I hope everyone in the states had a wonderful holiday.  But now, it's time to get back to work!

The lovely Jen Tucker sent an invitation our way to tell you about our Next Big Thing.  This chain of blog posts informs our readers about our Next Big Thing while also introducing them to other writers.  I'll keep updating everyone as we pass this blog off to other people.  In the meanwhile, check out Jen's fabulous blog and work!

What is the title of your book?  We have a crazy amount of “works in progress,” but our current project is called Finally Fall.  It’s the second book in the Four Seasons quartet.

How did you come by the idea? Fall was a natural progression for us from Second Summer, the first book in the quartet.  But ages ago, when we were each writing separately, we found that we struggled with finishing anything.  The lure of new ideas combined with that awful lack of self-confidence that comes when you’re left alone with that damnable blinking cursor really made us second-guess too much.  So to pique one another’s creativity, we started making up characters and tossing them together in weird situations.  “What if…?” one of us would say, and then we’d be off and rolling with another idea.  Second Summer was the direct result of just such a “What if” and during side discussions about all the characters in the book, we started forming ideas for Finally Fall.  The basic question was “What if we did everything under the sun to try to sway the very stoic and solid Nathan Reynolds?”  It turned out to be a lot of fun to try his patience with a very lovely, very irreverent lady.

What genre does your book fall under? Finally Fall is definitely a romance novel.  There is some intrigue, but the real driving factor here is how people affect one another, how you can’t always rationalize with your heart.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters if it were a movie?  It’s like you’re peeking into our brains… we’ve discussed this a lot more than is probably sane, partly because it’s fun and partly because when you’re co-writing, what you really want is for your co-writer to be “seeing” the same thing you’re seeing, mentally. 

I think Nathan would be played by Dominic Purcell.  Most of you would probably know him from Prison Break—he’s got that great look, the handsome, rugged, BIG GUY look.  It’s all too easy to see him in a three-piece suit, intimidating and secure and maybe a little grumpy. (That’s Liv speaking moreso than me.  I swear!)

Olivia is a dusky, brunette beauty with a lot of sass, a lot of attitude and spice, but she has a sense of humor.  She likes to push buttons and she likes to laugh, despite being a workaholic.  Eva Mendes would be a great actress to play her role, and I think she’d look great zipping around on a sleek, black motorcycle.  I’m pretty sure I’ve seen photos of her in a black leather motorcycle jacket before, and my big ol’ girl crush says that’s a good match.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Former Secret Service agent Nathan Reynolds is a man accustomed to taking work seriously, but when Olivia Gordon speeds into his hotel—and his life—he’s forced to question the wisdom of “all work and no play.”

Will your book be self-published or traditional? We’ve really enjoyed the self-publishing community and our experiences with Second Summer, and we intend to also self-publish Finally Fall.  Not that we’d turn our nose up to some Prince Charming publisher who falls in love with our work!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Due to some major overhauls and rewrites, we’re still in that first draft process with Finally Fall.  I love it, it’s like dating.  You’re finding out all kinds of exciting things about one another and falling in love and just generally having fun.  Good, creative fun.  We’ve set a soft publishing date of summer for Finally Fall just to keep ourselves in line and, apparently, to confuse everyone with their seasons of the year.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? This is a tough question.  Everyone would like to say their book is totally unique, but the love story is absolutely universal, so there are comparisons to be made out there.  We have authors who we’ve read over the years, like Nora Roberts and Sandra Brown and a lot of new, amazing self-published authors.  Seeing hardheaded men (or women!) swept off their feet by their true love is always fun, and while that’s not a new story, there’s always room to fill out those new elements around it.

Who or What inspired you to write this book? We’re always inspired by one another, which is what really makes this partnership tick.  We’re each other’s biggest cheerleaders and also butt-kickers, when necessary.  But when Second Summer was still a wee, young thing undergoing editing and reworking, a friend of Jennifer’s named Sharon fell head over heels for Nathan and wanted to know where his story went and what happened next with him.  We wanted to create his story in a way that we knew his fans—and his first fan, Sharon—would appreciate.  Unfortunately, Sharon passed away while we were finishing Second Summer, but Fall is written in her memory and with her in mind.  We hope she likes the story we tell for Nathan and where we take his life.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? When we first started Finally Fall, we really struggled with some side elements of the plot.  One of the things that kind of landed in our laps that we’re enjoying immensely is just a little hint of government scandal and intrigue.  As a former Secret Service agent, Nathan has some secrets that he protected during his time in that role, and those secrets are still following him around a little in his new life.

