We’re Getting There

I expect to be able to announce a release date for Book 4 in a week or two. For all of you new readers who joined me after eReader News Today picked me up, please see this post for a description of my process and why book 4 is taking so long.

After the release date is official, we’ll start with the title and cover reveals and all the other fun stuff that comes with a new book.

Welcome new readers! I’m glad you’re here and hope you enjoy the books!


GWB4 update. No new news.

Hi Friends,

I’m still in the weeds on Girls Wearing Black 4. No release date to quote yet. The middle of the novel isn’t working yet. Thanks for your patience. Please know that no one wants this book done and out there more than me, but not until it’s awesome!

Have a great week!


Holly is on Audio!

Hello Friends!

I’m pleased to tell you that Holly and Her Naughty eReader is now an unabridged audiobook performed by voice actress Jentle Phoenix.

Unlike the Girls Wearing Black audiobooks, which got started pretty quickly once I opened them up for auditions, with Holly, I took a long time to wait for the right voice actress to come along. Those of you who have read Holly know that she is a quirky, goofy, booknerd who is run through the emotional wringer over the course of the novel. I needed an actress talented enough to pull off the wide range of emotions Holly experiences.

I also needed someone FUNNY. Holly and Her Naughty eReader was a project where my wife and I had a blast being goofy together. There are scenes in the novel where moments of intimacy quickly devolve into slapstick. In addition to her voice work on cartoons and animated movies, Jentle is a comedian who is no stranger to stand-up and improv, and she really got to cut loose in this novel. I’m thrilled with how it turned out!

If you are over 18 and looking for a silly send-up of the erotica section of the Kindle store, check this one out!

Holly and Her Naughty eReader unabridged audio is available on Audible and Amazon.

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Writing As An Act of Faith / Girls Wearing Black 4 Update

on-writingThis post will attempt to answer my two most frequently asked questions.

1) When will Book 4 be out?

2) I want to be a writer. Do you have any advice?

As to question 1, the answer is still, sorry, not quite close enough to quote a release date, but working hard on it every day. I am many drafts into the story now and it simply isn’t good enough.

Which brings us to question 2. What’s my advice for writers? Rewrite. Or better, let me modify Stephen King’s classic advice from On Writing. Write a lot, read a lot, and rewrite a lot.

Go back to the beginning of the chapter you just wrote and try again. Plow through to the end of a draft, then start with page 1. Throw out scenes, chapters, sections, and sometimes, entire drafts. Know that the work you are tossing aside isn’t lost. That work was crucial to help you see what you really needed to write.

It’s a process many writers would find maddening. Some writers, like Robert Heinlein, would say it’s exactly the wrong advice. But to me, rewriting is what this game is all about.

Heinlein would hate my advice for writers, but I still love The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress

The first draft of Demon Queen had a troubled boy stumbling through a portal into a fantasy world where he saved the day and learned something about himself, like that’s never been done beforeIt wasn’t until I was a few drafts in that I wrote a scene where my main characters were gathered around an elm tree that, without warning, snapped at the base and fell down. What came next in the story (readers of that novel know that the book gets pretty darn weird after the tree falls down) was pure serendipity, and it worked better than everything I had written in multiple drafts beforehand.

The same happened in Homecoming Masquerade, which started as a short story about a vampire coming to dinner, then morphed into one novelist’s misguided tribute to The Lost Boys, then transformed into a dystopian vampire novel, before finally becoming a spy novel where the heroes are teens and the villains are vampires.*

There was a time in the drafting of Rose Ransom where Nicky and Ryan were staying at a vineyard in the Italian Alps with a family of European vampire hunters whose personalities were part Von Trapp and part Van Helsing. I’ve forgotten what I named that family, but in my mind, they will always be “the Von Helsings.” The book was better without them.

Festival of the Moon was originally titled The Date Auction and was meant to take place over the night of the Date Auction with flashbacks to the rest of the story in a structure similar to Homecoming Masquerade. But the break-in at Art’s house and Brawl in the Fall both turned into giant set pieces that were too big to be told in flashback, so I scrapped the early drafts and wrote the book in chronological order.

I had hoped Girls Wearing Black 4, which is a story I’ve told in my mind many times over the past two years, wouldn’t take quite as many attempts as the previous novels. Alas, I am five months in and the novel just isn’t good enough yet. But I have faith that it will be. It’s getting better every day. Hang in there! I promise you that when it’s published, it will be the very best I’ve got in me.

All of that is to say, when aspiring writers ask me for advice, I tell them that in my experience the book gets better the more you work on it, so if you want to write a really good book, work on it a lot. 

I’ll be back in a few weeks with another update. Thanks everyone for your encouragement and your patience. I love you all and feel lucky beyond reason to have people waiting for my next book!

* – For my readers who are too young to know about The Lost Boys, here’s a link to the trailer.

** – Yes, this post was heavily revised before I hit publish. What can I say? It’s how I work. It’s also why I’m careful not to blog too frequently, lest I lose my life to reblogging!

*** – Looks like I’m not the only one who has thought of Von Trapp and vampire in the same sentence.

**** – On Writing collage from StephenCJames.com


Thank You

Officially, I should have thanked my readers on Thursday. In America, we set aside the final Thursday in November to give thanks for all we have, and my readers are very high on my list of things I’m thankful for. Thank you everyone who has taken the time to read one of my books. I’m honored to make that connection with you, and I’m thankful for it every day, holiday or not.

