Surviving Deadline Hell

What’s up my good people! Last week I realized that I am pretty much out of deadline hell. Even though I still have deadlines looming (contractual and self imposed), not having several right up on each other is pretty dern nice.

So, what have I been working on? Well, the last book in the Henderson Family series, From One Night to Forever, releases November 23. This is Aaron Henderson’s story, and he’s the last sibling, but I’ve got an idea for a spin off. I’m working the spin off into my self imposed deadline schedule.

Mom says I'm organized, I say I'm anal with my weekly and monthly goals.

Mom says I’m organized, I say I’m anal with my weekly and monthly goals.

This year I also had to work on the edits to my Harlequin Kimani debut, A New York Kind of Love which releases in January 2016. The edits for this novel often coincided with edits on Making it Real and getting the draft of From One Night to Forever completed. I am super excited about A New York Kind of Love, because I’ll finally get to see my novel on a store shelf. Silly, maybe, but that doesn’t stop me from being stoked.

This year I signed a contract to write two more novels for Kimani, my next is titled A Malibu Romance and it’ll be released in … August 2016, I believe.  I’m writing that story now and it’s the only immediate, contracted deadline I have.

As for self imposed deadlines, well I really, really, really want/need to get back to my Caldwell Family series. I woke up about 2 months ago after I dream-plotted (my new phrase) the entire 3rd book in the series. Which of course means I need to get my butt to finish the 2nd book. I have a self imposed deadline to finish and get Renee Caldwell’s story out in the spring of 2016. I think I can do it.

After that, I have a spring contractual deadline and then it’s whatever happens from there. 2015 was a very good year for me writing wise, and I hope 2016 will be the same. Maybe there will be more contracts, maybe not. Only time will tell, but for now, I’ll just get through the end of this year and hope I get a chance to explore the spinoff and other new ideas floating around in my head next year.

I’m using the excitement of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)  to push me toward my deadlines. Anyone else doing NaNoWriMo?

 

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Let’s Get Serious … About Writing!

Times Square

RWA 2015 was in the heart of Times Square!

I’m back from my second Romance Writers of America conference. This time in the fun and exciting New York City. New York is a great place to visit, and the place is always bursting with energy. Throw in 2,000 or so romance writers and the place is even more chaotic.

I always come back from a writer’s conference feeling inspired. Normally the inspiration gets me in the mood for writing. That hasn’t changed, but now I’ve also been inspired to take my writing career seriously.

Fun lunch with some fabulous writers!

Fun lunch with some fabulous writers!

Now, if you’re like my husband, you’re wondering where that came from. According to him: “You’ve got seven books out, you are serious.” Yes, that’s true, but I wrote seven books pretty much by flying by the seat of my pants. I set deadlines that float around in my head. I let social media … or Netflix easily distract me from what I need to work on. Which isn’t bad, but I can do better. For instance when asked how many copies of Show Me How to Love has sold, I couldn’t answer. I check here and there but that’s about it. I created a spreadsheet months ago to track my Crimson book sales, lost the flash drive it was on, and never bothered to replace it.

Over 2,000 romance writers in one room! Amazing!

Over 2,000 romance writers in one room! Amazing!

I went to my first Harlequin party! Talk about a good time.

I went to my first Harlequin party! Talk about a good time.

Again, all of that isn’t bad, but if I am going to do this full time one day. Hopefully by the time I can retire from local government (if not before) then I need to treat writing not like a part time job, but like another full time.

Easier said than done I know, but I am going to try. And since I normally jump head first into doing things, I’ve started the process. I bought a dry erase board where I will write my weekly writing goals—just like I do at my day job. Seeing my weekly goals keeps me from forgetting things I need to do and makes the goal “real”. I’ve also re-worked my spreadsheets to better track the number of books I sell and earnings. I may even write a business plan. Maybe.

I’m hoping this new found inspiration will last and get me farther toward my goal of being a serious writer. 🙂

My newly organized desk area.

My newly organized desk area.

