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Posts tagged ‘writing process’

Say what?

In one of my rare breaks from the keyboard yesterday, I went wandering around the internet in search of inspiration for today’s post. I’ll be honest. I thought the search would be fruitless. Why? Because so much digital space was being wasted on conspiracy theories about Envelope-gate from the Oscars or more screaming about politics. Then, there it was. A story that had me looking at my screen, looking away and then looking back, sure I wasn’t reading what I thought I did.

Nope. I read it right. After beating my head, figuratively at least, against my desk, I put the link in a private writer’s group I belong to and waited to see if they had the same reaction I did. It didn’t take long for the responses to roll in and they were all about the same as my own. Imagine a group cry of “WTF?!?” going up, followed by shaking of heads and chuckling and then each of us shuffling back to our keyboards to get back to work.

What, pray tell, caused such a reaction, you ask. The answer is simple. This article chastises indie authors for writing too much, too fast. The author of the article is Michael Cristiano who works in editing and acquisitions for Curiosity Quills Press.

As I started reading his post, I had a feeling I wasn’t going to like what he had to say. After all, when someone begins with “I’ve been a little wary of the potential backlash I might face,” you get the impression that he is either going to strike right at the heart of some sacred screed of writing or he’s about to go political. When that is followed by admitting there is no one right way to write, that everyone’s process is different but. . . well, he just foreshadowed how he is going to begin telling us that there is a rule we must all follow and it is his rule.

Guess what that rule is?

We, as indies, are to slow down.

Wait, let me do that the way he had it in the post. We are to SLOW DOWN!

Today in the publishing industry, especially in the indie-author market, quantity is king. I’m not saying that quality isn’t being taken into account, because to some extent it probably is, but there is a new mantra for indie authors like myself: write a lot and publish as often as possible. That means that some authors are publishing three or more novels a year, sometimes as many as ten novels a year.

That one statement is enough to justify the author’s concern that he would take flak for the post. As he should. The chutzpah of assuming to know what drives the indie movement is mind-boggling. I don’t know any indie author who takes their work seriously, who has pride in what they do, who is more concerned with how often they click the publish button more than they are about putting out the best product possible.

Are there exceptions? Of course there are. But they are, pardon the pun, the exceptions and not the rule. But let’s continue.

Apparently, according to the OP, publishing three or more novels a year is a bad thing. Hmmm. Wanders over to Amazon to check my author page. I published three novels, a short novel of approximately 40k words and two short stories, both of which were between 10k -20k words. I guess that makes me a bad author because I write too fast. Funny thing, I have folks who are constantly asking me why I don’t write faster because they want to read the next entry in of series or another. Does that make them bad readers?

Okay, second amendment (and I’ll be generous): I judge authors who release three or more books within a year ESPECIALLY if the three books are not part of the same series.

Wait, what?

So, here is an author who begins his post by telling us there is no one correct way to right who is now telling us there is? Bad Amanda, you have now broken two of his rules. You put out three or more books in a single year and — gasp — they weren’t part of the same series. Oh woe is me. What am I ever to do? I know. I’ll tell the readers of the Honor and Ashes series, as well as the Nocturnal Lives series and Eerie Side of the Tracks series that they are going to have to wait at least another year or three for the next book in their favorite series while I finish the Sword of the Gods series. I’m sure they’ll understand and wait patiently for me to get around to writing the books they like. Oh, and I’m sure they won’t forget about the series at all as they wait years and years for the next book to come out.

NOT!

I don’t know the OP’s writing process any more than I know that of any other writer except, perhaps Sarah’s and Kate’s because we tend to bounce ideas off one another. For me, I need to step away from a series after writing a novel and, perhaps, a short story, for a while. By doing so, it lets me get a clearer perspective on what the plot for the next entry in the series should be. Yes, I could do that by simply not writing anything else for several months after publishing the latest book in the series but I’m a writer. I make my living writing. If I spend months not writing, I am not doing anything tangible to increase my income. So, instead of sitting around, twiddling my thumbs until my head is ready to wrap itself back around the next book in a particular series, I move on to something else, something different form what I just spent the last few months researching, writing, editing, formatting and then publishing.

I’m sorry: a writing career shouldn’t be a puppy mill of stream-of-consciousness vanity projects.

Wow. Condescending much? Even giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that by “stream-of-consciousness” he means pantsing — and I don’t think he does — the “vanity projects” kills me. But it gets better.

I just don’t see how anyone has the time to publish more than three novels a year AND maintain consistent literary quality.