Stay tuned... we'll be tagging other authors in future posts to send you all to the Next Big Thing!

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

I'm a bit of a Russian lit nerd, and my introduction into the bleak, beautiful and dramatic world of Russian literature was with Anna Karenina and that famous quote by Leo Tolstoy.  And while I think his quote is a little oversimplified, there is truth to it.  Pair it up with the boys from Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov and you have a wryly amusing picture, indeed.

With Thanksgiving in a few days, for many (including me), the week will be a blur of travel, family get-togethers, food and probably a little drama.  Where there are more than a few family members, drama seems to pop up regardless of how much you try to fight it.  This year, I'll be traveling halfway across the country to my family, leaving my husband to fend for himself with our lizard, some dirty laundry, and his family.  It sparked some discussion between my coworker and me as I drove home this evening, though.

"I should write about families," I said.  "Like, our characters' families."

"Oooh.  Good idea!" she agreed.

"How many of our characters have dysfunctional families?" 

We did the math.  No more or less than reality, with slightly more having (mostly) functional families than dysfunctional.  "Taylor's family was functional," I said.  "They were just gone too soon."

"Yeah," she said, "And then he got stuck with Simon, who is REALLY dysfunctional."

I couldn't argue much, even though I love Simon, for all his faults and thorns.  Because all of those thorns, really.

When I start to let a character roam around in my head, poking around about their family is one of the first things I do, because family is very important to me. (Someday, I will blog here about being adopted, and my amazing family, and how complicated and yet simple the whole thing is.  Not today.)  And usually, they answer me.  Sometimes, the answers sneak up on me later and dovetail so neatly into what's going on in my character's heart or mind that I'm surprised.  But it's always important, I've found, and though it hadn't occurred to me until really thinking over tonight's blog entry, family is what motivates many of my characters in some form or fashion.  It's what gives them their strength or their inspiration, their energy.  Or in some cases, it gives them their doubts and their quirks, their wrinkles and flaws. 

Isn't that what our family does, however?  It's the difference between being two-dimensional and being complicated and multi-faceted.  It's the difference between being just who we are, and being the product of many, many things.  For better or for worse, family is often what ultimately adds that one last brushstroke, whatever it may be.

So for those of you spending the next few days with family, I urge you to relax, eat and drink liberally, and if necessary, remember this too shall pass.  Enjoy what you can while you can, and feel those brushstrokes settle into place.

And if nothing else, use it for inspiration

Take aim



I think everyone has heard "Write what you know."  It's good advice, but it's also not always super helpful.  After all, there's nothing fun and escapist in a book about an underemployed marketing professional who's a terrible housekeeper. (But who, I confess, has an awesome husband.)

But lately, I've approached my writing a bit differently.  Not write what I know, but write how I know. 

Archery is a hobby I've had since I was a very small girl.  I lost interest in it for a short while around age 8 or 9, but when my father discovered traditional archery, I fell in love all over again.  It required focus, it required muscle memory.  It required clearing my mind and finding a fabulous Zen place, focusing on a spot as small as-- or smaller than-- an aspirin.  It has helped me release stress, anger, frustration, sadness, all in the sake of finding that spot.

So I'm starting to employ that theory to my writing.  Find the Zen place.  Forget the surroundings, forget the complications, forget the day I had.  Just... focus.  I don't always succeed.  After all, finding that focus in archery was the result of years of trial and error and failure and frustration, and I still don't find that place 100% of the time.  But even when I'm doing poorly, the love is there, and the fun. 

Even if writing is difficult or challenging, even if it's frustrating and hard to find the time or inspiration, it's time to find the spot.  Narrow your eyes.  Brush your hair out of the way.  Find that spot.

Know where your bullseye is.

And then, honey, let fly.

My cowriter-- who's much better at keeping up with other sites and blogs than I-- sent me a link yesterday that gave me a lot to think about, especially when combined with the latest leisure activity in our home.

