Musings Over Coffee: Write From the Heart

Cleaning my phone photo album because I’m hitting 2TB on my cloud storage and found my first ever self-made trailer for Everything She Ever Wanted from October 2016. Brought tears to my eyes because I never really wrote it as a category romance story but one woman’s journey from darkness to light, from losing herself and finding herself again. It’s women’s fiction at its heart and the two-minute-long trailer pretty much says it all.

These days, if I make a trailer, it’s straight to the point and as succinct as I can get it in 30 seconds or less, the details sacrificed for SEO discoverability and limited attention spans on social media. It’s a gift to find treasures like these because they remind me that once upon a time I wrote for the pure joy of writing, needing to tell the stories I had to tell from my heart.

This is also why I no longer have a publishing schedule like I had last year and at the beginning of this year because there was no more joy, just hustle and hustle and hustle harder because if you slow down, readers forget you. Only in doing so I forgot myself and felt so empty and hollowed out like Bilbo Baggins says in Fellowship of the Ring, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”

But I digress.

I need to go back and clean up my phone storage.

Book Review: The Waiting Room by Alysha Kaye

THE WAITING-ROOM

“We’d always promised that when our wrinkles sagged across the surface of every one of our limbs, we’d find a way to say sayonara to the world together. (But) I was too early. I left her—her worst fear.” – The Waiting Room by Alysha Kaye

This was an interesting love story, one that grabbed me from the moment I read the description. It’s about fate, love, reincarnation, and the choices we make with each life and even the ones that come after and in-between. It’s metaphysical and philosophical, definitely not your typical love story or romance which means it’s also miscategorized in the Amazon store, which is unfortunate because that means it’s invisible, algorithm-wise.

Yes, they have their happily ever after but not before Jude ends up dying first and finds himself in what he can only call “the waiting room,” a place in between lives where people have minutes or a few hours before some mysterious receptionist calls out their names and they walk through the doors and into their next lives. Only Jude is never called. Instead, he looks out the windows to watch Nina grieve and ultimately live her life without him. Is it because he’s waiting until she joins him? What then? Is it a predetermined existence for their next life together? Will they find each other again and again and again? What if they don’t?

Alysha gifted me the paperback through her blog and I ended up reading this story in Kindle Unlimited on my Kindle Fire late into the night.

You can read The Waiting Room by Alysha Kaye here.

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A New Look

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I wrote Billie’s story in 2015 for a romance competition. Back then, I had NO idea what genre or category romance was. Sure, I read them—Harlequin, Mills & Boon, Silhouette, and others—but writing it? Nope. It simply never crossed my mind that the stories I wrote were literary fiction or women’s fiction with romantic elements, not category romance.

Of all my books, this was probably the one that came with the toughest learning curve… and the smashing of that bubble I had been writing in for years.

I did not write romance. Not then.

So when RT Book Reviews, a well-known review service that closed last year, stated that Billie’s story was a “mistaken identity story that straddled chick lit and romance,” they were basically saying, “yo, this isn’t category romance.”

I didn’t get it though. Not then.

Since then, I could probably say that I’ve been learning how to write romance. It’s actually not as easy as people believe. There are beats, turning points, character arcs in addition to the kissing and other steamy scenes (unless you’re writing Christian or clean and wholesome romance). There are expected events that when the author fails to deliver, the reader knows. Romance readers know what they want. They know every book that claims to be a romance has to have a happy ending, either happily ever after or happy for now.

If your story doesn’t have that happy ending, no, you did not write a romance. It may have romantic elements but it’s not category romance.

But I digress…

Billie’s story used to be titled A Collateral Attraction, A Romantic Suspense Novel. There is still romantic suspense so I’ll keep that subtitle but because the story is narrated only by one person—Billie—as she struggles through sibling rivalry, grief, and guilt, I always knew that I needed to have only a woman on the cover. I’ve had couples and then a lone man on the cover for so long and it always felt… “off.”