Did I mention that before I could put up my dry erase board I had to paint the walls? I could have done that without painting, but then I’d have to re-hang after painting my office another day. Hubby gave me all kinds of “are you crazy” looks when I jumped up and made that announcement before putting up a board. I think I did a darn good job. Lol. And, yes, that is a cup covered with professional wrestlers on my desk, lol.

You don’t realize how much change matters until it happens

I was raised in a small town in South Carolina and have lived in this state all my life. I’ve traveled to other states, seen other places, and come to the conclusion that I’m pretty much a country girl at heart. Most of my favorite cities are southern cities and every time I go above the Mason-Dixon line, I have a good time, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Therefore, knowing that I’ll probably live in the south for the rest of my life I’ve come to just expect certain things.

Such as:

  • People will hug you despite your preference to shake hands. This bothers me, but I deal with it when I meet someone new and they say “We don’t shake hands we hug.” Fine, enter my 3 feet of personal space for a second.
  • College football is the only thing that matters when you live in South Carolina. Not that I care much either way, but just know that when you try to discuss the NFL you’ll get a lot of, “I only follow college sports.”
  • You’ll be asked what church you attend by strangers and new co-workers. Why my religious preference matters to you, I do not know, but, oh well, lets talk about places I can dedicate my Sunday mornings to.

You also get used to other things, such as seeing the confederate flag. It’s on cars, belt buckles, flying in people’s yards, etc. Though a part of my brain understood the flag is a symbol of some people’s heritage, for me it’s always been a sign that the person sporting that flag isn’t to fond of people like me. Maybe because of the KKK rally through my home town when I was younger and they had that flag. Maybe because when I worked the drive through in high school a guy called me a nigger, threw something at the window, and had a flag in his car. Maybe because people tell you about a guy who used to be in the Klan and rode around with a huge flag in the back of his truck, but it’s okay because now he’s not a part of that anymore. Who knows, it could be other things, but I’ll go with that.

So being from the south, seeing it everywhere, and knowing how much of a fight it was just to take the thing off the top of the state house and put it on the grounds, I’d just gotten used to the flag flying at my state capital. I resigned myself to it being there, never going anywhere, and that was just part of the burden of living in, and being from, South Carolina.

Then I hear on the news that the flag is coming down. That the house and senate voted to remove the flag (something I doubted would actually happened) and it’ll be gone by the end of the week. Tears came to my eyes.

Tears?!?

I’m not one who’s prone to tears … except when I’m pregnant, and I’m pretty sure there are no babies growing in this oven.

As I wiped my eyes it struck me that even though I was used to seeing that flag all my life, knowing that the flag would no longer be on the capital grounds of the state I grew up in and live in filled me with hope, pride, joy! I can’t explain the feeling adequately. I don’t know if I ever will, but what I do know is that as of this moment, I am proud to say I’m from South Carolina.

I guess you really don’t realize how much changing the status quo can matter until it actually happens.

I Owe You a Making it Real Excerpt. Here Ya Go!

Yesterday I got back from a trip to Jacksonville Beach for Memorial Day and decided to check my calendar. Then holy cow it hit me: Making it Real releases in less than a week! I owe you all an excerpt, don’t I?

Making it Real Cover (522x800)I tell you, I don’t know where the time went. The last few months have been crazy busy but in a good way. Not only did I release my first self published title in April, but Crimson released my first three novels in a bundle on May 11 (which is now on sale for $.99 so snatch it up). Then came the cover reveal for my debut Harlequin Kimani book, A New York Kind of Love (ANYKOL). In the middle of all that, I’m writing the last story in the Henderson Family saga (From One Night to Forever) and the revisions for ANYKOL hit my inbox earlier this week. Along with those revisions came an offer to write a few more books for Kimani and me–being optimistic in my abilities–verbally agreed to two more romances. Luckily, I already have beat sheets for two more novels that I can easily *snort* convert into a synopsis.

FYI; the snort is because writing a synopsis is NEVER easy.

Are you tired yet, because I’m tired of listing everything that’s happened. This is all a crazy, fun, overwhelmingly exciting time. June will fly by with birthday parties for my kids and then here comes July and my trip to DC during the Fourth weekend and later NY for the Romance Writers of America conference.