So, because Mr. Expert here can’t figure out how to do it, none of the rest of us can either. And remember, he started out by saying there are no two processes that are the same and no one “right” way to write. I guess that’s right, as long as you also accept his exceptions to those two rules.

He has a series of questions about how long you spend writing, how many drafts you write, how long you edit, etc. Then he comes up with this little gem.

Sure, if you’re a full-time writer and you have a really quick team of beta-reader/editor-robots, you could have a really good, polished manuscript in a year. Eight months if you’re lucky.

Now, show of hands. How many of you are laughing hysterically at this point? For one, I have this vision of robots sitting at desks, red pencils in hand, editing.

What the OP is forgetting is — gee, I think I mentioned this earlier — that no writer has the same process as the next writer. We write at different speeds and in different manners. Some of us are pantsers — hi, Kate! — and others are plotters. Some do a bit of both. Some authors put out a rough draft that is publishable with very little content editing needed — hi, Sarah! — and just a bit of proofing. Not every author needs to do three or four or six rough drafts.

Also, the more you write, the more you study the craft, the better you get. When I started out, I was lucky to get a book out a year. Why? Part of it was confidence. Part was that I needed heavier structural editing than I do now. Part was I couldn’t let go of a manuscript and wound up editing the life out of it. Ask Sarah. She got to the point of threatening to publish my work and then tell me about it because I was doing so many editorial passes.

So, where’s the sweet spot? How many novels should you release a year in order to ensure highest quality? I don’t know, frankly.

Wow, after telling us for how many hundreds of words that he knew and if we were releasing more than two or, at most, three books a year we were doing it wrong, he now says he doesn’t know? Surely there’s a catch. Ah, there is. You see, according to him, a book is like good wine or cheese. It has to age. So, if you haven’t taken enough time — whatever that means — you aren’t putting out the quality of work he wants.

Too bad he judges by the number of books an author releases and not by, gosh, actually reading the book. But I guess he’s afraid he might get the equivalent of moldy cheese and he doesn’t want to ruin his literary palate.

I will admit he is right on one thing. You shouldn’t release novel after novel just to inflate the number of titles you have out there. But to say it is nigh on impossible to produce quality work more than once or twice a year is to insult every indie author — and traditionally published author — out there who does just that.

I assure you, I will continue putting out more than one or two books a year, real life willing, as long as I am satisfied with the quality of the work. I will work on more than one series at a time because that helps keep it all fresh for me. Unlike the OP, I am a working writer, like so many of you. This is how I make my living. I don’t have the time to go backpacking around the world — or the spare cash to do it. So I write. As long as I have people out there wanting to read my work, I will continue doing so.

And so should you. Write at your own speed. Use your own process, as long as it works for you. And ignore everyone who tells you you are doing it wrong just because it isn’t the way they do things.

***

And, just to show I am doing it my own way, linked below is the pre-order page for the second book in the Sword of the Gods series. The first book, Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1), is currently available for purchase.

Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods Book 2)

Publication date – March 15.

Plots form, betrayals are planned and war nears.

Cait Hawkener has come to accept she might never remember her life before that terrible morning almost two years ago when she woke in the slavers’ camp. That life is now behind her, thanks to Fallon Mevarel and the Order of Arelion. Now a member of the Order, Cait has pledged her life to making sure no one else falls victim as she did.

But danger once more grows, not only for Cait but to those she calls friends. Evil no longer hides in the shadows and conspirators grow bold as they move against the Order and those who look to it for protection. When Cait accepts the call to go to the aid of one of the Order’s allies, she does not know she is walking into the middle of conspiracy and betrayal, the roots of which might help answer some of the questions about her own past.

From brain to page and a follow-up

One of the biggest challenges we face as writers is getting what we see in our heads onto the written page. We live with our characters and settings for so long as we plot and plan and then get down to the actual writing. Our characters are alive to us and we see the world through their eyes. That’s a good thing except when it’s not.

It’s a good thing when we let ourselves listen to those characters and yet we still hold enough control over them to make sure they tell us everything the reader needs to know as the story progresses. That doesn’t mean we have to lay everything out on the first page. But it does mean we have to sprinkle cookie crumbs of plot throughout. The last thing we want is to make our reader mad because we suddenly pull a rabbit out of our hat and reveal the killer as someone who has only walked onstage once, and in such a way as they were forgotten. That is when the book — or tablet — go flying against the wall and none of us want that.

But there is more to making sure we get the details down on paper than just making sure we don’t pull an ending out of nowhere. We need to paint a picture of sorts for our readers that lets them know not only what our characters are doing and thinking but where and when they are as they do it. We need to let them see what our characters are seeing just as we need to let them feel what our characters, at least our POV characters, feel.

