The Unthinkable

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Yesterday, the unthinkable happened.

The Lil Dude and I were on our way to see his new case manager and three blocks from the house, I looked at him from the rear view mirror and said, “oh no, Mommy forgot her phone!”

To which Lil Dude said, “oh no! We need to go back home and get it!”

But I said, “Ah, we’ll survive without it. So here’s the plan: we’ll go to the meeting, then to the store to buy you a new pair of shoes and then head straight home because we don’t have a phone.”

He agreed.

At the meeting, all my information was on my phone, of course, and I couldn’t even remember who I was meeting with. But we got that sorted out and I did have his IEP with me so that was sorted out, too. When she said something about an insurance denial letter not on file, I told her that yes, I did bring it in to the previous case manager but couldn’t tell her the date because that was on my phone. She asked if I brought a photograph of the Lil Dude and of course, there was no picture because that was on my phone, too.

One thing I also learned: Having a kid spinning around in an office chair at the periphery of your vision can still leave me feeling seasick until evening.

So then we had a late lunch because I just about passed out at the meeting from hunger (I totally need a visual schedule now, too) and while we’re eating, the Lil Dude enjoying his pancake with whipped cream topping and scrambled eggs and me with my Three Cheese Chicken Quesadilla, I realized that there was nothing to distract me from just being with the kid. No text notifications, no Messenger PMs… nothing. It was just him and me.

Then we headed to the store to shop for his shoes for school, which we did, and he also found a backpack “with bonuses!” he declared because what he picked out came with a lunch pail and a water bottle. Then it was home where I found all the notifications waiting for me on my phone.

None of them were important enough to take my attention from time spent with Lil Dude. And it made me realize just how much time is stolen by our addiction to our phones and social media. What is so important that we’d rather check our phone while we’re eating at the table or sitting next to them? But we do. I know I did, and yesterday, it hit me that there have been so many things I missed about my not-so-little-boy.

And for what?

To check on my day’s sales? To answer a PM? To check and see what latest gossip there is on the Chris Watts murder case? (Yes, unfortunately, I’m hooked on that case and have told myself to wait until November when he appears in court again instead of reading every conspiracy theory out there.)

Thing is, those things will still be there later. But those little moments—like my son licking the top of the pancake (where the whipped cream topping used to be) when he thought I wasn’t looking or how proud he felt for finding a “bargain” with his backpacks plus bonuses or how well-behaved he was while standing in the checkout line?

Like that commercial says, priceless.

On Writing and Outlines #amwriting

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I’ve written 31k words into that holiday novella and… I’ve hit a wall. It’s one of my own making, of course, one called the this-crap-could-be-better wall.

Technically, the book is “done,” as in, I got to the ending which, unfortunately, falls short of that moment in the cinema when you await (with bated breath) the hero’s answer to the question that will make him a slumdog millionaire or the group of eccentric friends driving their friend all across town to the press conference that will reunite him (in front of the world to see) with the celebrity he’d pushed away after she told him in his tiny travel bookshop, “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love me.”

Nope, I don’t got that moment at all.

I’ve kinda run out of steam and hopefully, it’s temporary, giving me enough time to collect my thoughts on the novella because no way is it going into that box set now. And since it’s not, now I can go for as high a word count as I need to tell a fully rounded story. It will also be a lighthearted addition to my Different Kind of Love series.

But first, I need to figure out what scenes to add, what the external plot is going to be (if it needs to be tweaked) and build up the internal plot that I had to discard along the way to fit the original word count requirement of 25k. Man, that’s a tight one, isn’t it?

Anyway, it all sounds so technical, doesn’t it? You’re probably wondering, where’s the spontaneity in the writing? Does everything have to be so planned? Where’s the surprise?

