The Awesome Women of Love in Los Angeles: Part 3, Margaret Green

starling2One of Alex’s first struggles as a newly-discovered star is finding a “team”  — agent, publicist, lawyer, etc — that can help him manage his career, handle his rapidly changing circumstances, and don’t represent a conflict of interest with the teams of any of his new coworkers.

His manager, Margaret, quickly becomes his go-to for just about everything, including a lot of stuff that’s not exactly in her job description. Even if all she does is tell him, “No, that’s really your accountant’s problem, not mine.” And occasionally “Please dear god do not tell me that ever,” when Alex is working through issues of a more personal nature.

Margaret is an L.A. native, and that may be exactly why she has never wanted fame, which is no disrespect to the people she deals with in production and casting and management who did and then wised up and decided to do something else.  She’s just glad she skipped over the waste of time that is chasing that particular terrible dream.

We’re just not quite sure she ever expected a client quite like Alex. Like Gemma, she’s appalled at how much he doesn’t know about civilian life (much less industry life) to start, but at least Alex isn’t an asshole — usually.

Margaret loves making things tick and is very, very good at it. She also loves being the only person in the room who isn’t yelling, especially when she’s the only person who should be.

In many ways, Alex is as much Margaret’s creation as Victor’s.

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So your mom read the dog-chewed ARC of your gay romance…

It’s book birthday day for Kate Paddington‘s Platonic. Unlike a lot of the books I’ve posted here, I’ve actually had time to read this one in advance.  Since I know Kate off-line, I did tell her I wouldn’t review it, because that’s too weird, but I enjoyed it and you will enjoy it too, in part because it’s designed to appeal with an unusually wide variety of readers.

platonicPlatonic

Mark Savoy and Daniel O’Shea were high school sweethearts who had planned their forevers together. But when Mark goes to college in California rather than following Daniel to New York, he embarks on a decade-long search for independence, sexual confidence and love.

When Mark lands a job in New York and crosses Daniel’s path, they slowly rebuild their fractured friendship through texts and emails. If they finally agree to see each other, will they be able to keep it platonic? Or will the spark of a long-lost love reignite just as Daniel accepts a job overseas?

My enthusiasm for this book is largely based in the way it contains both sweet and harsh relationships, without either being vilified, and I think that’s something uncommon to our genre that makes the book very truthful. Also, after you read it, you should pressure Kate to write a sequel entirely about Patrick and how he does life; I think he’s the bright shining light of this book and would be a great focus for an unconventional HEA story.  See?  I always have an agenda.

Anyway, Kate was gracious enough to write up a Your Mom! for us.  It’s a little different than some of the other stories here, but I think it’s an important one.  Writing, submitting, and releasing a book is a weird journey, and it impacts how you think of yourself and your interpersonal relationships, often in ways you can’t anticipate.  Kate writes:

My mom and I have never really talked, not once, not really, yourmomeven though we’ve cohabitated for over a quarter of a century and manage to maintain an otherwise sitcom-cliché relationship. Somehow, somewhen, it became ingrained in me that impressing her and everyone else was the key to life itself and having honest, vulnerable conversations didn’t factor in. Of course, I’ve known for a while that all of that is silly, but shaking the habitual mindset hasn’t happened yet.

She coaxed me into a scientific academic career but then judged me ever since I was a teenager for my nerdiness, my complete lack of creativity and my aversion to sex. My other sisters were the adventurers, the ones who brought boys home and could paint and told mom their secrets.

So it came as quite a shock to her (to all of them, actually) that in the middle of a family dinner I plainly announced that in the month I’d just spent in America I had written a novel and that it was going to be published in a few months time. I was immediately teased for it because we are that sort of family but my mother was stunned. It took me weeks to get around to explaining that it was fiction (wholly unexpected), that it was a love story (utterly shocking), and that it was gay (pretty sure for a full fortnight this was considered my way of coming out).