Sarah beat that lesson into me — and, unfortunately, it is one I sometimes forget — early into our friendship. I’d made the mistake of telling her that I sometimes wrote. When she finally pressured me into sending her a sample — yes, pressured, complete with pointy boots — I waited in fear, knowing she would tell me my writing sucked eggs. Part of me even wanted her to because then I could go back to just writing for pleasure and then throwing it into a drawer or under the bed.

What she did instead was start mentoring me. The one thing she kept hitting me on was setting. I needed to let the reader see where my POV character was. If Mac Santos walked into her boss’ office, I needed to give at least a sense of what that office looked like, not only so Mac could react to it but so the reader could start getting an insight into the boss. She was right and, if I’m honest, it is something I still have to work on.

Why am I harping about this so early this morning? It was something I was reminded of during the last meeting of my local critique group. We saw both ends of the spectrum when it comes to putting your reader into the scene. In one, we were drawn into the story be not only the bleak dystopian setting and fast paced plot. Even when we had a question or concern about the chapter we were critiquing, the unanimous decision of the group was that we felt like we were part of the story because we could see and feel what the POV character was going through.

The other end of the spectrum was the opening for a novel where we knew what was happening but not why and certainly not when and where. This has been one of the challenges for the particular member, someone new to writing. They have a story. There’s a beginning, middle and end. There are emotional peaks and valleys. But this particular writer is having a hard time getting all he sees in his head onto the page.

It would be easy to simply nod and tell him that he’s improving — which he is — and not give a solid critique of his work. That’s especially true because everyone in the group likes him. But that isn’t why I started the group so long ago. A critique group isn’t worth anything if you don’t give honest critiques, with suggested solutions, to help writers improve their craft. But this was beyond me. Or I thought it was.

Then, as the group discussed his chapter, I slowly started realizing what was happening. He thought he had given us the information we were missing. In his mind, when he read his submission, all the information we wanted was there. Hmm.

So, I read aloud the first paragraph and then asked him one question. When he listened to me reading the excerpt, what did he see in his mind? I had him tell us, in detail, the picture he saw and the light bulb went off — for both of us, I hope. Suddenly, we knew where the setting was. We knew the time of day and weather. We knew what the characters in the scene were doing and why. We knew their relationship and we started getting a hint at their motivation. That one paragraph, suddenly turned into several pages.

Better was seeing the impact this had on the rest of the group. Not only did they suddenly see the story shaping and want to know more, I could see them thinking about their own work with this in mind. Since I still have to remind myself to toss in those details because they can and do make a story richer, I understood. I also understood something else, it is important to remember these lessons, no mater how many books or short stories you’ve written.

So here is my question to you: how do you try to pull your reader into your work? Second, do you think about setting when writing, and how it can play into the plot and atmosphere?

Now for the update. Last week, I wrote about the changes to the KU/KOLL payment scheme and how some authors were reacting to them. I listed the number of “pages” read the first two weeks of the month and compared that with the number of downloads for the first half of last month. As noted, there were more downloads but, using the new payment scheme, as it is currently believed to play out, I would make more money now than then.

Well, I thought I would revisit my numbers for the three books I listed last week and see how things look now. To refresh everyone’s memory, here are my numbers from last week:

Title Est. pages Normalized
page count
Downloads
last month
Pages read
this month
Duty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2) 232 524 20 4946
Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1)

299 505 20 5266
Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1)

289 671 106

51799

The numbers this week are as follows:

 

 

Duty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2): 9088 normalized pages read. The translates into approximately 17 copies of the book read. At the $1.40/copy read (10% threshold met), I would have earned $23.40. Taking the normalized page counts and the $0.006/page a number of sites are quoting as what Amazon will be paying, I would be receiving $54.53.

 

 

Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1):  8293 normalized pages read. That is approximately 16 copies of the books read. Under the old rules, I would make $22.40 for those downloads. Under the new rules, assuming the $0.006 is the proper payout per page, I would make $49.75.

 

 


Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1):  77525 normalized pages read.That is approximately 115.5 copies of the book read. Under the old rules, I would have made $161.70. Under the new rules, I’m looking at earnings of $465.15.

 

 

Needless to say, if the per page figure is anything close to what has been estimated, I think I’m going to like this new version of payment rules much more than I did the older version.

 

 

New beginngings — or maybe not so new

First off, let me apologize for bailing on Tuesday. We’ve all had those days when, no matter how well you have the day planned, something happens to throw everything to the wind. Tuesday was that day for me. I appreciate all the comments you guys left about potential topics and I promise to get to them. But I want to do them justice, so I’m going to put them off until Tuesday or maybe even next weekend. The simple truth of the matter is, as Sarah noted in her comment that day, I’m pushing deadlines myself right now and my head isn’t into anything but finishing the current WiP as well as real work for NRP.

