You know what I’ve said about using the energy from finishing something to write something else? I wrote this last week.
Joel has dinner, dessert, and a new toy to surprise Brendon when he gets home from work. Brendon has a band of rowdy boys he’s brought home for dinner unannounced. They both have to survive the evening before they can enjoy their night.Buy all formats from Gumroad and for your Kindle on Amazon. (Check out that preview because things get good fast.)
If you’ve already pre-ordered AWAY GAME, thank you. Your copy is waiting and will be ready for download September 25th. If you haven’t yet, it’s so easy. Follow the link, click the big button that says I WANT THIS!, and pay. No need to create a new account. It’s that simple. And if you buy it, you’re that awesome. Thank you.
Zach wakes up when the bed dips, and he rolls into the warm space where Aaron was sleeping. “Morning,” he says, rubbing his eyes open. Aaron almost made it all the way to the bathroom. He stops and turns, face frozen like he’s been caught.
“I’m just taking a shower,” he says.
“Then why do you look so guilty?” Zach asks. He pushes himself up, back against the headboard. His glasses are on the side table, next to the condom wrapper from last night.
“Because I feel guilty?”
“Are they telling you guys not to have sex before games now? That’s an old wives’ tale, Aaron. That isn’t true.”
He shakes his head. He stares down at the carpet, an ugly geometric pattern of orange and green. “It’s the playoffs,” he says. “If we lose this…” He sounds so pained.
“It’s only sex, honey,” Zach says. Aaron shrugs, like that doesn’t explain his lack of discipline. Because Aaron is the one who has to win tonight, not Zach. Zach may write about sports, but he has no idea what it takes to win at this level. “I absolve you,” Zach says, waving his hand between them. He makes a vague gesture like he’s seen priests do on TV. “Go take a shower, and wash your sins away.”
Aaron gives him a little smile before he disappears around the corner. Zach listens for the water before he turns on the TV, looking for the news. He stretches out on the bed, ignoring his phone for as long as possible. It’s not that he expects a fire. Zach just doesn’t want to get out of bed yet. It’s so early that Zach’s alarm didn’t have a chance to wake him up.
He curls up on Aaron’s side of the bed, enjoying the leftover warmth and waiting for the local preview of tonight’s game. He lasts all of a commercial break before he gives up and gets up for his phone. Zach does a quick scan of his email first, checking in with his editor and the Falcons’ press coordinator. She has an morning conference scheduled, as well as players and coaches available for interviews. Zach should get moving.
“You’re taking your time,” Zach calls out, wandering into the bathroom, leaving his phone on the bathroom counter and peeing while Aaron is still in the shower. “I thought athletes were the masters of the five-minute shower.”
“You wore me out last night,” Aaron says over the sound of the water. He pulls the door back to make a sexy face at Zach. It doesn’t have the same effect when his hair is white with shampoo bubbles.
“Don’t make me flush,” Zach teases, his hand on the handle.
Aaron goes back to his shower. “I sit in ice baths after every game,” he says. “Do your worst.”
Zach’s worst would barely touch Aaron. He finishes up while Zach is brushing his teeth, and when he steps out of the tub, wrapping a towel around his waist, the look on his face is more smug that anything else. He smacks Zach on the ass on his way out.
“You’re not forgiven,” Zach tells him. He hears the TV volume turned up in the next room and Aaron ignoring him. Rolling his eyes, Zach ignores him right back and digs into his kit for his razor and shaving cream. Usually, Zach likes to shave in the shower, but he does it at the counter with the water running in the sink this morning because he knows Aaron will be leaving soon. He doesn’t want to miss the goodbye.
Aaron doesn’t have anything here except the clothes he was wearing last night: a royal blue suit, striped shirt, tie, and the argyle socks Zach knows he stole from Zach’s dresser. Or maybe their laundry was mixed up together. That’s been happening more often lately.
He flinches when his razor bites into skin. There’s blood, and Zach stops it with a bit of tissue. He has to learn how to control his smile while he’s shaving.
“I’m off,” Aaron says, hanging off the doorway. He’s looped the dark tie around his neck, but didn’t bother to knot it. Zach’s fingers twitch compulsively, wanting to go over there and put Aaron together: tie knotted, shirt tucked, jacket buttoned. But Aaron looks good like this, too, and Zach knows he was the one who took him apart. “Zach?” Aaron says, narrowing his eyes and staring at him funny. “Are you listening?”
“Not even a little,” he says. Zach leaves his razor on the counter and grabs a hand towel to wipe away most of the leftover shaving cream. He wants to kiss Aaron with nothing getting in their way.