There was a bit of a fight when I refused to let my elderly grandparents in on the secret and I ended up flinging my dog-chewed (that’s another story), dog-eared advance paperback copy in my mother’s direction. She read it a month later and I am yet to figure out why it took her so much time. When she was done she sent me the longest text message she’s ever sent me and said some of the nicest things she’ll ever say to me. She called me an excellent writer and said the story was powerful, that the sex was hot but that there was so much more than that. I do not exaggerate when I say that this was the closest we’ve ever come to ‘talking’.

The book hasn’t really come up in conversation in the month since that text message, although she knows it’s now been released. I have no idea if anything has changed between us or if we’ll ever talk about it again. But it was something: perhaps a moment of thinking I’d impressed her, or perhaps a moment of realizing that impressing her wasn’t as big of a deal as impressing myself. This by no measure is a completed story of sharing my writing with my mother, but it feels like it has been a pivotal chapter.

You can pick up Platonic in ebook or paperback from Interlude Press, Amazon.com, or your (e)retailer of choice.

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Do the thing! Waiting is Hell, So Use It

Do the thingDoing any Thing involves a certain amount of waiting. And  as you may have noticed from the degree to which we are slowly going crazy on Twitter and Tumblr, of our various collective virtues, patience is not one of them.

There’s a lot of waiting when it comes to writing: Waiting for yes, waiting for any answer at all, waiting for edits, waiting for the publication date. Then there’s just the waiting for the train, or the light to turn green. Even when we Do all the Things it is possible for us to do, there’s a point (many points, in fact) in the process where what happens next is in someone else’s hands. Even if it’s just the guy who programmed the lights on Route 50 (No seriously dude, why would you program them like that? It makes no sense).

What that all adds up to is a lot of time when we’re going crazy because everything we want to do is dependent on something else happening. It’s maddening, and it can be incredibly distracting, because the temptation to sit there and refresh my inbox for eight hours a day? Pretty damn high.

But all that time I’m slowly going crazy waiting for emails or the traffic jam to end (often both), is time I can actually put to good use. Which is just one of the many reasons why Racheline and I have multiple projects going at once. Rather than climb the walls, we open a new Google doc and start something else.

Well, we still climb the walls. But that time is there and waiting is a part of the business, so we might as well do something constructive with it. For instance, the novella we just submitted? we wrote while the manuscript for Book 3 was out with first readers and Starling was with our editor. (You know Sunday’s post about our project schedule? This is why it exists.)

How do you deal with waiting? Got anything you’re climbing the walls about because you’ve done all you can do and it’s up to someone else now? Whether you need encouragement, distraction, or just a “hang in there!” we’ve got you covered.

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Story Process Sunday: 1+1=3

So we get asked a lot how our writing process as cowriters works, and while our usual answer to that is either a really lengthy explanation of what we do, or shrugging while we say “magic,” there’s a lot of administrative and organizational stuff that is part of the whole writing career that has nothing to do with character or plot or putting words on the page.

There’s planning which projects we’re working on and when, there’s keeping track of all of our ideas, there’s also doing edits for our publisher, there’s planning events within the romance community, planning Philadelphia office days, and keeping track of all things marketing.

And while, when we write, we both write all things — character, dialogue, plot — all the time, when it comes to the administrative stuff we split it up a bit more. My job is scheduling anything and everything, because I could not do life without Google calendar and when I say things like “But time is like a wheel and I’m standing inside of it!” Racheline tends to scream in terror.

The calendar-management extends to our fictional timekeeping as well. I have a binder of calendars I’ve printed out — one page per year — as well as a spreadsheet in Google docs in which I keep track of the timelines for the Love in Los Angeles series and all the stories that take place in that world. At some point, I’ll do a post just on those calendars alone.

When it comes to the world of marketing and events however, Racheline is god. At least once a week, more if it’s been a particularly sad or frustrating week, I open my inbox to a flood of various marketing tools, ideas, and opportunities that all have subject lines that amount to “We should do this!” and then, a few hours later “So I did all of these things!”

(And because I often get those floods when we’re frustrated, bored, or annoyed, when I get them when none of those things are the case I tend to freak out because WHAT HAPPENED WHAT DID I MISS?!)