Having said all of that, I hope y’all forgive me for forgetting to post the excerpt of Kareem’s story. Especially since so many have asked me specifically for this story. I promise I’ll post another one later this week.

Enjoy!!

Blurb:

After five years in prison, Kareem Henderson is starting his life over. Though business is good at his barbershop, his goal is to open a high-end gentlemen’s salon. But the road back is rough, and he needs connections in the society he once snubbed to make his dream a reality. He just never expected his second chance to come from the sexy female barber he hired last year.

Patrice “Neecie” Baldwin escaped the pressure of being the perfect daughter in one of North Carolina’s most prestigious families to live life on her own. When family responsibilities call her home, she fears going back will expose her to the pressures that nearly ruined her. Neecie needs a shield, and tall, handsome, bad boy Kareem seems impenetrable. So she offers him a deal: If he’ll pretend to be her fiance, she’ll introduce him to all of her well-connected relatives.

But the more time they spend together, the more the irresistible attraction between them builds. They’re from such different worlds, but can this fake relationship make the cut and become something very real?

Excerpt:

The door to the bank opened. Once glance at Sandra Brevard striding in and Kareem’s feet stuck to the floor. He’d never looked up the word classy in the dictionary but was pretty damn sure all he’d find was a reference to Sandra. Just the type of woman he wanted but wouldn’t know what to do with if he were lucky enough to land her. Sandra belonged to his brother, David, something he’d had a hard time coming to terms with a few months back. His feelings had dimmed, but he couldn’t shake his admiration for the way she’d helped with his business plan or pretend she wasn’t attractive.

Sandra spotted him, and a smile spread across her features. Some of the tension in Kareem’s neck eased.

Sandra crossed the room to him looking like perfection in a fitted cream suit.

“Kareem, what are you doing here?” Her husky voice filled with hope.

“I came to talk to Mr. Small about a business loan.”

Sandra’s eyes glanced toward Mr. Small’s office. “How did it go?”

Kareem shrugged. “It didn’t go at all. He denied me.”

Sandra’s arched brows drew together. “I don’t understand. Your business plan is perfect, and you have most of your capital already saved.”

“Apparently I’m too risky.”

Sandra scoffed. “That’s crazy. Just because your idea is different doesn’t make you too risky.”

The corner of Kareem’s mouth lifted. Sandra hadn’t laughed at his idea to open a high-end gentlemen’s salon when he brought it to her. Instead, she used the resources of her organization, which helped small businesses make connections and grow, to solidify his plan. Not many people supported him the way she had. That was something he could only blame himself for, but still, having someone on his side was nice.

“Don’t worry,” Kareem said. “I’ll try someplace else.”

“I’m sorry, Kareem. I wouldn’t have sent you over here if I didn’t think they’d approve your loan.”

“It isn’t your fault. You’ve helped me enough already.”

Footsteps preceded Mr. Small’s appearance. “Ms. Brevard, how nice it is to see you this morning.” The guy was all smiles and sweat-free when he took Sandra’s hand.

“Hello, Mr. Small,” she said then pulled her hand away. “I was just talking to Kareem, and he mentioned things didn’t go so well today.”

Mr. Small’s beady eyes darted Kareem’s way. “Why yes, unfortunately, he’s too much of a risk.”

“Kareem or Kareem’s idea?” Sandra asked in a no-nonsense voice.

Mr. Small cleared his throat. “His idea, of course.”

Sandra turned back to Kareem. “Talk with David; maybe he can give you an idea of where to go next.”

Kareem’s shoulders tightened at the mention of his brother. “I’ll think about it.”

Her frown slowly softened into a look of concern. “He’s your brother, Kareem. I know he wants to help make your idea a reality.” Her voice filled with adoration when she talked about David. Jealousy struck his chest. Jealousy was a bitch that way, a slit your tires and key your car kind of bitch when Kareem compared his life to the perfect model of David’s. Never would he have expected that one day he’d envy his baby brother.

Mr. Small perked up. “David Henderson?” He looked at Kareem. “David Henderson is your brother?”

“Yes,” Kareem said.

