As I sit here staring at a blank screen, I’m thinking about what I’ve done over the past year and all the things left unfinished. A brand new year is upon us, and I don’t want to fall into the same quagmire of partially-finished things of years past.
I always start the year with great intentions; plans to do more, do better and finish everything I start. That never-ending diet that goes off the rails faster than you can say “chocolate.” The gym membership to go along with said diet. The manuscript I promise myself will get finished, as soon as I’ve turned in my current WIP. Trust me, it never happens. I have so many books in various states of writing, I’m never sure which one to work on next—so I end up starting something new.
My paranormal novella, Second Chances, happened that way. I was writing a romantic suspense single title. Things were flowing, the plot and mystery worked. It’s not like I had writer’s block of anything. I just had a dream. A vivid, full color, complete to the last detail dream. A sensual love scene between two people who’d been together for a long time and loved each other to the depths of their souls. An explosive, sexual and out-and-out, over-the-top HOT dream! At the end of the dream there was a twist I wasn’t expecting (but isn’t that the way with dreams—they take on a life of their own).
I thought about that scene/dream all of the next day, playing it over and over in my head. After working the day job, when I finished, I sat down and started writing. Within a couple of hours, I had written the entire scene from my dream. It felt good. But it was really short, definitely not long enough to do anything with. So I sent it to my critique partner, just to see what she thought.
She loved it! She’s rarely surprised but said that the ending did just that—but in a good way. Then she asked, how did they get to this point? What brought these two people to this place?
We all know how a writer’s mind works; I had to figure out the “why.” Why these two? Why Destiny’s Desire Lodge? What did Ryan’s recurring dreams mean?
Before long, Second Chances was born, a paranormal romance novella, revolving around fulfilling second chances and dreams that are bigger that we can imagine.
My hope for you in the coming New Year is love, joy, laughter, and fulfilling all the Second Chances that come your way.
A firefighter in Denver, Ryan Jackson still grieves the loss of his brother who died almost two years earlier on Christmas Eve. He thought he’d gotten past the loss until he began having dreams about his dead brother. In the dreams his brother asks him for something–impossible.
Ryan’s wife, Rose, knows something’s wrong. For the last several months Ryan’s grown more withdrawn and distant. She loves him and knows he loves her, but doubts begin to creep in. She’s determined to find out why her husband is withdrawing from her and win him back–no matter the cost.
An early Christmas gift, an unexpected trip, and haunting dreams. Can the love shared between Ryan and Rose overcome grief and guilt and lend a little magic for a second chance at happiness?
EXCERPT FROM SECOND CHANCES:
Rose walked around the dining room, putting the final touches on the table. Flowers and candles, even a bottle of white wine. Long stem crystal glasses next to the good china. Dinner was ready. She’d stopped at Ryan’s favorite Italian place on the way home, picked up all the foods he loved. Though she was no slouch in the kitchen, the horrendous hours she had put in all week left little time or energy for cooking. And besides, she wanted everything to be extra special tonight.
Soft music played in the background, the strains of the classical piano concerto wafted from the speakers. Soothing and romantic music setting the stage for the evening to come. The lights were dimmed and tall taper candles cast a warm glow across the dining room. Perfect. She’d done her best to set up a long-needed romantic evening with her husband.
Something was bothering him, kept him on edge for the past few months. She hadn’t pressed. He’d tell her whatever it was when the time was right. Still she worried.
Is he unhappy? Am I not enough anymore? The insidious doubts niggled at the back of her mind, managed despite her best efforts to creep into her head each day. She tried to ignore them, push them away, but the fear still managed to insinuate itself into her thoughts.
I can’t lose him. He’s my life. I’ll do whatever it takes, fight whoever I have to fight. I’m not giving up on Ryan. On us. Read the rest of this entry »
Impressive if they’re done right, book trailers may be a valuable tool to grab attention for a new release. I’m not certain they translate directly into increased sales—but then I haven’t found a way to determine whether any of my promotional efforts directly affect my bottom line. Still, I like trailers.