I’m coming out of the book-writing cave for a Thank You blog post today because I have even more cause to be thankful than normal. A few minutes ago I opened up my weekly email from the paperback publisher with the sales report. For most of the year, paperbacks are an afterthought for me, with some 99% of the sales going to the various eReaders. But this week’s sales report was…wow. Thank you. Nothing makes me happier. I know that all or virtually all of those paperbacks that went out the door are going to get wrapped up and given away. There is no higher honor a writer can get. To those of you who enjoy the books enough to give them to your loved ones — I’m thrilled, and very grateful.

I hope the kickoff to the holiday season has been marvelous for everyone. Mine has been truly superb. Family on Thursday and Friday, an extended outing with my middle child yesterday, Christmas decor went up in the house today, football is on, the laptop is open, 3500 words on GWB4 since this morning…let’s just say that I’m feeling very jolly at the moment.

Until next time…


Book 4 Will Be the Final Book

Hello Friends and Readers!

I’m still hard at work on Girls Wearing Black 4 and am coming out of my writing hole to tell you some bits of news.

Although the book is coming along well, I can now say with confidence that it will not be released in November. There’s still too much work to do on the manuscript.

What I can tell you is that Girls Wearing Black 4 will be the final book in the series. I have now written enough of the story, and know enough about the trajectory of the plot that I can tell you the story will end with this book. I’ve had an ending to this series in mind since Day 1, and this is the book that will take us there.

As I’m writing this book, knowing it will be the end, I’m feeling great empathy for the many authors who struggled with the final book of a series. When you’re writing a series of novels, you are creating so much story, and taking the reader on such a lengthy journey, you feel like you MUST give them an ending that is worth all the time they’ve invested in your words.

I want this novel to really pop. It’s not there yet.

I’m going to miss my stretch goal of a November release, but I’m keenly aware that you all are waiting. I’ll come back to the blog soon with another update. Until then…


Book 4 Update

Hello Friends and New Readers!

Apologies for my absence from the blog. I’ve been keeping my head down and my fingers flying across the keyboard. Lots of great work done on Book 4 in the past few weeks.

So when will it be released?

Sorry, I’m still not ready to quote a release date. My aim is always to release the books as soon as they’re ready, and not a day before. I have not yet ruled out a late November release, which would be ideal for my sales, but I can’t commit to one either at this point. I really enjoy that so many fans think the books keep getting better and better and I would like to keep that momentum going. As of today, I have written a complete draft of book 4, but it still needs lots of work before it’s anything close to done. Some scenes and plot developments work very well; many, many others aren’t good enough and need to be reworked or tossed.

I’ll check in with another update after some more work is done and I know more. As always, thanks for reading!


Welcome New Readers!

I advertised Homecoming Masquerade on Bookbub today and it was a smash! As of this writing, Homecoming Masquerade is #13 overall in the Amazon store, and #1 in both the Young Adult and Paranormal categories. Many thousands of you who never heard of me before are reading my work for the first time. Hello to all of you! I’m honored you found me, and hope you enjoy the book!


Opening Lines Part 2

The Opening Lines post was about great opening lines in novels.

Here’s a post about not-so-great ones.

The winners of the 2013 Lyttle Lytton Contest are now live. For those who don’t know the contest, here’s what it’s all about (copied from the official contest rules):

“Your task is to write the beginning of an imaginary novel. Your goal is to make it hilariously bad.”

What fun!

Here are some of my favorites from this year’s winners.

My dear wife jolted awake, rolled over, and looked at me. “I just lucid dreamed that I killed you,” she said sadly.
–Ian Waddell

Charging, sprinting, loping with great speed, the cheetah lunged at Theodore Roosevelt, but he already had that cheetah dead to rights.
–Alex Richardson

Jacques entered out of the rain, drenched from that selfsame precipitate.
–Alice Wilders

And my personal favorite, posted here with commentary from the contest judge (the commentary makes it 10 times funnier)..

Madison was a shy, awkward, inwardly beautiful teenaged girl just like you.
–Brandon Specktor

Judge’s comments on that one:

Go to your local Barnes & Noble (if you can still find one).  There will be a wall solidly packed with shelves.  Those shelves will be filled with books.  Chapter One of every one of those books will be attempting to establish the above.  So, hey, why not just cut right to it and save space?


Opening Lines

The Atlantic just did a piece where notable authors gave their favorite first lines from books and explained why.

The most famous first line in literature (Call me Ishmael) shows up twice on the list. Other famous first lines, like the notable openings of  Tale of Two Cities and Pride & Prejudice, weren’t cited.

However, when The Telegraph did a similar piece years ago, some of the more classic openings where there. Here are a few:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice (1813)

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina (1878)

“All children, except one, grow up.”
J.M. Barrie: Peter Pan (1911)

Of the famous opening lines, my favorite  is from The Stranger by Camus
“Mother died today. Or maybe, yesterday; I can’t be sure.”

Of course, it turns out that the correct translation of this opening line from the French is frequently called into question.

From more modern books, an opening line that stands out to me is from The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.

“The madness of an autumn prairie cold front coming through. You could feel it; something terrible was going to happen.”

That opening line kicks off an intense scene where the reader goes deep into the consciousness of a narrator who is rapidly losing control of his mind and body to Parkinson’s. Man, just copying that line in here makes me want to go read that book again right now.

Do you have a favorite opening line of a novel? Stick it in the comments.