“And Roger Henderson, of Henderson Automotive…”

“My father,” Kareem said, his voice going ice cold.

“Well.” A grin spread across Mr. Small’s pudgy face. “Knowing that, we might be able to work something out.”

Kareem’s grip on his business plan tightened. “No thank you, Mr. Small. I wouldn’t want you to take a risk just because I’m a Henderson. I’ll find another way.”

Sandra placed a hand on his arm. “Call David, okay?”

Kareem pulled away from her touch. “I’ll handle this myself. Rehearsal dinner tonight, right?” He knew damn well his baby sister’s rehearsal dinner was that night. Just needed to change the subject.

Sandra sighed and nodded. “I’ll see you at seven.”

“Seven it is.” He stalked away and burst out the door to the bright sunshine of a fall afternoon.

He sucked in cool, crisp air, but his stomach heaved. He didn’t deserve his family’s help, after his screwed up past, the pain he caused, and the way he once lusted for Sandra. Yeah, he’d be in the running for asshole of the century if he went to David for help.

###

Making it Real is up for pre-sale on Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Pictures Help Write the Story

You know that person who always refuses to get on a social media site because they claim the site is just a fad? Well, that person typically is me. Then I end up joining the site and love it. Starting way back when with MySpace, then Facebook–which I joined one night after drinking several glasses of wine–and I joined Twitter after checking out Twitter for Dummies at the library. Between Facebook and Twitter I believed I’d hit my social media limit. I turned up my nose to those who declared Pinterest as the most awesome thing ever and claimed only “kids” got on that Instagram.

Well, I had to eat my words again. I don’t know who was the exact person that turned me onto Pinterest, but one day the benefits of Pinterest to my writing kind of clicked. I usually see a picture somewhere that reminds me of a noun in my story. You know, a person , place or thing. When I find a picture like that, I’m saving it on my phone, emailing to myself or putting it in a story file on my computer.

Then it hit me. “Synithia,” I said. “Why don’t you just create a board on Pinterest for each book?”

After that, BAM, I’m rocking and rolling on Pinterest. I use the boards to help me describe an outfit and/or location or keep my vision for a character’s appearance handy. I have a few public boards, but I keep my book boards private while I work. Today I got to thinking there’s no real reason to keep the boards of completed books private. Maybe my readers will find them interesting. Here is the link to my Love’s Replay board.  Love’s Replay was the first novel I created a board for. Now things are coming along a lot easier with the rest of the books in the Henderson series along with the Caldwell series I plan to self publish.

And it’s so much easier to click on the Pinterest board for a refresher than trying to find space to hang all of these pictures. My writing area is my kitchen table, not a good place for pictures of men with no shirts.

Being proven wrong about the fantastic uses of the various social media sites–yeah, I joined the Insta–I shall no longer turn up my nose at the next big social media that comes around. You never know how useful it may turn out to be.

Now once you check out my Love’s Replay board, tell me if you have any surprises? I’d love to know if you pictured a character differently from me.

Where I hang out online: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram. Though I’m most active on Twitter 🙂

Summer’s Over, Time for Some Updates

Selfie alert! I hit the beach 3 times. This is me in St. Simon's Island, GA.

Selfie alert! I hit the beach 3 times. This is me in St. Simon’s Island, GA.

It’s been a crazy busy summer. I think I said that at the end of last summer. I’ve been doing some writing, vacationing, and a little grieving. It comes with the hustle and bustle of any season I guess.

To give you some updates, first I’ll say thanks to everyone for the great response you’ve given to Just My Type! It’s been hanging around on the Crimson Romance best sellers list for several weeks and the reviews have been good. It’s always nerve wracking to put a new book out there, and when you all love the characters as much as I do, it makes all those late nights writing worth it.

My first virtual book tour went very well. I got a lot of love for Freddy and Janiyah and gave away paperback copies of my first three books. Congratulations to Krystol Diggs on winning the grand prize!