When I’m in collecting mode, everything—ideas, characters, titles, dialogue—goes into nvALT. (The app is actually Notational Velocity, but I prefer this fork for some of its additional features, such as live word count). The beauty of nvALT is in its simplicity. Type a word into the search bar to find the notes you’ve made previous; if there are no notes with that word, hit ENTER to make a brand new one. That’s it. Notes are easy to make, easy to find, easy to edit. Everything is saved in plain text. I had upwards of a thousand notes, all saved in a 20MB folder.
I say “had” because I like to review my notes regularly. There are some things I save for reference purposes: song lyrics, resumes, a reading log, the full text of HENRY V. But a lot of the notes in nvALT are one sentence long. Here’s one: “Have to tell the story of a thousand rainy days.” That’s a Sting lyric, but it’s also a book idea. Once it becomes a book, a blog post, a newsletter story, and I don’t need the note anymore, I delete it. (They’re easy to delete, too). I’m down to 476 right now.
Here’s a treat for all of you waiting on AWAY GAME: the very first notes I wrote on the characters. This is the entire text file; no changes. (Yes, I often talk to myself as I type. It’s a habit born of 750words.com.)
I use this character generator a lot because if you ignore the ages, it’s just a good source for names and personality traits. I needed names for the next thing I’m writing, a pro hockey player sent down to the minors, who discovers the local sports reporter is his ex boyfriend. They broke up because he wouldn’t come out of the closet. Here’s what the generator gave me for the hockey player: Ethan, jock, responsible, leader, disciplined. His unique trait is that he’s estranged from his family. Here’s what the generator gave me for the reporter: Colton, book worm, honest, courageous, strong. His unique trait is that he has a big grudge.
Zach is a hockey player. He used to be a star. He was a first round draft pick, he has two Stanley Cups, and he scores goals. Or he used to score goals. Now he’s 36, and he doesn’t get as much ice time as he used to.
Now he’s a leader on the team. But not on the ice or in the locker room. Zach is the guy who make the team a team. He throws parties. He organizes trips to strip clubs. He has season tickets to the Chargers.
One night, after a game and drinks after with the rookie on the team, Zach is driving them home, and he’s a little drunk. They both are. He swerves the car off the road and crashes his car into a pole and puts out the lights in that neighbourhood.
He’s in trouble, not so much for the car, but for having the rookie star in the car with him. The team sends him away to deflect the press away from their current star. They send him down to the minors.
I don’t remember if there was a reason why I changed their names. It might have been as simple as when I started the actual writing, I forgot the hockey player was originally Zach. My nvALT notes are about capturing thoughts before they disappear. They grow from there. Sometimes they become even bigger than I could have imagined.
I’m so happy I can finally share the cover of my new book! AWAY GAME comes out one month from today, in celebration of HOME TEAM's book birthday. Pre-orders are open, so please, tell all your friends and everyone else you know, and tell them to buy it!Set a month or so after the end of HOME TEAM (published 2013 by Dreamspinner Press), AWAY GAME continues the story of Zach, a sports writer, and Aaron, a professional hockey player. The Monarchs have made the playoffs, which means Zach is going on the road with the team. While they’re away, Zach runs into an ex-boyfriend, receives a job offer, and watches Aaron play to stay alive. Back home, they’re still avoiding the conversation about their future. Zach knows he wants to be with Aaron, but he doesn’t know if Aaron wants to come out. That’s what broke them up the first time, and it’s what threatens their relationship still.
AWAY GAME is a 48k word contemporary romance. Your download includes an ePUB, MOBI, PDF, and HTML version of the book, including extra short stories set in the world. Buy it now! Read it in September!
If you don’t want to miss a moment, signup for the newsletter. In the weeks leading up to launch day, I’ll be sharing excerpts and extras (in fact, I already did), as well as behind-the-scenes thoughts and answering any questions you guys have.
You asked for a sequel, and here it is. Thank you for helping to make this happen. I can’t wait for you to read it.
My friend, Sam, went and tagged me in this meme and described me as “someone who’s really figured out the internet game.” I don’t feel that way at all! I’m always the one who breaks the meme chain. Are you a writer? Do you want to answer some questions about writing? Please do.
What am I working on?