One of the things about writing a romance is that there is no surprise when it comes to the ending. We all know what happens. The couple or people involved if you’re writing about more than two people getting together (hello harems or reverse harems!) ultimately get a happily-ever-after (HEA) or a happy-for-now (HFN) ending. That’s why it’s called a romance. Not a love story which can have a sad ending (she died or he died or they went their separate ways) or an uncertain ending (what the hell just happened? Did they get together or not?). And not a drama which does not have to have a happy ending at all either.

They get a happy ending.

I guess the fun is in the journey to get to that ending.

There are many books out there on how to plot your story and for the last twenty years, I’ve gone by Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey – Mythical Structure for Writers which is based on Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey. My copy is frayed at the edges and filled with highlights.

I also have his Audible course with Michael Hauge and listen to it often.

A summary of the journey, the archetypes, and Vogler’s memo can be found here.

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As much as I insist that I’m a “pantser” (someone who writes by the seat of her pants, with no outline), I’m not. That’s because even if I don’t write down my outline, in my head, I have the hero’s journey (above) memorized. I know what happens next. I can watch a Hollywood-produced movie and know they’re going to hit on all those beats. And even if they mix the pieces up like Memento, when the movie is put together in order, you’ll come out with the same journey. So much for calling myself as a pantser when I really wasn’t. I knew the rules well enough to know what to break if I wanted to. I plotted inside my head.

But Vogler and Hauge’s methods aren’t the only ones that I use. There is also Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! which is mainly geared for screenwriters but is so helpful for writers as well. Imagine you and your friends are having dinner at a restaurant and someone goes, “Hey! X movie came out tonight! Why don’t we check it out?”

Everyone pulls out their phones and pulls up the movie poster and someone asks, “What’s it about?”

One of the main questions that Save the Cat answers is What is the movie/book about? Can you answer it in one sentence (logline)? There’s more to it, of course, and it gives the reader s basic outline or beats that happen in a movie.

 

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The Transformatioanal Machine One-Sheet

 

Another outline book is Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels (or How To Write Kissing Books) by Gwen Hayes, and this is geared specifically for romance writers. It’s short, sweet, and to the point. It helps you get your romance beats where they should be and have your readers rooting for your lovebirds to live happily ever after in the end.

Knowing basic story structure, no matter whose method whether it’s Vogler, Hauge, Snyder or Hayes’, is the reason I’m stuck at that ending of my book because I know I have to make that moment count and it’s not happening. It’s why I know that I need to beef up Phase 2 of the story (also called Fun and Games in Save the Cat!) to build up the attraction between my characters. Because there’s nothing like insta-love to turn off a reader…

What about you? Are there any books that help you write your stories? What would you recommend?

New Release & Guest Blog Post: Reactance by Dacia M Arnold

Before anything else, I’d love to wish a Happy Book Birthday to Dacia M Arnold for her latest release, REACTANCE, the prequel novella to her upcoming novel APPARENT POWER! Don’t miss her guest post following the release announcement! Congratulations, Dacia!

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REACTANCE

by Dacia M Arnold

Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Release Date: August 18, 2018

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Given a gift she never wanted, a young woman fights to find a place in post-apocalyptic Denver.

When a dormant gene awakens in a quarter of the world’s population, conductors of electricity are at the mercy of the DiaZem who rule over them.

After her father is killed in a thwarted plan to eradicate the population without the conductor gene, teenager Sasha Bowman channels her bitterness toward the woman she believes is responsible: The Queen DiaZem.

Keeping a journal to share with the world what really transpired, Sasha rallies the community to React against the Apparent Power.

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About the Author

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Dacia Arnold is an author that struggles to find a balance of work, motherhood, marriage, writing, and the occasional craft. Her first full-length novel, Apparent Power, is in the works to be released December 2018. Dacia served 10 years in the U.S. Army as a combat medic and deployed twice to Iraq and often incorporates these experiences into her writings both fiction and non-fiction. She currently lives in Denver, Co with her husband, two children, and a fat beagle named Watson.