They can be pricey, though—particularly if live video is done by skilled professionals. Purchased trailers using stock photos and inexpensive music tracks can still cost upward of $150—a lot upward depending on the graphic artist/promotion company that you use, as well as the cost of photos and music the artist chooses.
Recently I discovered Windows Live Movie Maker (free from Microsoft) and found how simple it is to produce simple videos using it, from start to upload. The only other software I use to size, crop and modify stock photos—and occasionally to create a fancy text sign or two—is Adobe Photoshop. (It’s certainly not free or inexpensive, but I already had it. If I had needed to buy something simply to do these functions, not to play with for my own amusement, I would get Photoshop Elements or use one of the many free software selections online to perform these functions.)
So I can make my own book trailers. What materials do I need to make them?
Book cover—the tone of the trailer needs to reflect the cover art since it’s generally included as the beginning and/or ending frame.
Some background music. I troll the web looking for free—or royalty-free—MP3s that reflect the tone of my books: dark, lively, romantic, etc. When I find free ones, I download them for possible future use.
The story I want to tell in the video. I usually follow the content of blurbs I’ve already written for the book, which saves time and effort that it takes to select the photos and write the text.
Some stock photos, either free (preferable) or royalty-free. (For a one-minute video, you’ll need the book cover and five to seven photos that illustrate the text on each frame. If you can’t find a suitable photo, you can write text on a blank screen and apply a text effect to it.)
A few hours (how many depends on how much you play with your story line and how much you decide to crop/modify your images—the sample above, for my upcoming book, WILD ONE, has three frames that I created in Photoshop to use more than one image on a frame and to add fancy text. It took a while!)
Over the course of eight or nine months, I’ve accumulated a bulging folder full of stock photos, most of which I’ve found for free. I’ve bought and stockpiled a few Jimmy Thomas RNC cover shots and cropped them for use in trailers. And I’ve taken and filed away a lot of photos that I’ve taken, but I won’t use those that include people or readily identifiable landmarks unless I have releases—I don’t care to get sued.
Making book trailers is fun, a nice break from writing words. Since I write mostly contemporaries, putting videos together for them isn’t too stressful because I’ve been able to find a lot of free material that works to illustrate particular frames of my books. I doubt it would be nearly as easy to locate trailer material for historicals because of costuming and so on. If I wanted to do a video for a futuristic or a shifter story, I’d probably have to create many of the frames from scratch—something that would require a lot more graphic art skill than I have.
The winner of a free download of PLEASING SIR is Joyce Reece! Joyce, congrats! Send me an email to arrange delivery of your prize!
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For me, the opening of a story is the hardest part to write. I spend forever making sure it sparkles. Enjoy the opening gambit in the game between Raelie and Bryce.
If you post a comment today, you’ll be entered to win a free download of this book!
One adventurous little submissive is just what the bosses need…
Raelie might be a submissive in search of just the right Dom, but she’s not the kind to sit back and wait for the right man to happen. When she gets the chance to fill in as Bryce Caldwell’s executive assistant, she decides some subtle seduction is needed to see if he dominates the bedroom the same way he does the office.
Bryce can’t keep his mind off the sexy blonde sitting just outside his office. Especially not after the security cameras in the copier room catch Raelie “misappropriating” office property. A little disciplinary action leads to a whole lot of complication while he tries to find out whether she’s the right assistant to fulfill a special vacancy. Add a second round of interviews, and suddenly, Bryce is finding out he’s not the only one who’s not sure who’s really in charge.
The little red button on the telephone blinked twice. And like a dog trained to recognize the shake of its dinner bowl, Raelie Wood’s attention was arrested. Deep within her core, her body began the steady ascent toward full-blown arousal. A thousand butterflies settled in her stomach, madly fluttering their tiny wings. Her breaths shortened to excited little gasps and shivered through her breasts. The juncture of her thighs swelled with lush promise — a pulse thrumming there, slow but insistent.
