When Delilah invited me to post on her blog, my first reaction was a fangirl squeal.
My second reaction was a Carlton dance. And my third reaction was a complete, paralyzing writer’s block, which continued until last night. How the hell do I choose what to write on Delilah’s blog? This is Delilah! Everyone has been in bed with her, and I’m just popping my publishing cherry!! Oh, the stress.
But I have a generally-calm, down-to-earth, hold-your-hand-through-hell hubby who said, “That’s what you write about. Popping your cherry.” And he was right. With my first book only eleven days away, I haven’t taken a full moment to pause and articulate what I learned in this amazing process. It started out as a small story on Fanfiction, then it grew on my blog, and now, finally, it’s hitting the stands. It has been a beautiful whirlwind, filled with lessons. And because I’m a list person (blame my legal job), here are the top five:
- Write with my heart, then edit with my head. Oh, the blood and tears of that first draft. How precious each adjective, how darling each adverb! I had to step away in the end (okay, was dragged away by my hubby, but tomayto- tomahto). I went out, saw my friends, combed my hair. And I learned that, for me, some distance was crucial. I needed it to be able to return to the manuscript with a gimlet eye. To delete huge chunks of it, and rewrite entire chapters. To realize that adverbs are almost never needed if I use the right verb. And that the best story is not the one I tell, but the one I show.
- Pick my battles. So I could delete adjectives and adverbs on my own. But what would I do if my agent wanted me to strike an entire background story or remove a whole character? I learned to compromise. Not everything I thought was vital was actually interesting. And not everything that was interesting was actually vital. So that’s when I came up with my formula: if it takes me more than three sentences to explain the importance of a background story or secondary character, that information is not vital. Delete it.
- Trust my gut. But there were some things that took more than three sentences to explain. Some things that were integral to my main characters, even if all my legal training couldn’t persuade my agent to see my point. For example, my alpha hero, Aiden, is a U.S. Marine with total recall. He can never forget anything. Especially not the horrors of war. My agent wanted to delete his memory. We talked, we argued, we tried hard—with zero progress. My head told me to listen to the agent—she was a pro; I was a newbie. My heart wanted to listen to her, too—she was the first one who saw my potential. But my gut kept saying “no”—loud and clear (and in Aiden’s deep, husky voice, which made it irresistible). In the end, I had to make the hardest decision of my writing journey: I had to part ways with my first agent. It would take up all of Delilah’s blog to explain how difficult that was. What the hell was I doing? I was lucky to have an agent at all! But my gut was absolutely right. Because, shortly after, I found another agent who loved the book the way it was, and an editor, and a publisher who followed. And, above all, the 63,000 readers that visited my story online. In the end, instincts matter. (And that’s a big lesson for a newbie author.)
- Listen to my readers. Looking back now though, I wonder: would I have had enough confidence as a baby author to follow my instincts without all the readers who followed my story online? See, I posted Thirty Nights on Fanfiction first—before it caught the attention of an agent. I thought I’d be lucky if I had one, maybe two readers. I ended up finding quite a few more. And every single one of their 3,000 messages, reviews, and emails did its little magic. It allowed me to understand what they liked, what they didn’t. And to appreciate that although I write for myself, what I write is theirs.
- Be prepared to gain about seven to ten pounds. This was a surprise to me. My Debut Author 15! All those nervous chocolate nibbles and take-out food around deadlines have left me with some pounds to shed. But that’s okay—it was worth it. Because the final lesson in this whole process has been to give my body and brain what they crave every so often. This writing business is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. (And with that, I’m getting on my trek suit, and going for a run.)
Thank you for reading and please check out information on Thirty Nights below. And thank you, Delilah, for inviting me on your blog!
Thirty nights. Two hearts. One fate.
After her parents’ tragic deaths, Elisa Snow wanted nothing more than to escape her past. Eighteen and alone, she fled her quaint English village and moved to the United States. A starving science student by day and an artist’s muse by night, Elisa has slowly built a new life. She never dreamed she would lose everything again.
She is one week from graduation when her visa is unexpectedly denied. Given thirty days to leave the country, she must face the one thing she cannot survive again—saying goodbye and leaving her home. Yet within minutes of her world shattering, she meets a man with the power to piece it back together.
After finishing his tour of duty in Iraq, Aiden Hale traded battlefields for boardrooms, becoming one of the most successful venture capitalists in the nation. But all his wealth can’t buy him reprieve from the horrific memories of war. The only thing that gives him peace is a painting of Elisa.