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GUEST POST

I am so excited Liz Durano let me take over her blog for the day. My novella, REACTANCE just went on sale on Amazon and she wanted all of you to know about it. I have been a fan of Liz for a few years now and she has been extremely helpful to me and my career over those years. Thank you, Liz.

How fitting in the wake of Breaking the Rules, she would have me on her blog to talk a little about my personal military experience and the representation of such in literature. I served in the US Army, Active Duty for ten years. I deployed twice to Iraq in the medical field and witnessed both miracles and horrors of war. While my experience as a woman in the military differs from Sawyer’s, it is always important to remember women do serve and have served in the military for a long time.

Gender differences and representation in literature is not what I want to talk about though. I want to talk about my experience at war, PTSD, and losing dear friends.

I worked for fifteen months in the busiest trauma center in the world, Baghdad ER. Books were written and documentaries were filmed about Ibn Sina Hospital located in the Green Zone of Baghdad. I assisted in the birth of healthy babies and witnessed the death of young men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to their country. I also fought for the lives of other men and women who felt they could no longer go on and decided to take their own lives. In the absence of understanding I was often angry when we would fail in our attempts to resuscitate my fellow brother or sister in arms.

We also treated children, criminals, terrorists, murderers. And we treated them all the same. A man, who was shot for creating an explosive which killed five Americans, received the same life-saving measures as a child who was considered collateral damage and was injured for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I saw a lot. I let for Iraq at 23 and returned home when I was 25. I left far more than a birthday and year worth of holidays in that marble clad medical facility. I left nearly every memory I had and held onto the feelings of comradery, the twisted sense of humor one often finds in an emergency room, and pride in the work we did and care we provided. When our mission was done, our emergency room held a 98% survival rate. If you made it to the Combat Support Hospital, your chances of living to see your family again were pretty good. We still managed to lose so many.

All of this happened over a decade ago. I am older, have kids, and left the military when my contract ended four years ago. I do not have post-traumatic stress disorder. This simply means when these memories come back and affect me negatively, I am able to successfully find a coping mechanism to file the memories back in my mind. An inability to do so does not make a person weak. There was a time where I drank too much, cried a lot, and felt guilty about those lives lost in my care. I am, after all, still a human being.

My second deployment to Iraq, I was asked to manage the outpatient clinic (a position multiple levels above my pay grade) while my peers were shift leaders in the emergency room. They wanted the guts and glory. I had seen enough gore by then and was happy to have my quiet predictable corner of the hospital. On Christmas morning (was Christmas night in Iraq), my best friend back home was murdered by her boyfriend with her six children in the home. Because she was not family, I was not granted the opportunity to go home to pay my respects or offer assistance to her children. She was also a veteran. Her boyfriend was still in the military at the time. He was sentenced to a mere fifteen years of prison because he was clinically diagnosed with PTSD. He’s halfway done with his sentence already.

All of these experiences bleed into my writing. Articulating the feelings of loss, pain, guilt, the emptiness one experiences when someone they love is no longer there helps me in filing those hard memories in my mind. It helps me make sense of situations and the grieving process. Everyone has a “fight or flight” reflex and it never occurred to me that flight was an appropriate road to take in such matters.

As a mother, my knowledge of terrorism, guns, and survival are always thoughts running in the background of my mind. I was working in a major hospital when someone called in a bomb threat. Patients and staff alike were notified. Many patients wanted to leave against medical advice. After we received the all clear, some of the nurses, knowing my background, asked me what I would have done. I simply said, “I really just depended on what happened, but either way, I’m going home tonight.” While I knew I had no control over the situation, I needed to maintain the confidence of my ability to fight.

I often call my time in the military “the best worst time of my life” I do not regret joining, serving, deploying OR getting out after ten years. Every experience added a layer of clay to my skeleton and molded who I am today. It gives depth to my writing and a strength I know even the most likely of characters can muster.

And with that, I present my novella, REACTANCE.

