Release Day – Two Weeks Away

The Second Chance House will be released in print and digital formats on March 7, 2018. That’s only two weeks away! It will be available from all major online retailers, and on my website.

me in panera Feb21_18
Sorry about the picture of me sitting in Panera. I’m trying to mess with the Facebook algorithms.

There are so many moving parts in getting a book out into the world. I could write a blog post every day for a month and still not hit on all the things an author has to do to get a book into the hands of her readers.

A friend of mine recently suggested I talk about my process for writing the book. So you can blame Sean for this one. Wink! And then when you’re done here today, jump over to Sean’s blog and read about writing (he has a great book coming out if he’ll ever stop editing it. Joking.), movies, and his nostalgia for New York City. You won’t be sorry. I promise.

Come sit beside me as we talk about writing. I have my tea. You? Great. paneracup

In 2015, in the midst of finishing the third book in my middle grade series, Welcome To Skull Mountain, two characters began talking to each other in my head. Non-stop. No matter what I was doing, they’d show up. They drove me crazy. That’s good stuff for an author. I started putting their story down on paper.

Problem was I had to finish that third book first, and then my daughter became sick. It took a little while before I could really figure out who these two people were. Thankfully, they kept talking to me.

I believe all stories are character driven. In my world, people talk about plot driven stories and character driven stories. In my humble opinion, you could have the best story in the world, but if your characters don’t actually make choices on every page then who cares about your plot? Characters are what stay with us long after the book ends. Characters make me laugh and make me cry. Plot is just an accessory. The most important, like a pace maker, but plot can’t do diddly without character. I’m sure someone else will have a different opinion.

The first thing I have to do when I write a book is get to know my characters. I don’t do character interviews, though that’s a popular technique. I start asking myself questions about what their wounds are. The ugly stuff we hide from Facebook. I need to know what happened to them in their past that makes them the way they are when my reader meets them. I come up with stuff you’ll probably never see, but that’s okay. The better I know my characters the more real they’ll be to you.

We’ll pick on Grace for a minute. Grace Starr is the heroine in A Second Chance House. I like Grace. I can relate to her. She’s middle-aged, has a teenage daughter she can’t communicate with, and a husband who left her for a younger woman. (I can’t relate to the husband part. Good thing for the Coffee King. Otherwise he’d be coffee grounds. Ba-da-bump.) She’s a control freak, and she’s been following the rules her whole life. When you meet Grace, she wants a new life.

First question for Grace is what happened to you that made you this way? I start to build her backstory. Her father left her when she was too little to remember him. Her childhood was filled with chaos. For some people, in order for them to handle chaos in their lives they like to control things. That’s Grace.

So, who would be the worst kind of match for her? Well, a rock star might be a good place to start. We’ve all heard wild stories about rock ‘n roll. I have a vivid imagination. Enter, Blaise Savage. Just his name alone should have Grace shaking in her boots. In more ways than one. Ha! Sorry, Grace.

I’ve sat through countless workshops and seminars on the craft of writing. I learned pretty early on if you want a romance to sizzle on the page you need to pair opposites. The analogy often used is if your hero is a fire fighter then your heroine better be an arsonist. Follow?

Once I know who my characters are I need to know what they want. They must want something they can touch, and they must want something internally. Love, family, a second chance. Those things Grace wants have to be connected in some way to the things Blaise wants. And as often as I can work it in each scene, Grace has to stop Blaise from getting what he wants and Blaise has to stop Grace from getting what she wants. So, if Blaise wants to kiss Grace, it can’t happen. If I can’t get Grace to control herself, (because let’s face it, Blaise is a damn good kisser) then I bring in another character to break up the moment. I know, that’s so mean! Trust me, makes for a page turner.

Now I can build the plot. I won’t go into the details about inciting incident, plot points, black moments, point of view, show don’t tell, etc. Unless you’re a new writer and need to learn it, all that stuff will just pull the curtain back too far. Readers need to be mesmerized by the smoke and mirrors. If you are a new writer, and have questions email me. I’ll get you going in the right direction.

I write the first draft. A Second Chance House is 99,000 words. That’s about 380 pages. I edit that draft with the help of my critique partners. I ask questions, they give me suggestions. I let them read the first fifty or so pages because they understand all the technical stuff and they can tell me if I’m hitting my stride in the right places.

After the third or fourth time through the book can go to my editor. ASCH is published traditionally so the publisher has its own process I will follow at this point. Indie or self-pubbed books follow a slightly different path. But either way, a lot more editing happens over the next several months. Right, Sean?

By the time you read the book it’s been polished to a high shine and in it’s best Sunday clothes.

I am eternally grateful for all the people who help me along the way. My critique partners: M. Kate Quinn, Shari Nichols, and K.M. Fawcett. My editor on this book, Roseann A., is the master editor. I owe her big time. Also have beta readers who I bring in at different stages for help. They read the book all the way through as readers. Readers read like readers. Writers read like writers. My betas give me invaluable feedback so I can fix whatever else might need fixing. Thank you, Robin and Betsy. Love you tons.

I’m hosting a Facebook party on March 7, 2018 from 7 – 9 pm to celebrate the release. We’ll be playing games, there will be prizes, and we’ll be chatting about writing, publishing, and whatever else you want. Hope to see you there.