Until now.

I think I’ve got it this time. After holding on to this cover for months, I finally designed the text and the layout to fit my branding last night and it’s live. Different cover and title but the same story.  I had debated on adding Heath’s point-of-view many times but each time I tried, he had nothing to say that Billie already didn’t say in the original 95k word book that’s since been edited down to 73k. The story was fine the way it was, even with its 1-star reviews and whatnot. Some stories are just fine the way they are.

But I do love the cover, and if you haven’t read it, here’s the synopsis:

The Other Sister: A Romantic Suspense Novel

Billie has always been content standing on the sidelines while her identical twin sister, Blythe, gets all the attention, including a glamorous lifestyle with billionaire Ethan Kheiron. 

All that changes when Blythe and Ethan disappear and Billie is mistaken for her twin sister. Worse, Ethan’s younger brother Heath accuses her of corporate theft.

To prove her sister’s innocence, Billie will need to step into her sister’s Manolos and play the game, including pretending to be Heath’s lover. 

But a life of luxury, personal shopping sprees, and private jets cannot hide the years of unresolved differences between sisters, nor the decades of lies that have left the Kheiron family divided. And even as Billie slowly falls for Heath, she realizes that until they all settle their differences, they’re really just pawns in someone else’s game of power and money… and where some of them are more expendable than others.

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Under My Skin

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I’m slowly re-learning how I roll when it comes to writing the stories I love even if it means falling in love with my heroes and heroines. I need to have them crawling under my skin until I have no choice but dream about them and think about them until I can’t take it anymore and give in.

It means a slower process, but if it brings me back to the way I used to write, with wild abandon and finding myself eager to get out of bed so I can write out their stories, then I’m all for it.

TLDR; These two refuse to leave me alone. (Also why I’ve had to set aside the firefighter story I was working on…)

Musings Over Coffee: A Motorcycle Club Anthology and the 12-Week Year

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LOVE, LOYALTY & MAYHEM: A MOTORCYCLE CLUB ROMANCE ANTHOLOGY
99¢ FOR RELEASE WEEK ONLY!

Nineteen of your favorite MC authors come together to bring you brand new, never released stories from some of your favorite motorcycle clubs.

Love-

Life with a biker is an adventure full of twists and turns. When love is involved, MC men never back down from what they want—they fight for it.

Loyalty-

Loyalty is the foundation in any motorcycle club. Break it, they break you. There isn’t a line they won’t cross to protect who or what they claim as their own.

Mayhem-

These men live a life made by their own set of rules. Chaos tends to always find them. You cross them, the consequences are swift.

Hold on for the ride as this talented group of authors come together to bring you an anthology like no other.

Your favorite clubs, new clubs, and everything in between can be found in this collection filled with suspense, action, adventure, romance and so much more!

**All profits from the Love, Loyalty & Mayhem: A Motorcycle Club Romance Anthology will be donated to Bikers Against Bullies USA.

BAB USA is a national not-for-profit organization created by bikers to raise awareness and empower the community to fight the terrible effects of bullying on young people through education, community outreach and fundraising. https://buff.ly/2ISWFkp **

AMAZON: https://buff.ly/2JFyHcv
IBOOKS: https://buff.ly/2YXebJj
NOOK: https://buff.ly/2Z20hGa
KOBO: https://buff.ly/2k8Jdip
GOOGLE PLAY: https://buff.ly/2xTYsyV

Snagged this from Facebook and bought my copy from iBooks. I normally don’t read MC (motorcycle club) books but they had me at Bikers Against Bullying receiving all profits from this anthology. And for 99¢ during release week, it’s a great way to be introduced to the MC genre — and help a good cause.

On the writing front, I’m kinda taking the summer off. I’ve wiped my slate clean of projects and started from scratch. Right now, I’m doing the 12-week year patterned after Brian Moran and Michael Lenington’s The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months.

