

–Barbara Marciniak

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P.S. I’ve never (to date) been given a book to review. I believe I got this book before release as part of my Amazon Prime membership. This is only my opinion and if yours is different, that’s awesome for us both. Also, shout-out to my awesome friend Carrie for the quote.

20150212090406I personally think readers are of superior intellect. I mean it takes some gray matter to take in words and transform them in our minds to a living, thriving story made up of people and places we’ve never seen.

However, we still get a bad rep. Actually, if we got a bad rep, that might be cool. No, we’re lumped in as nerds (which I also proudly am, but that’s for another day).

So, in no particular order, five things people who read are sick of hearing.

1. I’ll just watch the movie.

Are you kidding me? Name three movies better than the books. Oh, wait. You can’t. I’m done with you.

2. You spent how much on books?

That’s between me, the IRS, and God. And I’m pretty confident God likes readers, given the size of His Book.

3. Wouldn’t you rather do something more fun?

Clearly, this is a trick questions since there isn’t anything more fun. Boom.

4. How can you read that [insert genre] crap?

With pleasure, sir or madame. I read it with no shame, whenever I can get it, with pleasure. Now you’re jealous of me.

5. How many book can you actually read?

Ask me when I’m dead. Obviously another trick question. I’m trying to read all the books.

Now, please, go make some tea and let me read in peace.

2014-09-26_01_56_290001I recently finished Heroes Are My Weakness, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. SEP, as I and most of the internet like to call her, is my favorite author. I love her messy characters, twisted situations, connections between lovers, friends, and families, and the hilarious bow that ties it all together.

It goes without saying, I enjoyed this book and this couple. And, I think, there are a few dating advice gems to glean from this particular story.

This DAfRN contains spoilers.

Dating Advice from Heroes Are My Weakness

  1. Puppets can be wanton, naughty creatures when left to a hero’s devices.
  2. You can always trust a man who loves his cat. And crazy sister.
  3. Old ladies will eff you up every time if it means keeping their families close. But, at the end of the day, if that’s what it takes to make you realize you love the big galoot who you thought was psycho-evil, then thems the breaks.
  4. Always give your high school sweetheart a chance, even if his sister died mysteriously, his wife committed suicide, and you’re pretty sure he tried to kill you. For down that road lies true love.
  5. Little girls aren’t the best free secret keepers once they recover from their trauma-induced mutism. And yet, it’s still adorable, little tattler that she is.

Tweet: “‘Old ladies will eff you up every time if it means keeping their families close.’ http://bit.ly/1Eo9MSm”