The current WiP started out fighting me tooth and nail. I knew the basic plot. Since it is the third book in the Nocturnal Lives Series (and the 4th title), I knew the characters. But the notes I made and the first try at writing the opening chapters just felt wrong. The voice wasn’t right — even after I went back and re-read the other titles in the series. The tone of the book wasn’t right. And, when I tried to figure out what was going wrong, all that happened was my muse laughed mockingly at me.

So I talked to Kate and Sarah. Both assured me it would come if I quit fighting it. Maybe I needed to write something else. The problem with that was I needed to get this book written. I was already late delivering it. I had fans — all three of them — asking when the next installment was coming.  Besides, I’m a stubborn woman — quit laughing, Sarah — and I was going to write this book come Hell or high water.

I put the pages I’d written aside for the day and did what I normally do when the muse is being particularly uppity and not talking to me: I worked myself into exhaustion in the yard. There’s something about physical labor that has always helped me clear the cobwebs out of my head. It’s a time when I can just let my mind wander and this time, fortunately, it helped. The muse started talking and I realized what was wrong with those opening chapters.

Those original pages were retitled and put into another folder. They very well may turn up in another book with different characters. But they most definitely weren’t part of the Nocturnal Lives universe. A new document was opened, formatted and I sat down to write.

And write I did. In about a week, I’ve written over 40,000 words. I’m not always sure about the book and where it is going. For one thing, it has the potential of being much darker than the other books in the series have been. It’s necessary for it to be slightly darker because of where the overall story arc of the series is going. But it means I’m going to be killing off a character I started out not sure I liked but over the course of the series so far have come to realize isn’t nearly as bad as I thought. It means other characters may be broken. Since I like my characters, I don’t like hurting them. But they’ve told me to pull up my big girl pants and do what the story requires. Since I don’t want to make them mad and have them go silent on me again, I’ll do as they say.

All this is a long way of getting around to this. Here’s a snippet from the beginning of Nocturnal Interlude, the third novel in the Nocturnal Lives Series. As always with snippets posted here, this is a rough draft and there very likely will be changes before publication. Nocturnal Interlude is © Amanda S. Green  2013.  Do not copy, alter, distribute or resell without permission.  Exceptions made for ATTRIBUTED quotes as critique or linking to this blog.

***

“Someone had better tell me what the hell is going on!”

Mackenzie Santos slammed her fist down on the table with a satisfying thud. The only thing that kept her from flipping it over was the fact it was bolted to the floor. Angry as she was, even that might not be enough to hold it into place if she didn’t start getting some answers soon. From the looks on the faces of the two men sitting opposite her, they were no happier about the situation than was she. Well, too freaking bad.

Breathing deeply, she leaned back and struggled for calm. This wasn’t the first time she’d been in an interrogation room. Far from it, in fact. But it was the first time she’d been in it in this position. Each time before, she’d been the one reading a suspect his rights and starting the questioning aimed at eventually getting a conviction. Now she sat on the other side of the table, so to speak, with two dark suited men with regulation haircuts that simply screamed “Fed”.

Not that they’d asked her anything. In fact, from the moment she and Jackson Caine had stepped off the jet way into the terminal at DFW Airport, they’d spoken probably fewer than a dozen words. They’d asked if she was Lt. Mackenzie Santos and then told her she needed to come with them. Before she could react, she’d been cuffed and escorted outside to a waiting black SUV, another indication that they were feds. A moment later, they were speeding out of the airport and toward downtown Dallas and the federal building.

Damn it, this was why she never took vacations. Things always happened while she was gone and, apparently, this time the world had taken a sharp left turn into a nightmare she didn’t understand yet.

At least she was no longer cuffed.

A quick glance around the room provided no clues either. It was a standard interrogation room with white walls, battered table, equally battered chairs and a scuffed floor. The overhead light was recessed into the ceiling so a suspect wouldn’t be able to get to it easily to use either as a weapon or as a means to harm himself. The plastic bubble in the far corner housed one of the two cameras monitoring the room. The second camera was located directly opposite the door so it could capture anyone coming or going. What was different about the room was that there was no observation window for witnesses or other investigators to use to monitor an interrogation. Maybe the feds had gone to video monitoring now.

Mac closed her eyes and counted slowly to ten. As she did, she let her senses expand. She didn’t dare shift, not in the middle of the federal building, but she could ease her control on her jaguar enough to enhance her hearing. Mutt and Jeff, the two men sitting across from her, were obviously nothing more than babysitters. They’d been tasked with bringing her in. She wouldn’t be surprised at all to discover they didn’t know why they’d brought her there.