She’d waited two whole days for a summons. Two days while she’d quietly attended to the office duties, proving why she’d been bumped up from the floating secretarial staff to fill in for Bryce Caldwell’s executive assistant while the woman was away on her honeymoon.
Raelie had seen to every duty on his EA’s meticulous checklist. This morning, she’d already typed the scribbled notes he’d left in her inbox the previous night when he’d finally left the office. Not that she’d seen him leave. Because she didn’t want to seem overeager, she’d left her desk at precisely five o’clock each evening. Even though she’d wanted nothing more than to stay late, strip naked, and slip into her boss’s office to show just how diligent a secretary she could be.
The thought of his shocked stare trailing down her nude body was a delicious one; however, she knew that wasn’t the way to get what she wanted from her no-nonsense employer. For once, she’d exercise a little subtlety.
What if the people you see everyday—the woman you pass on the sidewalk, the man in the office next to you or the child playing on the swing set with your child in the park—weren’t all they appeared to be? What if, in fact, the woman who does your hair was a werewolf, or the man in the line at the grocery store was a demon and the child playing on the playground was a wizard? It would change the way you look at the world. You might become paranoid or you might decide to join the paranormal investigation team of your local police force like Katya Danske in DEMON’S EMBRACE. It’s fun and kind of creepy to think of creatures who look like us, walking among us, who aren’t quite human.
Ever have a creepy premonition or feeling? Comment about your paranormal experience, or tell me about one you’d like to have for a chance to win a download of Myla Jackson’s SEX, LIES & VAMPIRE HUNTERS.
About the Author:
Elle James aka Myla Jackson spent twenty years livin’ and lovin’ in South Texas, ranching horses, cattle, goats, ostriches and emus. A former IT professional, Elle is proud to be writing full-time, penning intrigues and paranormal adventures that keep her readers on the edge of their seats. She has 31 works with Harlequin, self published works under pen name Elle James, over 40 works with other publishers including Samhain, Elloras’ Cave, Kensington and Avon and 18 works self-published under pen name Myla Jackson. Now living in northwest Arkansas, she isn’t wrangling cattle, she’s wrangling her muses, a malti-poo and yorkie. When she’s not at her computer, she’s traveling, out snow-skiing, boating, or riding her ATV, dreaming up new stories.
One of the most challenging aspects of writing romantic suspense is that you basically have to split yourself into pieces to get it done. If you’ve read Alice in Wonderland lately, you probably have a good idea of how romance writers operate – we spend a lot of time arguing with the creative side of our personality, which is approximately one part reckless adventurer, one part sex-crazed nympho, one part dark and scary gremlin, and one part petulant teenager. Together, all these parts operate the fingers to get the words on the page, but most of the time, it’s like herding cats.
First and foremost, there’s the romance, which is the heart and soul, and in a lot of ways, the easy part of the story, for me at least. Giving characters serious, toe-curling chemistry and then dumping them in a messy, impossible situation is the best part of the process. I don’t know about other writers, but I take great glee in making things as obnoxious for my hero and heroine as possible – after all, you don’t want to make it too easy for them, do you? It’s more satisfying if they have to work for it!
The second part of the process is the suspense, and this is where the serious challenge comes in, because you’re trying to accomplish a bunch of different things at once. You want the audience to wonder what’s coming next, you want them to worry about the characters, and you want to avoid anyone figuring out the puzzle before you’re ready. So, you have to write the conflict with all of its intricate little pieces, and then you have to go back and hide all of those pieces to keep your characters in the dark. Then you have to rewrite the story backwards, or so it seems – do all the pieces fit? Does it all make sense, or does the villain just reveal himself/herself out of nowhere without enough evidence?