I’ll be having a Book Launch Concert on March 28, 2018 in Neptune, NJ at Patrick’s Pub. 7 pm. Patrick’s hosts an open-mic night every Wednesday with wonderful bands playing some great music. They were kind enough to allow me to tag along because my hero is a drummer in a rock band. I’ll have books to sign, and I’ll be doing a reading. If you live in the area, please stop by and say hi. We’ll have a good time.

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8 thoughts on “Release Day – Two Weeks Away

  1. Funny that you blogged about this right before our discussion at Starbucks today! Timely topic indeed! Best of luck on your new book. I can’t wait to read the finished product! Oh, and thanks for the shout out!

    1. Today is an example of how the process is long and arduous. I’ve been stuck on a scene all afternoon. I can’t make anything happen and I think it’s because I don’t really know what the point of view character really wants. Sigh. Not all writing days are good ones.

  2. Oh, bless your heart, Stacey, for plugging my little labor of self-indulgence! But this is your moment, pal! (Though it is nice to be right: I loved getting some insight into your creative process!)

    I have a similar process whereby I figure out the characters’ core traits (including, if applicable, the “fatal flaw” that will be challenged by the events of the plot), and if there’s a “buddy” dynamic — friends, lovers, whatever — I always try to give them characteristics that will “bump” against one another. I plot the story out on a beat sheet — inciting incident and turning points and all that — and then I do three drafts in complete privacy: the first one is about getting it down on paper; the second about sculpting it into something with form and flow; the third about refining and polishing. Only at that point do I invite beta-readers into the process, after which I do a fourth draft that incorporates their feedback. I guess I don’t need to tell you: novel-writing is not for those who seek instant gratification! (That’s what blogs are for, I suppose!)

    My stories tend to be research-intensive, too, which adds substantially to the time it takes to produce a draft. I’ll do a lot of research up front — as much as I think I need — and then I always find more has to be done on the fly, as I get into the guts of the story and realize that I don’t know about this, or I don’t have any idea about that. So, for my current WIP, there was a lot of police procedural stuff I needed to learn, as well as the dynamics of gang culture, and prison protocols. (Damn, the reason I went into fiction and not journalism is because I thought I could just make sh!t up, but I wind up spending half my time on research anyway!) But I find that the more fully I know and have command of the world of the fiction, the more I can immerse myself in the emotionality of the characters and their journeys. So, for me, I consciously apply a lot of craft up front, and then in the writing I sort of “let go” and just live in the fiction itself.

    I think sharing processes is fascinating, because no two writers practice the discipline in precisely the same way. All of us, in the end, develop a customized approach that works for us, and that’s appropriate to the style and/or genre we’ve adopted. But there’s nothing like falling in love with a character (or characters) and hearing them speak to you — responding as they demand to be given voice and agency. That you found that with Grace and Blaise is magical — alchemical, even — and I can’t wait to meet them both…

    1. I wrote many scenes with Grace and Blaise when they showed up in my head and I was working on my middle grade book. I used to reward myself with spending time with them after I’d put down the words for the MG. None of those scenes made it into the book. I didn’t know who they were yet, or what they wanted so the scene where Blaise’s appendix burst had nothing to do with the finished product, and ended up on the cutting room floor as you movie people say.

      While I was writing the first draft of ASCH I met Blaise’s brother, Colton. He jumped right off the page to me so I knew book two in the series would be his, and it is. I love when I can feel my characters. I love it more when my readers can. One of my betas said she could “smell” Beau Carroll. (He’s a secondary character in ASCH.) I did a back flip with that one.

      I love hearing how you incorporate research. I have to do some, and when I realize I don’t know something it stops me cold. I often wondered how authors whose books are research heavy do it. Makes perfect sense you would do a decent amount of research up front. Someone should’ve told us fiction is full of truths, and if you get those truths wrong someone is going to point it out to you.

      The more books I write, the more I trust my process. I seem to know sooner when something isn’t working right. That’s when I go back to my original questions: Who are these people and what do they want?

      We’ll have to talk point of view sometime too. I was just thinking how you could write a scene and then realize it’s the wrong character’s POV and have to rewrite it.

      Thank you for your continued support. If you do spend some time with Grace and Blaise, I hope you enjoy their story.

      1. On the subject of POV, which most certainly deserves a longer discussion, my current novel is told in third-person limited entirely from the perspective of a single character. The protagonist is literally in every scene, start to finish, so it wasn’t hard to keep track of point of view in this particular instance. I could’ve told the story in first-person, but I didn’t think it offered anything I couldn’t get from third. Plus, if I tell it in first, that stylistic choice implies the protagonist survives the events of the story — he would have had to, since at some point later he wrote about them — and I didn’t want to needlessly undermine the story’s suspense.

  3. Third person limited is my favorite POV. I think it’s the best way to really feel what the character feels while giving the author some latitude first person can’t. Sounds as if you picked the best possible POV for the kind of story you’re telling.

    In A Second Chance House I fluctuate between Grace’s POV and Blaise’s. Both in third person limited. They are the only POV characters though I toyed with the idea of adding either one or both of their children since they could have a story line all their own. In the end, I stayed with the hero and heroine only. I think it worked. Time will tell.

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