That meant someone was watching, sizing her up before they came in to talk to her. While that didn’t give them an advantage, the fact she had absolutely no idea why she was there did. So did the fact Mutt – or maybe it had been Jeff – had taken her cellphone and tablet PC when they’d taken her into custody, leaving her no way to check in with her captain or even to scan the latest headlines for some clue about what was going on.

The only saving grace was they hadn’t pulled Jackson in. At least she didn’t think they had. That meant he’d been on the phone just as soon as they were out of earshot, calling first her captain – and their pride leader – and then anyone else he could think of. Hopefully, that also included an attorney because she sure as hell wasn’t going to talk without having someone there looking out for her best interests.

She heard the steps outside the door before her companions did. They weren’t the sounds of dress shoes like Mutt and Jeff wore. She’d have expected that. No, the sounds she heard were definitely made by boots, combat boots unless she missed her guess. And that most definitely wasn’t what she’d expected.

Heart beating a bit faster, Mac did her best not to let the others know anyone was outside the door. She wanted to see their immediate reactions to the newcomer. That would tell her much more than words. But it was hard to just sit there. Her jaguar, already nervous and angry at being detained like a common criminal, pushed against her control. It wanted to fight, to make Mutt and Jeff pay for chaining them and separating them from their mate. Cameras and technology didn’t matter to the jaguar and, if Mac were honest with herself, if she didn’t find out why she’d been detained and soon, they wouldn’t matter much to her either.

Damn it, what was going on?

Through half-closed eyes, Mac watched as the door knob turned. A split second later, the door flew open with a bang. Chairs slid across the floor as Mutt and Jeff shoved away from the table and surged to their feet, their hands reaching for guns they’d locked away before entering the room. Then Mutt lifted his right arm to his mouth, urgently speaking into the mic located at his cuff. From the almost panicked look on his face and the way he reached up with his left hand to tap the earbud in his left ear, Mac guessed he either wasn’t getting any answers or at least not getting the ones he wanted.

Well too freaking bad.

Slowly, almost casually, Mac sat up. As she did, her eyes never left the figure that seemed to almost fill the doorway. The newcomer most definitely was not a Fed, at least not the same flavor of Fed Mutt and Jeff were. He wore black utilities. His pants legs were expertly bloused into the tops of his black combat boots. If looks could have killed, Mutt and Jeff would have been nothing more than two piles of smoldering ash.

Instead, they were reacting, and badly, to a situation they obviously didn’t understand. While Mutt continued to try to contact someone, anyone, for orders, Jeff moved around the table to stand behind Mac’s chair. His hands rested on her shoulders, his fingers digging painfully into the skin as he exerted pressure he didn’t need to in order to keep her seated. For the moment, until she knew what was going on, she’d sit there. Let him think he held the upper hand. But as soon as she saw a chance to get out of there, she’d show him just how foolish he’d been to put himself between her and the wall. It was a rookie mistake and she looked forward to teaching him the error of his ways.

“Who the hell are you?” Mutt demanded as he drew himself up to his full height.

Mac couldn’t quite hold back her smile then. The fed might be taller than the newcomer but she had no doubts who would prevail if push should come to shove. Things might just be getting interesting after all.

“ID!” the man snapped.

As he did, another man, also dressed in black utilities, entered the room. Standing next to the first man, he extended on hand and waited.

“Halsey?” Jeff’s fingers dug even more painfully into Mac’s shoulders as he looked to his partner.

“I don’t have to identify myself to you, but you sure as hell better tell me who you are and what you’re doing in our interrogation room!” The blond tried to stare down the two men only to have them look past him to where Mac sat.

“Lieutenant, are you all right?”

“Yes, sir.” She didn’t know what game they were playing – yet – but she had a feeling she needed to play along. “Or I will be as soon as this gentleman quits trying to dig holes in my shoulders.” A jerk of her head in Jeff’s direction.

“I would have thought you could deal with that, LT.”

There was a glint in Captain Mateo Santos’ eyes as he spoke. Mac grinned slightly and dug her heels in against the battered tile. A moment later, her chair slid back, forcing Jeff against the wall. As the chair came to a halt, she pushed up with all her strength, angling her head at the last moment so her shoulder instead of the crown of her skull, connected with the Fed’s chin. He gave a cry of pain and she felt the satisfying jar as his jaw snapped shut. Then she was on her feet and away from the table, her back to the side wall and her eyes watching everyone as she waited for the next act to play out.