Now for those of you who’ve asked about Janiyah’s brothers, I’m happy to say that, yes, their stories are coming. Earlier this week I signed on to complete the next three books in the series for Crimson Romance. Look out ladies, it’s time for David, Kareem and Aaron Henderson to fall in love. I know a lot of you are waiting for Kareem’s story—and I’m eager to write his—but David is next. He’s the one who stayed in my head while writing Just My Type so he got first dibs. Luckily, I finished David’s book the other day, and I’m going through revisions before passing along to my editor. I’ve already plotted out Kareem and Aaron’s stories and they’re just waiting in the wings for me to start.

As an FYI; the titles coming along are Love’s Replay (David Henderson), Making it Real (Kareem Henderson), and From One Night to Forever (Aaron Henderson). I hope you love their stories just as much as I’m going to love bringing them to life.

I’ve got other things simmering, but we’ll see what happens with that. I’ll be sure to check in and let you know what’s going on. And, hopefully, now that the summer is winding down, I won’t wait so long before blogging again.

Did you have a great summer? And, which Henderson brother are you anxious to read about?

A Few Updates and a Discount on My Books

It’s been a busy month. I still can’t believe that July 4th is next week. June was jammed packed with the release of Just My Type while working to complete a few other projects. Still, I wanted to drop in and give everyone a few updates on what’s happening, where you can learn more about Just My Type, and the great summer discount on all of my books from Crimson Romance.

First, I made several stops in June to talk about Just My Type. If you want to learn more about my characters or the thought process behind developing the story then definitely check out the links below.

For those who haven’t read Just My Type, I’m wrapping up a giveaway at Romance Novels in Color and starting another on the Just Contemporary Romance site.

Second, Crimson Romance has a new look and a new online store! Not only can you buy all my books directly from their site at 30% off everyday, but for the rest of the summer you get an extra 10% off using the code FFSAVE. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Unique Thoughts book clubThird, I always love talking to readers. You guys are the reason I drag my lazy behind to my lap top and squeeze the last bit of creative juice from my brain after a long day of working, kids, housework and cooking. Without the great emails, Facebook and Twitter messages, and love for my books I would just say screw it and binge on Netflix everyday. Which is why it’s always a treat when a book club likes my book enough to ask me to visit their meeting. A big shout out to the Unique Thoughts book club who invited me to chat about You Can’t Plan Love over the weekend.

July will bring even more fun. I’m kicking off my first virtual book tour with Tasty Book Tours starting July 7, 2014. You can click on the banner in the right hand corner for more information on that. It’ll be full of excerpts, guest posts, reviews and of course a giveaway! One tour visitor will get an autographed hard copy of my first three books. Be on the look out for that.

Well, I think that’s everything. I’m busy working on the books for Janiyah’s brothers (David is next–though everyone wants Kareem) and waiting to hear about another project floating in the wind.  So if it’s a few weeks until my next post, you’ll know I’m deep in the writing cave.

There May Be Something to Those Teenage Dreams

When I was 15, I had to write a letter to my English teacher telling her about myself. I didn’t remember doing this until I came across the letter last night. See, I’m a pack rat. I keep EVERYTHING. Even small school assignments that only give a teacher the FYI of the new students.

Well, last night I decided to do a organizational sweep of my box of old stuff to see what I could throw out or recycle without too much emotional withdrawal. Which brings me back to my letter to Ms. Cottingham. It’s sitting on the pile of stuff to recycle, when I get a hankering to read over it. It’s cute, sweet, no big deal … until I get to the end (pictured below).

School Letter

For those who may not be able to read it, here’s what it says:

“If I can’t be an actress I want to be a marine biologist or meteorologist, because science is my 2nd true love. My first is romance. Unlike most kids my age I believe in (and wish for) happily ever after. I read all the time but they’re not classics or nonfiction but romance novels. I even write them too. At the moment I’m working on my second book, and to me, I’m a great author. Well that’s about all I can say about me. I hope you enjoyed my letter.”

When I got to the end I teared up. And, folks, I’m not a teared up kind of gal. In fact, I’m terrible at the mushy sentimental stuff in real life. But this … this got to me. It’s not like I’d forgotten that I’ve wanted to be a writer since before I was a teenager, or that I didn’t know the box I was cleaning out had a bunch of old novels I started way back when. But, I had forgotten that once I was so proud of my love of reading and writing romance, that I happily declared it my first love.