Reactance is written in the form of a journal. The story runs the timeline of my novel, Apparent Power, and the sequel, Shifting Power. Though Reactance is meant to be a teaser to the main DiaZem Trilogy, readers can either pick it up while they wait until Apparent Power is released in December 2018 OR they can read it between books 1 and 2. Either way it wets your pallet for the dystopian world I have made.

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A Rough Week

It’s Friday and I can’t even say I’m looking forward to the weekend. It’s still summer vacation after all and so every day is like any other day. Summer stuff. Kid stuff. Struggling with writing stuff.

Is Mercury in retrogade this week? Or month? Or year?

Anyway, I did make a few changes to my books—again. This time, they’re the covers to my Celebrity series.

FINALLY.

I’ve always hated the white covers. Not so much the first book which I thought fit the woman on the cover perfectly, but the second book, with the male cover model? Well, let’s say Gollum’s voice comes out to say “We hates it, my precious” every time I see it.

The picture I had purchased was amazing but once adapted to match the first book, it was, in my opinion, horrible. Everything was too stark WHITE and yes, I did approve it, but that’s a story for another day (or probably never). I still hated it and that’s why I hardly ever promoted it. Bad for me and, really, I’m the only one who suffers in the end. Sometimes, some covers just don’t turn out right.

So this week, while getting stuck in Act 3 of that holiday novella that most likely won’t end up in the box set, I decided to busy myself with redoing covers. I’m still using the same images but this time, I’m switching them. The exclusive image of the guy goes to book 1 and the stock photo of the woman goes on book 2.

One good thing about the change is that it fits the author branding a bit better than the stark white ones that did not. I’ve updated the cover files on all retailers but Amazon (will do that after I publish this blog post) and requested a change for the audiobook as well.

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The covers are a bit dark but I’ve spent way too much time tweaking every shadow and every level of saturation and contrast and then the darn bokeh effects that I’m sick and tired of playing with it. I need to return to finishing that holiday story and writing the two words that have been eluding me for the past two weeks – THE END.

I’ve also spent some time reading (instead of writing) and one of the books I picked up was a dark romance that should be erotica but isn’t labeled as such on Amazon because otherwise, no one would see it. It’s what you’d call dubious consent breeding the female kinda book. I had no idea because it had one of those Beauty and the Beast type of titles so I thought it was some kind of erotic retelling.

Um, it definitely isn’t.

But it’s had a yellow bestseller tag in, like, forever and I guess it’s what many Kindle readers like (?) to read. I just wish I had some sort of warning but you really have no idea, not when it’s categorized under “romance” and is in the top 100 of its subcategory.

Also, based on how well it’s been doing in the Amazon store for over a year, I clearly am doing things wrong…

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Anyway, have a wonderful weekend everyone!

 

 

Kinks

I could not resist.

In the Mood for a Hot Viking Story?

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It’s not mine but author Emmanuelle de Maupassant’s latest release is FREE for a limited time and she’s celebrating with an Amazon Gift Card Giveaway. You can also download the book for free or if you’ve got Kindle Unlimited, add it to your library ASAP because it’s steamy hot and… well, it involves one hot Viking!

I also can’t stop looking at those pecs tattoos.

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Other than Viking history books, this is actually the first Viking series I’ve ever read before that’s under romance. The first book was hot hot hot enough for me to take notice and wait for the follow-up (and that’s a rare thing for me) and now that it’s here, I’m loving it. Emmanuelle definitely did a ton of research into the era and I love the parts about herbs and poultices and also the way she delves into Nordic folklore.

The first book is 99 cents or free in Kindle Unlimited so do can grab that while you’re there.