She saw Mutt’s muscles tense as he prepared to rush her cousin. At the same time, Jeff pushed to his feet. With a bellow, he leapt in her direction. Before she could react, the man who’d entered just after Mateo was there. He caught the Fed mid-air and body slammed him to the floor. Shaking her head, wonder and disbelief filling her, Mac watched as he then flipped the fed over and secured his wrists behind him with a pair of flex cuffs. Then her attention snapped back to Mateo who had one hand around Mutt’s – no, Halsey’s – throat and was lifting him so his toes barely touched the floor.

“I asked for your identification.” Mateo’s voice was calm but anger flashed in his dark eyes as the man’s hands dropped from where they’d been clawing at Mateo’s wrist to pat his pockets in search of his ID. A moment later, Mateo released him. Even as he dropped to his knees, gasping for breath, Mateo’s companion was there to secure him just as he had the other agent.

“Captain, don’t get me wrong. It’s good to see you, but would you mind telling me what’s going on?”

And if we’re going to have to fight our way out of here?

“In a moment, LT.” If he was trying to reassure her, he was doing a damned poor job of it. His expression was hard and his eyes dark with anger as he tossed the Agent Halsey’s ID onto the table. Then he nodded to his companion to lift the agent to his feet. “All right, Halsey. I’m going to say this only once, so you’d better pay close attention. Nod if you understand.”

Halsey nodded but he wasn’t happy about it. Not that Mac really blamed him. He had to be scared to death. At least he ought to be if he had a grain of common sense. Two men in black fatigues had just made their way into a secure federal building, through several checkpoints and had just taken him and his partner down. Now they were the ones cuffed like common criminals and no one, none of their fellow agents had come to even see what the disturbance was. If she happened to be in their shoes, she’d have been doing everything she could to get free and then to see what had been done to her fellow cops.

“My name is Captain Mateo Santos, USMC on detached duty to the Department of Homeland Security.” Now he produced his own ID and shoved it in Halsey’s face. “You and your idiot partner violated orders when you took Lt. Santos into custody. You were to simply meet her and her companion at the airport and escort them back here.” Before Halsey could protest, Mateo held up a hand, effectively silencing him. “Don’t bother trying to deny it. I’ve seen the orders. Now, if you want to have a chance at all of saving your job, you will tell me why you took the lieutenant into custody, confiscated her cellphone and tablet PC and denied her her civil right to call an attorney.”

“They also confiscated my off-duty piece, sir.” And that had been the most insulting of all. No cop ever willingly gave up her weapon. The fact that she’d been arrested, cuffed and disarmed rankled more than she wanted to admit.

“LT, did they say anything about why they took you into custody?”

“No, sir. Not a word.”

He nodded, frowning. “Halsey, I’m waiting.”

“Go to hell.” He tugged ineffectually against the flex cuffs securing his wrists behind his back. “We don’t have to explain anything to you. In fact, I’ll have your ass as well as hers up on charges just as soon as we’re out of here.”

Mateo actually laughed. Then he reached down and grabbed Halsey by the collar, hoisting him to his feet. “You can try it.” With his left foot, he hooked the chair Halsey had occupied earlier, turning it around so he could shove the agent onto it. “Ask yourself why no one has come to help you and your partner. Or why no one answered your call requesting backup. They know you screwed up and that screw up may cost hundreds, maybe thousands, of people their lives.”

Mac stared at her cousin in disbelief. Surely that was all just some sort of cover story. She was a cop. None of her cases were such that they involved more than a few people. What he was talking about was on the magnitude of a terrorist attack or –

God, the or scared the hell out of her. Was it possible their kind had finally been discovered? No, that couldn’t be the case. If it was, Mateo wouldn’t be there. He’d be doing everything he could to protect the others. Her life, one single life, wouldn’t be worth risking so many others.

“Captain?” If her voice shook a little, she didn’t care. She needed to know what was going on and what he’d meant.

“Let’s get you out of here, LT. Unless you’d like a few minutes alone with these two gentlemen.”

As tempting as it was to take him up on his offer, she shook her head. She wanted as far from there as possible, as quickly as possible. Then she wanted to know exactly why the feds were supposed to meet her at the airport and why these two had disobeyed orders.

“Sir, we do need to know why they detained Lt. Santos,” the other man said softly.

“I believe you can get that information from them, Sergeant Lee. Once you have, turn them over to their supervisor for appropriate disciplinary action. Then report in.”

“Understood, sir.” The look he gave Halsey and his partner sent chills down Mac’s spine. “Don’t worry, ma’am, I’ll find out what went wrong.”