The premise basically goes like this: “This book redefines your “year” to be 12 weeks long. In 12 weeks, there just isn’t enough time to get complacent, and urgency increases and intensifies. The 12 Week Year creates focus and clarity on what matters most and a sense of urgency to do it now.”

So I’ve set up a 12-week schedule for myself. No more “I have to get a book out every 4 weeks” mindset. Now, I’m going by 12 weeks. That’s 12 weeks to write, edit, and publish ONE book out. Yes, it will take me forever to get a book done that way but there’s a little add-on to the list of things I’ve set out for myself. It’s that when that first book is done before the 12 weeks (six to eight weeks is likely), then I start working on the second book. It gives me breathing room and less pressure.

It’s also summer vacation.

What about you? What are your plans for the summer? For fellow authors, what are your writing plans? For readers, what are you reading?

 

 

Average… (is) invisible

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The next time you catch yourself being average when you feel like quitting, realize that you have only two good choices: Quit or be exceptional. Average is for losers.

Am I being too harsh? Isn’t your time and your effort and your career and your reputation too valuable to squander on just being average? Average feels safe, but it’s not. It’s invisible. It’s the last choice—the path of least resistance. The temptation to be average is just another kind of quitting…the kind to be avoided. You deserve better than average.

Godin, Seth. The Dip (pp. 44-45). Penguin Publishing Group. 

Seth Godin’s book, The Dip: A Little Book that Teaches You When To Quit (and When to Stick), went on sale a few days ago for $1.99 and not knowing what this “dip” was yet knowing Godin speaks a lot of truths that resonate with me, I bought it.

I started reading it last night and then this morning, I found myself highlighting one thing after another. There’s so much here to unpack (for me) and it’s made me realize this is what I’ve been struggling with the last year and a half as I thought I could write fast and publish a book a month—between two pen names at that—just like some big sellers were doing and thus be “visible” in the Amazon store.

The problem with this is that being visible means I’m being average. I’m not really able to produce my best work when I’m scrambling to write a story a month or do a rapid release without first planning ahead of time. Probably if I had factored in the planning and the writing way ahead of time, it would have been different. But I didn’t and as a result, the stories that emerged from my ambitious “let’s publish a book a month” were below average. Maybe except for Benny and Sarah’s story but even their story is really only half since the first part (how they got together ten years earlier) was only half done.

So… ordinary. Invisible. And after spending two years building my Liz Durano brand, definitely off-brand.

So it’s back to the grindstone for me. All projects are on hold. Nothing is going to come out of the pipeline except my best. My readers deserve the best stories I can write, from the characters who have always told me their stories but through all the changes I was putting myself through in the past year and a half, have been primarily silent—as if in protest. As if they knew I was simply phoning it in.

So I’m going back to the basics… with feeling this time.

Watch this space.

Writing Again!

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Just like it says on the tin, I’m writing again. More like, rewriting since now that I’ve finally let go of the last ambitious project that was on my plate (the steamy novellas to coincide with 10 holidays in the year are no more—but the reverse harem is still in), the slate is finally clean and I’m starting over.

But instead of writing new stories, I’ve gone back to the ones I set aside last year and trying to fix the things that had me set them aside in the first place, like story arcs that didn’t seem true, or seemed too contrived, etc. Only this time, instead of typing it out on my phone or laptop, or writing on yet another notebook that I keep picking up wherever I am, I’m using a Rocketbook reusable notebook.

The Rocketbook is basically a 32-page reusable notebook that uses only Frixion erasable pens. After you’re done writing, you can take a picture of the page and it will go directly where you want it to go—email, cloud, Google Docs—you name it. You can then erase it with a wet cloth (it comes with the notebook, along with a Pilot Frixion pen) and start over again.

I actually loved the first Rocketbook Everlast (6×9) I tried out last week that I bought the bigger size (8×11) today.

I’ll probably end up creating my Outline template with permanent markers in my letter-size Rocketbook tonight so I can easily outline my stories starting tomorrow. And write, of course.