DOWNLOAD VIKING WOLF

DOWNLOAD VIKING THUNDER

Lost & Found: Where I Was Last Night

NOTE: While going through old files, I found stories I’d written back in 2001—THIRTY years ago (because I can’t do math)! Can you believe that?! This was way before blogs were officially called blogs but somehow I wrote stories and posted them on my old Geocities website. Thank goodness I backed them up because here’s one now, found while cleaning up one of my external drives and revived! I’m also posting them without comment as to why I wrote the story or when or whether it was a prompt from one of the writing courses I took at night or the writing groups I met on Sundays because honestly, I don’t remember. Who knows? It could also be real life. Besides, it’s just more fun this way…

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Where I was last night is none of your business.

Although the thought of telling you now eats into my soul like a hungry mouse and a ball of cheese in its grasp. It has begun to fester and infect my soul, never one to be chaste and pure, for I long to tell you though I am afraid to. Where should I begin to tell you what I did last night? Even I do not know where to start my little novella of…shall we say, impurity encased within a woman so chaste in sight, a maiden of the purest of upbringing.

I can still recall the look in my eyes as I gazed at my reflection in the cheap hotel mirror that hung behind the door, its wooden frame nicked at the edges, pieces of hardened gum tucked behind its looking glass. Wearing a short floral dress that clung to curves studiously and meticulously tended for by fasting and furious dieting, running along the beaches of the coast to tone the limbs that now felt the caress of the thin silken threads, I gazed at my reflection on a cheap hotel mirror. I was the most beautiful woman in the world last night… if you ever needed to know. And the reflection looking back at me with an arched eyebrow delicately plucked by a dark-skinned hairdresser yesterday could not have agreed more.

When the phone rang, I ran to the desk and lifting the receiver to my ear, I could hear your voice like music plucked by sinewy fingers against the strings of a lyre in the Irish sea, and I sighed. My knight in shining armor, though tainted, was finally here.

Yet a knight he was to my eyes, and his steed was a ten-year-old white Corvette, its white plexiglass frame having been redone the year past because an impatient New Yorker backed into it while trying to get out of a parking spot. Don’t New Yorkers know how to drive? I had thought once, though I knew the answer already. The hood of the Corvette was white as snow, its smooth exterior glistening in the moonlight. Who needed to know about New Yorkers and plexiglass frames on such a night as this? I slipped into the passenger seat, my stockinged legs revealed as the dress rode up high up my thighs, and I turned to face him as my right hand pulled the door shut.

He had not changed much, except maybe he looked happier. Maybe it was because of me, I could never truly know, although my vain heart would have thought so without a shadow of a doubt. We did not know whether to kiss passionately or lock our arms in an embrace, for inside a Corvette, such an embrace would have been cumbersome with one twisting uncomfortably just to welcome someone to one’s chest. So we kissed, gently at first, then slowly allowing cold lips to suffuse with warmth before fully tasting each others’ nectar as the cars of New York outside our little world blazed with horns and screeches. What did we care? A kiss from such a man was not one I would have refused. He was still my knight in tarnished armor.

And as we continued our passionate reunion of lips long abandoned from each other, I no longer worried about the dress riding high above my thighs, my silk stockings smooth against my skin that now began to prickle in the heat of the reunion. I no longer cared for the hotel room rented under another woman’s name, its bed awaiting with petals of roses strewn across its cheap comforter and pillows, nor the cheap chipped hotel mirror that would bear witness to me and my knight locked in the throes of a forbidden passion.

All I cared about last night as I kissed the man my heart had fallen head over heels for one night in a Queens bar, just days before Christmas eve, was the frantic removal of a band of gold that threatened to choke the life out of me, its metal colder still against the skin of my finger. I last saw it flying, as if with wings, into the cool night air of autumn, its cold metal of gold mined in the isles of Scandinavia shining in the light of the New York moonlight filtering through the skyscrapers above.

Where I was last night is none of your business. But if you ever find a band of gold on a New York pavement on FiftySixth and Fifth, let me know. My husband awaits its return although losing it while shopping at Lord & Taylor is a difficult story to swallow, even for a husband as gullible as mine.