I really needed to see that letter. Even with my 4th book coming later this year, insecurity about my choice to pursue my love of writing romance pops up. This simple letter to my English teacher reminded me that I am doing what some people only hope to do. I’m actually going after my dream. A dream I’ve had for as long as I can remember.

The letter … well it’s back in that box. It’ll be my reminder when I’m thinking my writing sucks, or that I’ve run out of ideas, or that I’m too tired to attend one more workshop to keep at it. Because, really, who can deny their first love.

P.S.

I  still want to be an actress 🙂

 

Gotta Love Those Alpha Males

About a week ago, my hubby did one of his alpha male things.

Scenario: Doorbell rings and off I go to answer. He asks “Who is it?” I reply, “I don’t know. Some dude.”

The dude in question turns out to be one of our neighbors (who I’m ashamed to say I didn’t recognize) letting us know the lights were flashing on my car. Afterwards, my hubby does his alpha thing: “Don’t answer the door to a strange man if I’m not here.” I kind of chuckle and say that’s not really feasible.

Though in my mind I’m picturing going to the door in the future only to be greeted by some crazy guy, and realize that now I’ll probably be hesitate to answer the door for some dude.

This exchange, simple as it was, got me to thinking about independent women and alpha men. I love it when my hubby shows several of his I am man characteristics. I get a thrill when he shows strength. I’m impressed when he does “manly” stuff—seriously, I fell in love the day he changed the alternator on my car. But when his alpha tendencies lean toward giving me direction/advice, even when I know it’s because he’s trying to look out for me, I tend to laugh it off and sometimes ignore. Case in point: I still let the gas light come on my car after he gave a lecture on all the reasons not to do it.

Why do I do this? The same reason the heroines in romance novels ignore it when the hero says “wait right here” women today are raised to be strong, independent, and not to take orders from a man.  We figure we know how to take care of ourselves, and even when the men we love try to give advice, that independent woman nerve jumps up and we’re like “Okay, babe, I won’t let my car get past a half a tank.” All while the gas light is flashing.

And, if by some chance the alpha man in our life is right, it’s all good. He’ll be the first one to run to the rescue when we need a bit of help.

What’s Going On?

At the SC Book Festival  in May with the lovely, Linda Lovely.

At the SC Book Festival in May with the lovely, Linda Lovely.

I realize my blogging has been sporadic over the past few weeks…uh…months, so I decided to check in and let you all know what I’ve been up to. I think my last check in was at the end of my crazy summer. Well, my hopes for the fall to slow down didn’t turn out the way I thought.

One bit of good news is that I got a new day job. I’m still a local government gal, but I had to pass along my green queen title. The new job will mean a learning curve and tons of new responsibilities, but I’m very excited about the challenge.

Then there’s the kids. I got over zealous and thought I’d sign my 1st grader up for lots of activities. Yeah…a few weeks of that helped me realize that more isn’t always better. So we’ve scaled back the after school stuff and will try to revisit again next year when my hubby finishes school.

Lot's of inspiration at the Carolina Panthers Training Camp ;)

Lot’s of inspiration at the Carolina Panthers Training Camp 😉

Sexy novella idea inspired by my ladies trip to New York.

Sexy novella idea inspired by my ladies trip to New York.

On the writing front, don’t worry I haven’t let that go by the wayside. I’ve been busy working on several projects, plus I’m doing a half-assed attempt at National Novel Writing Month. The original NaNo attempt was to complete a new book in my Henderson Family Series—check out my new Works in Progress Page for more info on that—when an idea for a sexy novella took over. So I put the WIP aside to crank out this 20-30 thousand word novella. I should be able to complete it by the end of the month.

I’m hoping I can have good news for everyone soon. And I’ve got an idea to post chapters from a novella I completed earlier this year here on my blog. But don’t hold me to that. 2014 may hit just as hard as 2013.

This has nothing to do with writing. I just can't believe there are still payphones out there!

This has nothing to do with writing. I just can’t believe there are still payphones out there!

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