Happy World Book Day!

I could tell you about my favorite books for Word Book Day but I’ll tell you about the first book I wrote and published instead.

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Finding Sam is set in Southern California’s South Bay cities of Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach. It was my second attempt at writing a novel set in the area, the first still sitting in my hard drive and probably will never see the light of day.

In Finding Sam, Sam Martin is a single mother who’s had a hard life and is trying to get out of the mindset of one who lets things happen to her (through no fault of her own) to one who’s going to make things happen. But she needed a catalyst to do that and it’s Erik Maystrom, a wealthy and idealistic community doctor who lives on the Strand.

I think the first draft of Finding Sam hit 145k words. The first editor who read it came highly recommended and was known to be so tough that most authors quaked in their boots sending her their manuscripts. She was known to throw those literal bricks at you. Naive me went ahead and sent the first 10K words anyway.

I think she must have known I was new because she was kind in her note. She told me to read books on how to write romance because I had missed crucial elements like the heroine has to meet the hero in the first chapter, etc. It gutted me to read her comments, especially since I never labeled the book romance. When I told her that, she said that if it was Women’s Fiction, then it wasn’t too bad although she insisted that I wasn’t ready to publish, that I had to find my voice.

Months later, I decided to publish anyway, if only to see what lay behind that Publish button. I sold 3 copies, one of those purchasers being me. After going through a bad bout of imposter syndrome, I’d go ahead and unpublish the book two months later and then republish it after an author recommended it on a podcast.

I’ve always been a voracious reader since I was a child. I read everything that was within my reach: Bible stories, fairy tales, condensed Reader’s Digest novels, Rumi, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Book of Mormon, my mother’s secret collection of Harold Robbins novels. Books were my escape from the things that were happening around me. When I started writing in eighth grade, my stories were my retreat as well. I could make up whatever I wanted, stories set outside my hometown and country, thanks to the Almanac, Reader’s Digest, and Life Magazines. It was safer that way. I wasn’t incriminating anyone in stories set in Jane Austen’s England or in the bazaars of Morocco.

My ideal house always had a library, no matter how big or small it was. I could live in a studio apartment and it will always have a shelf of books or boxes where I could store them all. My favorite places whenever I travel is a bookstore or a library. I guess if ever I get lost somewhere, that’s where you’ll find me. We can go to Chinatown for the best dim sum and I’ll still manage to find the only bookstore there and come out with tons of books.

Books will always remain my escape, both reading and writing them. Happy World Book Day! What are your favorite books?

Would You Run Away Then?

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“When I was growing up,” I began. “I learned early on that while there were people who cared for you, there were others for whom your well-being was the last thing on their minds. And satisfying their needs came above all else. I guess you could say I fall between those two extremes.”

“That’s a safe place to be,” Erik said. “Though you can’t play it safe forever, Sam. You can’t keep running away from what it is you want to do—or have. It’s okay to take risks.”

“Is that what you think I do then? Run away?” I asked. I began to be aware of how close he was to me as if the space between us had somehow disappeared. I could smell the scent of soap and rosemary. Erik leaned closer to me and my breath caught in my throat as I looked at him, his blue eyes framed with thick lashes.

“Not everyone is out to hurt you, Sam,” he whispered. “There are those who care for you.”

“Sure,” I snapped, wanting nothing more but to wrench myself out of the fantasy that was never going to be. “Like you?”

Before I could move away, I felt Erik’s fingers touch my cheek, brushing a strand of hair from my face.

“What if I do care for you, Sam?” he asked, his voice quiet and gentle. “Would you run away then?”

 

Permission To Be

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Today after finding my love bite for Book+Main, the section I picked out made me realize something I hadn’t really thought of before. In my book, Finding Sam, the heroine, Sam, is tentatively returning to her passion, painting, and she’s doing it without her ex-husband’s knowledge. He’s an ass, basically, and as a very brief rundown, Sam was a battered wife and even though she’s no longer married to him, the emotional and physical abuse still continues.

When she meets Erik, an idealistic community doctor, she’s given opportunities to grow, this time without any limitations. But funny how even when the gate is sprung wide open, sometimes, we stay where we are.

So what’s the point, Liz? You must be asking.

Well, it hit me that I wasn’t any different from Sam. The “ex” in my case was the mental and emotional recordings from my past, that writing didn’t make any money, that it was lazy “work,” and that I couldn’t be a dreamer forever. I had to be practical. Just as Sam had to work toward walking out of her mental prison on her own (with the help of a secondary cast of characters), so did I when it came to my stories.

But first, I had to step out of my mental prison and start believing in myself.

It wasn’t a smooth road, not by a long shot, but it was a road that I chose to take, mainly because I felt like I had no choice. Life was too short to constantly play it safe, to play by the rules, to make everyone but yourself happy.

So this year, strive to make yourself happy. Take that leap of faith. Write that story. Seek help, ask questions if you need to. Ignore the negative reviews that tell you how to fix your story—but pay attention to that one who says there’s a typo on page 98. Put the blinders on and keep going. Keep your eye on the goal, whatever that goal is. And most of all, be kind to yourself if and when you don’t quite make it. Get up, dust off the mud from your shins and move on. You’re only on page 2 of 365, one of many more volumes to come.

Keep going.

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Interested in reading the first part of Finding Sam? It’s free and you can download it from iBooks here. You can also download it from Leanpub here. Just click on the “Get Sample link in your choice of epub or mobi.