Mac nodded, not trusting herself to speak. As she turned back to Mateo, a man with greying hair appeared in the doorway. Without a word, he handed Mateo Mac’s cellphone, tablet PC and off-duty weapon. Then he looked at the two agents, both now sitting before the table. His expression hardened and he stepped inside.

“Halsey, Ferrer, you will answer their questions and tell them anything and everything they want to know. I’ve already authorized them to go through your electronics as well as your desks and lockers. When they are done with you, we’re going to have a chat of our own.”

“Thank you, Special Agent Ramirez. My sergeant is going to stay and ask them a few questions.”

“I’ll make sure the office knows to give him any information he needs, Captain.” He turned to look at Mac and she smiled slightly. She’d worked with Ramirez on several cases before and knew him to be one of the few feds who worked well with local law enforcement. “Lieutenant, my apologies for the actions of my agents. I assure you, they will be disciplined.”

She nodded. Much as she didn’t like it, this wasn’t her game to play. All she hoped was that someone filled her in on the rules soon, before it was too late.

“Let’s roll, LT. There’s a lot to do and not much time to do it in,” Mateo said as he handed her first her gun and then the rest of her things.

He waited as she slid the gun into her waistband at the small of her back and then he left the interrogation room. With one last look at the two agents, she nodded to the sergeant and then to Ramirez before hurrying after her cousin.

***

Nocturnal Interlude is the third novel and fourth title in the Nocturnal Lives Series. The other installments in the series are:

nocturnaloriginscoverNocturnal Origins

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

nocturnal SerenadeNocturnal Serenade

In this sequel to Nocturnal Origins, Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.

Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.

NOCTURNAL HAUNTSNocturnal Haunts

Mackenzie Santos has seen just about everything in more than ten years as a cop. The last few months have certainly shown her more than she’d ever expected. When she’s called out to a crime scene and has to face the possibility that there are even more monsters walking the Earth than she knew, she finds herself longing for the days before she started turning furry with the full moon.

 

Bonfire, anyone?

Most of you know that I’ve been working on a novel that attacked me about six weeks ago. Yes, attacked is the correct verb because that is exactly what it did. At the time, I was almost 50,000 words into a suspense novel I’d been working on — and was late delivering — and had finally figured out what the problem was. Then, during the middle of the night, the stealth novel hit. It’s obvious now, in retrospect, that the plot had been percolating in the back of my mind for awhile. But when it first hit, all I knew was that it came storming into my head and took over.

In the time since I’ve started “seriously” writing — in other words, actually letting my babies go instead of hiding them under the bed — my writing process has been fairly consistent. An idea would come to me, I’d make a few plot notes (usually somewhere between 5 – 10 pages) and I’d sit down and write. The actual writing process consisted of sitting somewhere with my laptop or, when I still used a desktop, pulling out the wireless keyboard and working. Pen and paper were relegated to those times when something would come to me as I worked that I wanted to jot down so I didn’t forget it.

But not this book. Oh, no. This book turned my process upside down. For one thing, it is the closest thing to actually pantsing a novel I’ve done since the days when I was writing and shoving everything under the bed. To be honest, I’d quit being a true pantser long before then. By the time Sarah forced me to show her something I’d written, I’d started the move to what is part pantser and part plotter.

As I said, this book didn’t want to tell me what was going to happen from one chapter to the next. Because of that — and because it required me to write each chapter out longhand before either dictating it into Dragon or transcribing it — I fought this book tooth and nail. Sarah has listened to me whine and bitch and the nicest thing I’ve called it is the dreckish of dreck. Why? Because it wasn’t conforming to the process I was comfortable with and because it wasn’t exactly the sort of story I’ve written before.

But I pushed through. Part of the reason is because the book just wouldn’t leave me alone. Usually when a plot hits me like this I can make a few notes or write a few pages and it will go back to sleep until I have time to get to it. This one wouldn’t. It took all my other projects hostage, tied them up, gagged them and locked them in the basement. Whenever I balked at finishing, it threatened to take one of my other projects and drop it down a deep, dark well.

So I kept at it and I finished the novel the end of last week. I put it aside for several days and gave my head time to come up for air. I worked in the yard, did some work around the house and some much needed work on an author event our friends of the library group is hosting this Saturday.

And I discovered this book continues to break the rules I’d become comfortable with.

Morbid curiosity had me breaking my first rule of editing. I never, ever look at something I’ve written unless there is at least a week in between finishing writing and when I print the pages out. My preference is to let the novel sit for a month. That gives me the mental space I need to look at what I’ve written with fresh eyes and that, in turn, lets me see what is on the page and not what I think is on the page. I’ve found this has helped me realize when information is only in my head and not on the page for the reader. It also helps me see technical problems that need to be fixed.