Right now, I’m on the last edit before I publish AWAY GAME, which is the sequel to last fall’s book, HOME TEAM. I’m publishing this one independently, which means I’m also working on writing a few more stories for when I launch my new publishing imprint, Billet-Doux Books. I have a few more ideas in the percolating stage, but that’s just how it always is.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I resisted publishing ebook romance, even though it was completely where my stories belonged, simply because the books I saw out there in the same genre were pretty terrible. The covers were awful, the editing was lax, the stories were generic. I spend a lot of time paying attention to the post-production stuff to make sure my books stand out in the crowded ebook world.
I’m also a contemporary writer, which is a bit unusual on the internet. Sci-fi/fantasy is still where the majority of the ebook audience lives. I don’t pretend to be a literary writer, but that’s where my influences come from.
How does my writing process work?
I make notes and outlines in my notebook first, but it all gets dumped into a new Scrivener doc pretty quickly. From there, I split up the story into thousand word chunks and start writing. When I have a good outline, I write pretty much linear, but if some scene is stalling me, it’s easy enough to write ahead and come back.
Why do I write what I do?
I wanted so badly to be the kind of writer who gets nominated for awards and goes on book tours and then Don McKellar makes a movie based on your book. But what I’m best at is shorter than the traditional publishing world wants. Luckily for me, I got into writing online in my late teens, and I got to watch the ebook world bloom to where it is today.
I write romance because I love characters more than plot. (But I’m working on plot!) I write romance for everyone who doesn’t see their own love story on the shelf at Chapters. I don’t read traditional romance, so I needed some years before I was okay with being “a romance writer”, but I love love stories.
Some writers love it. I think, perhaps, a lot more don’t. When I need a break from writing, I don’t sit down and think, YES, I will write a blog post. When I need a break, I take a walk, I play Subway Surfers on my phone, I draw with paper and pen. I need to do something completely different, and therefore, blogging falls further down the list.
This was my thinking when I started the newsletter a few months ago. I want to keep you guys in the loop (I don’t want you to miss my next book either!), but writing once a week here? Not going to happen. Sometimes I have bad writing weeks, and I don’t want to talk about it. The newsletter is a quick rundown of the month, what I’m thinking about, what I’m working on, what’s coming up. Bullet points and pictures. (You should sign up!)
But then I have actual news, and I forget to announce it here. :(
I sold another book! A TERRIBLE HUSBAND will be out early next year from Dreamspinner again. (I really love working with them. Fantastic experience. A+. Would recommend.) TERRIBLE HUSBAND started out as a 10k submission for an anthology and turned into my longest (to-be-)published book yet. It’s the story of a tenth anniversary trip to Ibiza and eating prawns on the beach. Kind of.
While you’re waiting for next year to come, I have another book nearing release. I’ll be publishing AWAY GAME this September to celebrate the book birthday of its prequel, HOME TEAM. I hadn’t planned to write a sequel, but you guys asked, I thought about it, and it turned out there was another story I wanted to tell. AWAY GAME will be published independently (there’s nothing there yet, but you can follow Billet-Doux Books on Twitter and Tumblr).
I’ve always made books, alongside writing them, and the tools and technology these days are great. I don’t believe that every writer needs to be a publisher (like I don’t believe that every writer needs to be an editor, but it helps). But the same way it’s good if you drive that you learn how to take care of your car, it’s good to explore these things. I just get excited about making things, and I want to make more books for you.
Last week, I printed out Away Game, the sequel to Home Team that I wrote last October. It’s not as bad as I remember! It needs some work, and an ending, then I need to figure out how to make a book, but I want to get it out as soon as possible. As long as the teams left in the Playoffs continue to take every series to seven games, I just might have a new story for you before someone claims the Stanley Cup.
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Stephen King writes a novella in between his novels. He talks about this in his collection, Different Seasons, about how he has enough writing energy leftover when he’s finished a novel to write something else, but not enough energy to write another novel. This is true. Finishing a project gives you a kind of boost I can’t explain. It’s a high, and you want to hang onto it as long as possible. Stephen Kings writes novellas as a bonus, but I write novellas as my main thing, so I write short stories in between.
This one—I figured it would take about a week. It’s been longer. My high ran out somewhere around 4k, and now it’s just the work of writing, and my brain is thinking, What’s next? What’s next? This, right here. This is next until it’s done. It’s only a few thousand words, and god knows what I’m going to do with it, but it’s a story that needs finishing. Finishing is everything. No matter how small your project, there’s a high waiting for you at the end, and it feels so good. Believe me.
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My schedule is different than every other “creative” person will advise you: I write in the afternoon. People will tell you to get up early and write in the morning. Write before you do anything else so your mind is clear. Write before work because you’ll be tired later.