So we both end up sending each other a lot of dumb emails back and forth: “Wait, how old is X character in this book when is Christmas we need to plan around that oh god.” “Wait, when is that conference and where is it and why are we going again?” Individually, we’d drive ourselves crazy trying to do and keep track of everything when various components of the doing and the keeping track of are not our individual strengths. But the 1+1=3 thing isn’t just for the magic of writing, and together we get a hell of a lot more done when we can divide and conquer.

Posted in Cowriting, lgbtq, Love in Los Angeles, Starling, Story Process Sunday, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Guest Post: Writing as Art, or why not to draw the perfect nose

Rebecca Brooks has just had her first romance (M/F), Above All, come out from Ellora’s Cave. Since she is a new Internet friend who falls into the category of seeming unlikely to write romance, but is in fact incredibly typical of the accomplished authors we meet in this genre, we thought we’d open the blog up to a process post from her. Also, her book has a lot of Brooklyn in it (as do I!) so we had to share.

Above-All-CoverAbove All

Reeling from a sudden breakup, Casey Webb leaves Brooklyn, drives north and settles in a sleepy mountain town in upstate New York. She’s convinced she’s happy being alone—until she reads the acknowledgments in her ex-boyfriend’s hit debut novel, thanking his new girlfriend “above all”.

Good thing Ben Mailer is in town. The hot, young Brooklyn-bound chef offers the perfect distraction, and soon Casey is having the best sex of her life—on a mountain, in the lake, all over her cozy cabin. But as their weekend fling turns into something more, the demands of Ben’s family and budding career make moving to her idyllic town impossible.

Now Casey must decide what she can’t live without—her life in the mountains or the man she wants as hers. Smart, sweet and blisteringly hot, Above All is about getting lost…and finding yourself right where you belong.

***

Writing as Art, or why not to draw the perfect nose

by Rebecca BrooksRebeccaBrooks

When I was in high school I took a lot of art classes, which probably explains why the heroine to my debut contemporary romance, Above All, is an artist, and why I can’t help thinking of how to write in terms of how to draw. I had an incredible drawing teacher, Bob Freeman, whose voice I still hear in my mind when I’m working. He used to stand back from a model or still life and squint, holding his pencil in front of his eyes to see the slope of a model’s shoulders or the line where a flower petal curled over the lip of a glass.

The first thing Mr. Freeman did was look at the scene as a whole. Squinting allowed the details to blur so he could see the big picture—the lightest lights, the darkest darks, the major components working together. He’d build up the drawing layer by layer, starting with loose, general lines and gradually adding more complexity. Looking at the finished product, you’d never know that all the gorgeous details started off so simply, as blocks of light and dark.

As drawing students we would protest this slow and seemingly backward method—why spend all that time making marks that don’t even show up in the finished product? Why not get the image right the first time around?

But say you’re drawing a figure. You could start by drawing the most incredible nose in the world—perfectly sculpted, all the right shadows and lines, that quintessential noseness leaping right off the paper—but what if the nose turns out to be too big for the face? Or it’s in the wrong place on the paper? Or the darks are too dark compared to the rest of the picture? You’d have to erase that perfect nose and start over again, or risk your drawing turning out completely wrong.

I write in the same way that Mr. Freeman taught me how to draw. Before I put anything on the page, I give a good long look and come up with a game plan, an outline that tells where all the major components are going to go. Then I do a quick, messy first draft, taking a few months tops to get everything down. This draft isn’t pretty, but it gives me something to work with. I can see the parts that aren’t working and need to be overhauled. When the big pieces have finally slid into place, I have a better idea of what still needs to be sculpted, layered, made richer and more complex.

Not drawing the perfect nose has taught me to keep an eye on the whole of the story along with its composite parts. I try not to belabor any one part too soon—I don’t want to spend all day crafting the ideal phrase only to discover down the road that the entire scene needs to be cut. I don’t mean to suggest that it’s not important to write carefully during every stage. No time writing is time wasted and it’s okay to work hard on something that ultimately meets the chopping block. But for me, it’s important to keep up the momentum without worrying about little things like the perfect comeback or the exact choreography of a scene. I really think of writing as revising, filling in details layer by layer until a book begins to appear.