Drawn together by their invisible wounds, they begin a passionate affair as they race against the clock to defy their pasts—and fight for their future.
Warning: Contains a blistering exploration of desire, sacrifice, and redemption…and love’s power to equalize us in ways laws cannot.
The door rattles under four sharp, loud knocks. According to my dad’s watch,
I still have one hour before Hale gets here. I peek through the hole and freeze. Bloody hell, it’s the Dragon, with a capital D this time. What did I do today? Oh, maybe he is canceling the painting. I put a half-baked plan together and open the door.
“Mr. Hale, what a nice surprise,” I start with a big smile, my voice high enough for the bats to hear it.
He steps inside. I think he’s trying to calm himself but it’s hard to tell with the smoke coming out of his ears. He runs a hand over his hair. What the devil is wrong with him? He takes one deep breath and explodes.
“Are you so above the rest, Miss Snow, that you will not deign to attend even your graduation from the institution that has granted you its highest academic honor? Or is this how little your own life means to you?” He speaks through gritted teeth.
Oh, bollocks! How did he find out, and why does he care? Be strong, Isa. “I’m sorry, but that’s none of your business.” I ignore his second question. Something about it makes me recoil.
He looks at me like I just insulted his mother. Honestly, I think I see fire from his nostrils. “None of my fucking business? Is that your answer?” Still gritted teeth, which I suppose is better than fangs.
“Yes, that’s my answer.” I stay calm, hoping some of it will rub off on him. No such luck.
“Over three thousand people watched President Campbell announce Miss Elisa Cecilia Snow, valedictorian in absentia, and a full minute of silence fell over the crowd, and you say it’s none of my fucking business?” He is spitting fire.
Damn it! Why would President Campbell announce it? I emailed the traitor. Well, one thing at a time. The Dragon first. “No, I didn’t say fucking business. I said simply business.”
He looks at me with flared nostrils and roars, his fists hanging down.
“What is wrong with you?”
Oh, this is rich. He is morphing into a Tolkien creature and I’m the freak? I am usually a calm, rational agent. It’s probably not apparent based on this last week, but I am. But right now, with my newly shaved legs and my lacy knickers on, after practicing his name all day in front of a stupid fan, I want to scratch his eyes out.
“There’s nothing wrong with me, Mr. Hale. However, based on your behavior these last two days, may I suggest the very real possibility that there is something seriously wrong with you? I strongly recommend that you visit a psychiatrist, sir, and soon, before you become a menace on the streets of Portland and incinerate us all for exercising our right as free human beings to go wherever we bloody well please,” I hiss, feeling a kindred spirit with Medusa because he has turned to stone.
Before I can draw a breath, he takes the two steps between us and his mouth closes in on mine, his hands like a vise around my face.
The force of his kiss slams me against the wall and makes me gasp. His lips mold with mine, and his tongue is dancing inside my mouth. My knees shake a little. As if he knows, one of his hands leaves my face, trails down my body and rests at the small of my back, arching me against him and supporting all my weight. I move my tongue shyly around his. I taste cinnamon and something else, something Aiden. My blood ignites, and another gasp escapes me. At the sound, he presses his hips against me, and his long fingers reach into my hair. He pulls my head back until my mouth opens wider. Our tongues move together, and his anger changes to desperation and then to a slower rhythm that I can follow. Of their own accord, my arms reach up around his neck and my fingers knot in his hair. He tenses, so I try to let go but he draws me closer until there is no more space left. I feel every line of his body against mine. His teeth graze my bottom lip. It takes me a moment to realize that the moan I hear is coming from me. He pulls away, his breathing harsh and labored.
“Impossible woman,” he growls.
I open my eyes. His sapphire depths are blazing. Without his arm supporting me, my knees go back to shaky and weak. Then it dawns on me. Bloody hell, I’ve just been kissed by Aiden Hale! And what a kiss it was. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have much experience with such things, but I am willing to bet my supplement’s formula that no girl, anywhere, has been kissed like this. I pinch myself discreetly to make sure I’m awake. Yes, it was real. My lips are tingling.
“Are you ready to go?” he asks, his breathing now back in control. Apparently, we are not going to talk about it. That’s good. What if his next words end this? And what is there to say regardless? By some miracle, he wants me at some level, and I want him at all levels. That’s good enough for now. Good enough for forever for someone like me.
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