But I am not a morning person. Not even when I was in school or had a regular job or the early shift. Any time I thought I was adjusting to waking up before 7, I was wrong, and as soon as my schedule changed, I was back to sleep.
I need a ramp. I need to hear other voices in my head, not only my own. I need something to eat in the morning. I need to get my fingers moving with some words that don’t matter. Then I can write. Then I can do my work. Then I feel like my eyes are open, and my mind is clear, and I have something to say. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t happen for me at 7 o’clock in the morning.
In my push to finish this ever-expanding novella for April, I forgot to mark the anniversary of my first publication. April 10th, 2013, A Great Rough Diamond was released. Since then, two more novellas, two more short stories, and a lot of words which, hopefully, you’ll be seeing soon. Thank you to everyone who has bought, read, rated, reviewed, or passed along a recommendation. It’s still weird for me to think of my books sorted next to so many famous names in your ereaders, but I’m going to keep writing, and maybe a few anniversaries from now, I’ll be more used to it. I hope you’ll still be reading.
Set yourself goals you know you can finish, but also massacre them some days.
On some days, making your daily 500 will be tough, but you’ll do it. String together a few of those 500 days, and soon you’ll be doing 600, 1200, and 2000 word days. Killing a 500 word day does far more for your sanity than struggling to constantly make 5000 word days. Spread your goal out. Let your words breathe.
"Write to the next milestone" is what has been working for me. It’s less about a number, and more about crossing a line. Scrivener counts two ways: once you set a total goal and a deadline, the program automatically calculates what you need to write each day to meet both. I have a third count because I write in sections of a thousand words. So each day, I want to finish a section, write the daily quota, and also see the total tick over to the next big number.
All of these tallies spur me on. If, at the end of my writing day, I see I’m less than 200 words from the next section, I’ll write it. Some nights, that’ll put me less than 100 words from the next big number. So why not write that, too? Each goal line I cross, brings the next one that much closer.
I’m writing something set in Ibiza, and when I googled for a local beer, I found this gorgeous bit of packaging. I had to put it into the story. Someone take me to Ibiza for a couple of Cerveza Isleñas on the beach.
The answer is no, because you’re going to ask, I’ve never been to Ibiza. I’ve never been to London either, where this story began (and might end. I haven’t decided yet). But there’s Google and Wikipedia and Yelp and Street View.
I had this picture in my head of one character leaving the hotel after a fight with the other, then deciding to get out of the taxi and walk into town. Ibiza proper is on a harbour, I knew that, so the picture in my head looked like Victoria, a harbour city I know well, on Vancouver Island, off the coast of my province, British Columbia. I wrote the whole thing as if the character was walking from the hotel side of the harbour, along the edge of the marina, and into the downtown core.
Then I looked at Ibiza in Google street view, and, amazingly, I was exactly right. Sure, the climate is a little different (or completely opposite), but the hotels are on one side, the city on the other, and there’s a marina in the middle.
There’s a lot to be said for writing what you know. But don’t let that scare you from trying something new. I don’t even like beer, but look how pretty.
A teaser, of course. I can’t leave you hanging without a little something.
"So, what’d you do?" Gina barely let him sit down before she started in.
"How do you know?" Andy thought about hiding in his menu, but her eyes had caught his, and there was no running. Gina was wiser than all of them. He was glad she was his friend, even when she looked at him like this. "What do you know?"
"Nat showed up for breakfast," she explained. Andy had figured as much. "They talked. Taylor said he feels bad."
Andy never wanted to make Nat feel bad. “I said something stupid,” he said. It was the easiest was to explain last night. His whole life, in fact.
"Let’s order. I need French fries with heartbreak."
The waiter brought them ice water. Andy was wearing his white uniform shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and he noticed how the waiter checked him out. Usually, that was nice. It was weird, and weirder when he was with Nat, but it was always flattering. It was the guys and girls who tried to buy him drinks when they were out at their bar that Andy couldn’t deal with. He always made Nat pick up the next round, while Andy hid in the booth.
Today, the waiter’s look made Andy roll his sleeves back down, buttoning the cuffs tight around his wrists.
"What is going on?" Gina asked.
He leaned across the table. It was supposed to be the lull between lunch and dinner, but the restaurant was packed. “Did you and Taylor have sex last night?”
Gina laughed. “Are you kidding? Of course we did.” She preened a little, running a hand through her long black hair. “We always have the best sex after the boys have one of their nights.”
That only made Andy feel worse. He wanted to lay his head on the table and disappear. “Last night,” he admitted, his face in his hands. “I told Nat I hate sex.”