But, staying true to form, this book poked and prodded at me enough yesterday morning that I converted it and put it on my kindle. Okay, I’ll admit it, I also printed it out, but those pages are pretty much untouched so far. I can’t say the same for the kindle version of the rough draft.

What I discovered has been interesting. It didn’t take long to realize I’d dropped two cookie crumbs that help explain the main character’s motivation. The problem is that I didn’t pick them up later. So I’ve made notes about where to go back in and correct that problem. I might not have left Johnny hanging off the cliff at the end of chapter 3, but these little bits will make the main character’s motivations more understandable. I also have another character’s father being dead at the beginning of the book. Later, he and the character’s mother are in Ireland and later still they are in Florida. So, either the mother travels a lot and carries hubby’s ashes — or body — with her or dear old Dad is a zombie. While either explanation would fit another book that has been on the back burner for awhile, it doesn’t fit this one. So, I’ve made a note to go in and fix that as well. Of course, there are also the inevitable comma faults and misspellings to correct, but that is part of my life.

Those problems aside — and they are typical of what a lot of pantsers encounter on the first edit pass — the book doesn’t suck. Mind you, I’m my own worst critic and I know it. So this feeling that what I’ve written, and fought at every step along the way, isn’t horrible is new. It is also scary. I can’t help wondering if I’m just deluding myself and this book is the worst thing I’ve ever done. There is the very real desire to shove the book under the bed — or, better yet, to use it as fuel for a bonfire — and never let it see the light of day. But I won’t, at least not yet. I’ll send it off to my beta readers after I finish the first edits. It will be up to them to tell me if it is a cabbage or a worse.

But before I do that, I have to finish the edits and I will be adding the first chapter or two to another book at the end. I can hear you guys asking why I’m doing that when I’m seriously considering burning the manuscript. The answer is multi-fold. When I write, even if I’m on the first draft of something, I tend to put it into a format as close to conversion ready as possible. If I’m OCD about anything, it’s that. For another, if the betas like the novel I’m sending them, I want to know if they’d: 1) read the sample chapters, 2) if the sample chapters are interesting enough or intriguing enough that they’d go looking for the book they are excerpted from, and 3) if the answer to the first two is “yes”, then it will make me have to finish the book the chapters are excerpted from.

And, yes, the real reason is that this latest novel has informed me it is the first of a series and I’m hoping that by writing the opening chapter or two of the next book, it will behave better than this particular book has and will let me finish the project that was interrupted. No, I’m not holding my breath, but I am hoping.

Writing around challenges

Sarah spoke about one kind of challenge yesterday. I’m facing an entirely different kind – after many, many years with relatively unchecked access to the internet and my external brains (the – alas, finally deceased – PDA, the tablet, the cell phone, the kindle, the flash drive with all my writing files on it, the Eee…. you get the picture) I’ve got work with a company that is not primarily a programming place (It’s primarily data entry and printing out checks. Lots of checks. Payroll processing.) and is very strict (aka paranoid) about letting anything capable of data transfer into their systems.

That means no cell phones in the building. No tablet. No kindle. No flash drive. No PDA. No CDs. No DVDs. If I want music I need to bring in a separate player (that can’t take USB input or anything other than “play a disc”). Also, no instant messaging (not even internally – which is really weird for me. Everywhere I’ve worked has used IM for communicating among co-workers. Not here), no social ANYTHING on the internet. Hell, I went looking for long names and names that used diacriticals for some testing, and those sites were blocked. I’m having withdrawal symptoms (but I’m enjoying what I’ve seen of the job so far, so not too bad).

Of course, this also means that I can’t write on the computer at work. No flash drive to save it to (no anything else external, either, and cloud stuff is right out). So I’ve taken to carrying a notepad with me, and scribbling – longhand – bits and snippets of the current WIP when I get a bit of loose time during the day. It’s… different. I haven’t written longhand since I got my first computer 15 years go. I type faster than I can write these days, and my typing is a hell of a lot easier to read. My handwriting is… interesting. It needs interpretation more than reading. More than that, though, I can’t write for long. The muscles in my hands are so out of practice that after a quarter of an hour or so, I start to cramp.

Weirdly, this is actually helping. I write a kind of sketchy not-even-first-draft that doesn’t so much get transcribed as it gets used as a framework to hang the real first draft on when I put the day’s scribble into the computer at home. There’s not much wordage going in, but there’s progress and it’s not bad. So that particular challenge seems to have been accepted.

Next challenge – keep at it so I can write for longer before my hands start giving me hell.