Anne R. Allen wrote this entry about writing in "episodes."  It's not something I feel overly guilty of, though I've been focusing lately on adding detail, adding life to my characters.  Just normal life, the day-to-day things we don't talk about because they seem boring to us, but that add depth and personality.  The glue that binds together the POW moments. 

My cowriter and I first started writing together in small scenes, so episodic writing might be something we have to look out for, but we do always know the ending of a story... we just don't always know how our characters will get there.

We've been going through a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon, my husband and I, and researching what happens after the television show was over led me to read the synopses of the comic books.  They wend, they get crazy, crazier than the show, they get funny and silly and downright "Wait, REALLY?"  And that, I think, speaks to the idea of not having an ending in mind.  We're in a world where derivative works allow for stories to conceivably go on forever.  This is good for superfans (to an extent) and good for the pocketbooks of the creators and artists, but is it good for the story?  We've all watched television shows that just went on for too long, and no actions seem to do any long-term damage. 

It's a good reminder for me.  What's next?  How does that flow from now?  Where is it all leading?  And more than anything, will our readers enjoy getting there?

I sure hope so.
It’s been a pretty big week for world news, and news in the United States.  Don’t worry—I’m not going to run on about politics or even current events, but just the perspective it brings to what we do as writers, or readers, or creative people of any sort.  I think for most people, reading or watching a movie or kicking back with any form of fiction or entertainment is about escapism.  It’s about closing the doors on the real world for just a few minutes.  It’s about letting the quiet in, and in taking away the world for a while, adding to the world when we finally come back to it.

For me, it doesn’t have to be about any great, over-arching message. It doesn’t need to be deep or set out to change lives.  Like any good visual art, books are something the reader takes his or her own particular meaning and depth from, no matter how “cotton candy” the book may seem at a glance.  We bring to our reading our personal experiences, we let them weave in and out of an author’s story, and it becomes something entirely different for every single person who picks it up. 

It occurs to me that I should always write with that in mind—that what I give is a framework.  A room, perhaps, furnished but not yet finished.  There is so much more for my readers to bring, so feeling every ounce of the weight as I write is not only unnecessary stress, but also a little arrogant.  You can never fill all the spaces—because as avid readers, we hear the voices of characters as we read them, we see their expressions, we fill in the settings, the glances, the unseen conversations in the works we most love.

We do this because it is how we escape.  We do it because it adds color to the world when we come back.

I've been on a roller coaster lately, with my life doing things I didn't tell it to or give it permission to (what the heck? How is that okay?!) and it's taken a toll here or there.  The worst part of life taking off without you is, of course, the lack of control.  So I'm on a kick where I'm trying to take control of the factors making me crazy in my life (aside from, you know, my inherent craziness), and it's making me think of a question I've gotten a lot of times.

"Well, why can't you just make the story/characters do what you want it/them to do?  Aren't YOU the one writing it?  Aren't you in control?"

Emphasis, of course, mine.

I got this question a lot from friends and, to be honest, from myself when I first started doing NaNoWriMo, and even in some earlier writing projects that didn't have happy endings.  They didn't have happy endings sometimes, but they had right endings.  They had endings I didn't want to write but knew I had to.  With NaNoWriMo, I would hit my 50,000 words and discover I didn't much like the direction I had taken the story, because it wasn't the direction the story wanted to take.  Explaining this to people was difficult at times.  After all, it sounds crazy to say you don't control your own creative project.  But it's true-- and it IS crazy.

The best comparison I can make to it is if you get in bed, and let's say you like to sleep on your back.  So you settle in, you get your pillows fluffed up, and you stretch out flat on your back.  But your body just doesn't want to do that.  You're not uncomfortable, per se, but something different would be better.  And many times, you know exactly what that something is.  Roll over on your right side, some weird, unnamed instinct whispers, and you do it.  And you reach that amazing space where you snuggle in and drop off to sleep.

Sometimes, your characters get in your ear and say This isn't quite right or This needs a different direction or Roll over on your right side.  Maybe not that last one.  But the key to my happiness has been, I've found, to listen to them when they have that feedback.  Because taking control can help you regain some small control of happiness, but learning when to relinquish control can be even better.


    Salem Patterson is the pseudonym of co-writers Jennifer Patterson and Amanda Salem. The two live, work and write in North Carolina.


    January 2013
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