*Book+Main is still free for authors to post their bites up and it will be $18/month once they start charging – something I will need to decide when the time comes whether it’s worth it or not.

A Nice Surprise

Today I got this in the mail and I’m so happy. It’s the paperback edition of In His Heart complete with a new cover that best fits Josh and Olivia, the couple inside my head. It’s a novella, about 32K words trimmed down from its original 52K word novel after I thought it was going to end up in a summer box set only to pull out at the last minute and release it on my own.

While most of my other characters have lots of angst, Josh and Livvy don’t have that much. They have some issues, but it’s nothing like the people around them – or the other characters inside my head, that is.

Some books just make me smile and In His Heart, at least in the happy department, is on top of that list.

Back To the Beginning

Three years ago today, I was writing a story about a woman at the end of her rope who finds herself faced with new possibilities when she runs into a handsome idealistic doctor on the Strand, a 22-mile bike path that stretches from Will Rogers State Beach to Torrance Beach. Her story was inspired by John Legend’s song, All of Me, which I heard while I was stuck in L.A. traffic. I had no idea what the song was at that time but because it was probably played three times during that drive, I was able to memorize a line or two and then ask myself: can a man truly love a woman THAT much? At least, as much as John Legend sings it? Or did the words just make for a good song?

What if she had so much baggage?

I caught myself then, at how jaded I was about this whole thing called love. Either that or traffic was really getting to me because it was also hot on that freeway and the cars weren’t moving – and I may just have been running late and feeling overwhelmed from doing too many things like running a private practice full time, teaching nightly massage courses at a junior college on the other side of town and (the reason I was stuck in that freeway) agreeing to do chair massages from 7pm to 11pm for a private college on another side of town (not the side I taught my massage courses).

I was already writing then as well, mostly it was fan fiction because I believed that anyone could steal my original stories if I posted them online and so I figured fan fiction was a safe way to practice the craft and see if I could nail conflict, plot, characterization and arcs. I wrote about spies and lovers caught in a deadly web of intrigue and danger, pretty gritty fare with sex that was a bit on the overly dramatic side.

I never even considered myself a contemporary romance writer then either.

But something about that song nagged at me and so I sat down and started writing. I had no idea what I was going to write. I did not know who my heroine was going to be.  I just knew that I needed to start writing. Write it and they’ll come, that’s always been my mantra. It’s like opening the door to my mind and allowing the characters to walk right in and tell me their story.

So this month three years ago, Samantha “Sam” Martin was born, and along with her, Erik Maystrom whom I’d actually already written into an earlier story back in 2013 (never completed at 90K words) only to set the book aside knowing that even though I couldn’t use it, I had the perfect hero just waiting for his perfect match; his widowed sister, Olivia Firelli, and his best friend, Josh Morin, an undercover detective who loved building furniture without power tools (precursor to Dax, apparently).

It’s because of them that even though it’s deeply flawed, wordy and so unpolished, Finding Sam ranks up there among my favorite books. You also never forget your first time and in this case, the first time I actually finished an original story and stamped it with the words, The End.

Only it wasn’t the end. It was the start of whole new adventure–my one true passion–one that would bring me more characters, more stories… and more joy.

What about you? How did you get started?

In His Heart is LIVE!

Yep! In His Heart is LIVE a week early!

It’s a novella, about 28K words, and tells the story of Josh Morin and Olivia Firelli, two characters who were introduced in my first novel, Finding Sam. What I like about their story is it’s more lighthearted than the rest of my stories. Josh and Livvy simply were written that way and I always smile when I think of them.

It’s also set primarily in Ojai, a small town east of Santa Barbara, about three hours north Los Angeles. There are some amazing hiking trails in Ojai and I always thought it would make a great retreat and resort spot, and so the Rosemary Inn (the setting for In His Heart which first appeared in Finding Sam) was born.

So if you’re in the mood for some lighthearted and sometimes steamy romantic fare set in Southern California, pick up a copy of In His Heart! It’s available everywhere where ebooks are sold.

So Hey! I’ve Got A New Book Coming Out!

Life is all about changes and for me, one of them came unexpectedly yesterday. My novella, In His Heart, trimmed from a 50K word novel to fit the requirements of a box set, is out of said box set and is now a free agent. Don’t ask, don’t tell as they say but it’s all good. Just don’t ask me to join another box set. Like, ever.

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What’s really cool is that I get to finally name the series that comprise Finding Sam and the upcoming novella, In His Heart, and what could be more perfect than California Love? No, it’s not on that banner thing because I was busy heating hotdogs for the little guy while trying to be creative #fail

Edited to add: I did get my act together and put the series name on there!

But it’s all about new beginnings and changes and that’s what this post is about. It’s not really a formal announcement or anything. More like the usual thinking-out-loud process I go through when undertaking something I didn’t plan at all while in the midst of writing another story due in September… well, until yesterday afternoon when the decision was made that I could leave the box set freely and finally this morning, when I got my cover all spiffed up and the ebook file ready to go.

If you’ve read Finding Sam, then you’ve read the teaser for In His Heart at the back of the book. If not, you can read the full prologue here.

Preorder links should be live in the next three days and for the introductory price of 99 cents, it’s an awesome deal! Oh, and it’s got some steamy bits… probably two.

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