And then you still have to wind the romance story thread back into the suspense and make the two threads complement each other and work together to tell one complete story.
It’s exhausting. And exhilarating.
The best emails I get are from readers going, “OMG, I never would have guessed he was the villain! So scary!” Those are the emails that make me hop up and down with delight, but I’d be lying if I said that the whole process isn’t a hair-pulling, nail-biting, coffee-swilling nightmare of a writing exercise that takes loads of outlining, structure, shredding of notes and ideas and sanity, and something no sane writer should undertake. Ever. Which is why, of course, I have two sequels planned for the Bright’s Ferry series – SAFE FROM THE FIRE, for February, and SAFE FROM THE STORM, for next summer. LOL.
Because, when it comes down to it, the cheerful, loving, playful, flirty persona is really only happiest when the crazed, deranged, “let’s write a serial killer storyline” persona has dragged the characters through the muck to make sure that they really deserve their happily ever after.
Isn’t writing fun?
Nursing a broken heart and a couple of bullet wounds, no-nonsense Evie Asher leaves her career with the NYPD to move into her grandmother’s old house in a small New England town in the middle of nowhere. She wants nothing more than a new start and a chance to forget the mistakes of the past and get her life back on track, minus the shootouts. Her plans are shattered when her new neighbor, the town’s hunky young mayor, starts receiving death threats from a dangerous stalker. Evie is unwillingly drawn back into a world of peril, and while her bruised heart tries to resist the out-of-control sparks that zing between them, she is forced to stay close to keep him safe as the stalking quickly turns to murder…
Colin Daniels has his hands full running Bright’s Ferry as their popular and busy young mayor. He doesn’t have time for stalkers or threats, much less a lovely gray-eyed cop with control issues who insists that the stalker is a member of the community, someone he knows and loves. When the situation takes a deadly turn, Colin finds that he has no choice but to give up some control himself and rely on Evie to protect him until they can unmask the killer. Passion sizzles between two stubborn hearts as they clash over the best way to handle a dangerous situation, but can they keep each other safe as the dark closes in?
SHIVERING AND COMPLETELY DRENCHED, Evie dropped her backpack on the Daniels’ porch. It was a beautiful hundred-year-old farmhouse that was obviously in the process of being restored – scaffolding protected a new wing off the side of the two-story structure. Evie spared only a quick glance around – her teeth were starting to chatter.
Fingers tight with cold, Evie raised a hand to knock.
The winning commenter for the Merry Christmas to You Contest is Ronnie Cornett! Congrats, Ronnie! Send me an email to let me know where you want your gift cert sent!
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Hmmm, I was supposed to have a guest today. Sorry, to the author, but I’m bumping her until tomorrow.
Her file is on my PC which is across the street. I’m housesitting for my daughter while she’s visiting her dad in DC. The day before yesterday when I packed, it was 60 degrees. Yesterday it rained throughout the day, and then last night it snowed. Snow on top of thick ice. I’m stuck. No coat. Definitely no boots. I have a vehicle, but it’s covered in a foot of powder and an inch of ice. So, I’m hunkering down until it warms up a bit today before I make a dash for my house.
So, I’ll leave you with a question…
When you’re wearing it, what type of clothing makes
you feel the most like the real you? Question from “The Question Guys”
Just a note to wish you all a very, merry holiday, however you choose to celebrate!
My family celebrated yesterday. My dd and SIL headed to DC this morning, so I’ve moved to their house to take care of the 8-year-old, 3 dogs, and 5 cats for the week. I hope they don’t expect to come home to a clean house because amidst all that critter-caring, I have to write a book!
I’d love to hear about the lovely things you received or did. My standout gifts are a gorgeous, hand-crocheted afghan with Ganesh (half-boy, half-elephant Indian god) in the center, a rose-gold ring, a Fenton glass unicorn, and a lampwork bead-making kit—yes, someone trusts me with a torch in my hands!