When I started Above All I was squinting at the story, trying to figure out how the big pieces—character, setting, plot—were going to work. Along the way I discovered more about Casey and Ben and their home in the mountains of upstate New York. Some of the revisions I made surprised me—I’d had no idea when I started, for instance, that the novel would wind up being divided into seasons over the course of a year and a half. Other details make me think of the light on a figure. The closer I looked the clearer they emerged, until layer by layer I wound up with a fully realized portrait where there had once been only a sketch.

***

Rebecca Brooks lives in New York City in an apartment filled with books. She received a PhD in English but decided it was more fun to write books than write about them. She has backpacked alone through India and Brazil, traveled by cargo boat down the Amazon River, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, explored ice caves in Peru, trekked to the source of the Ganges, and sunbathed in Burma, but she always likes coming home to a cold beer and her hot husband in the Bronx. Her books are about independent women who leave their old lives behind to try something new—and find the passion, excitement and purpose they didn’t know they’d been missing.

You can also find Rebecca on Twitter and Facebook. Finally, if you’d like to win some free reading material via Rebecca, you can check out her RaffleCopter giveaway.

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Did the Thing! – July accomplishment round-up

didthethingIt’s the last Friday of the month, and it’s time for us all to brag about our accomplishments.  That means you, in the comments, right now.  Anonymous posting is on.

I’ll confess, that in a lot of ways, I don’t feel like we got a lot done this month.  This isn’t actually true (massive edits? check; various lighter edits? check; new novella out the door? check), but we currently have an absurd number of things out for submission and outside of the RWA 2014 convention, the romance world has sort of ground to a halt while everyone is at the conference.  Writing, as a job, involves an awful lot of waiting, and it’s easy to (erroneously) feel like you haven’t gotten stuff done in the face of that.

But we did get those things out of the door, and we did start the new book, and we did get our plan for 2015 done, in terms of when we start (and finish) which books and projects, and what specs and pilots we’re writing through next year.  That is also an absurd number which I will not be sharing with the class.  I will, however, say the feature script we’ve prioritized is a female-led new-adult road-trip music-industry thriller.  Adjectives are terrible.  Also hyphens.  If you can’t keep a sense of humor though, this stuff becomes intolerable quickly.

So tell us why you’re awesome.  Or, join us in trying (and probably failing) to be zen about waiting part of writing.

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“Lake Effect” on sale at All Romance!

To celebrate RWA’s 2014 national convention, All Romance has put its entire stock on sale at 30% off.  Which means you can get “Lake Effect” for $1.74.  If you haven’t checked it out yet, just follow the link.

LakeThey Do Effect

When Kyle and Daniel return to their hometown to get married, they find themselves facing an obstacle course of family drama and small-town misadventure in their quest to make it down the aisle. Misbehaving relatives and a reformed high school bully, along with an ill-advised hookup in the wedding party and a weird late-night meal with a cabbie and his ex-wife, leave the happy couple doubting whether they want to get married at all. But a hot quickie before their walk down the aisle helps remind them that the most important part of getting married is being married.

The reviews are in:

“… endlessly engaging, funny, sweet, and full of delightful dialogue. It was a pleasure to read, and I found myself grinning throughout.”- 5* (Goodreads)

“The story is vibrant, with snappy dialogue” – 5* (Amazon US)

“If you like the hilarious minutia of weddings, big families, sojourns back to small hometowns, and adorable M/M romance, you’ll dig this. <3″  – 5* (Amazon US)

“Lake Effect is a sweet, sexy story of a small town, awful families and getting gay married when it’s legal but still awkward. You’ll be surprised by the tiny oh-so-human moments you almost never read about and the sheer honesty of the writing. This is one smart romance.” – 5* (Amazon UK)

“… an entertaining story with lots of funny situations” – Rainbow Book Reviews

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