You lookin’ at me? — and News!

The more I write for a living, the more I seem to have to do. Anyone who thinks because someone is lucky enough to work from home, that it's NOT work, is deluded. Really. I work from the moment I get up until almost the moment I go to bed. Yes, I do other things in between, and the beauty of it is that I can decide to do something else in the middle of the day for a few hours, but I put in a full day's work every day. In some aspect or other, I'm writing, keeping up with social media, planning books, updating my calender, thinking of stories, researching, etc.

It never ends. And this is not a complaint, btw. I love that I get to do this for a living! 🙂

In fact, I just gave a speech to a group of ladies yesterday who are not writers, and it was a great time to get to talk with them about what I do. I always go for the inspirational moment, the “If I can do this and live my dream, you can live your dream too so long as it's not being an Olympic gymnast when you're 50” kind of thing. I love giving that speech.

Because how many people think they can no longer do a thing because they're too old or whatever? Not true. Just look at Susan Boyle if you don't believe me. She was 48 when she walked out on that stage and wowed Simon Cowell, so it can be done.

Just want you to know, if you're feeling down or whatever (and Valentine's Day can be that kind of day for some people), that you don't have to give up on dreams. Focus on the goal and on what you need to do to make it happen!

Speaking of Valentine's Day — I'm a strange romance author in that I don't celebrate it. I think Mr. Harris should show his love and appreciation all year long (and vice versa) so I don't expect flowers or candy or a card from him today. If he thinks of it and wants to, that's fine. But he's not in trouble if he forgets.

And now, news! ::drumroll:: The latest Harlequin, aka Drago di Navarra and Holly Craig's story, has been accepted! You can expect to read all about it in December (no title yet) where you will also get a bonus book: UNNOTICED AND UNTOUCHED will be published with Drago & Holly's story for free! One price, two books! You can't beat that.

Finally, I leave you with Nimitz, my crazy cat from Honolulu. I talk about Miss Pitty Pat all the time because she's sick and she's my baby, but we also have Nim. He's a giant (colossal) pain in the behind, he's not sweet at all, and he regularly exasperates me. But I love him anyway and he makes me laugh. So here he is, wanting to know what's so interesting.

Happy day, y'all!

Life & Love & Writing

This is bound to be a messy, all over the board kind of post. Life, in all its wonderfulness, can also be damn hard. I know friends who have family members battling health problems, friends who've recently lost parents, and friends who are enduring financial hardships. Life is messy, and sometimes it hurts.

Right now, for me, it hurts. And all because of a sweet little cat. My pets are family members. I adore them. I had a cat for 19.5 years, and losing her was really hard. Devastating. Another cat died at 16.5. Long lives, but not long enough when compared with ours.

Last summer, my beloved Miss Pitty Pat suffered a thrombosis, otherwise known as a saddle thrombus. She wasn't supposed to live, but she did. She lost a leg, but she regained strength and went on to be her old self again — running, playing, jumping up to her favorite window seat, sleeping with me, sitting on my lap at the computer and my legs on the couch.

But the vets warned us her time was limited. Yesterday, we were jolted by the reality of that. She's survived seven months beyond her initial episode, but yesterday she suffered another blood clot. This time it's to a front leg, much less painful, but she can't use the leg much. As I write this, she's at the emergency vet. We don't know if she'll survive, but of course we hope she will.

I am devastated and furious — because we can't control life, can we? We can't prevent innocent children, beloved friends and family members, furry or otherwise, from getting sick and leaving us behind. Life is amazing, but life hurts.

It's love that does this to us. Love gives and loves takes. I adore love, I write about love, but I know love makes us so vulnerable. What's the choice though? Not to love? How empty would that be?

This gets me to writing. Yes, it's damn hard to even think about that at the moment, but I'm in the middle of a book and my characters are in such pain — and I know how they feel. I know that pain always comes from me, even if I can't understand the precise incidents that caused it for my characters. The truth is that I draw on that well deep inside, that place where I try to stuff all that hurt and anger down, when I write.

I think all writers do. Life and love have given us gifts, and they have taken those gifts away, and we don't forget. I've written about the character, usually male, who refuses to love because he doesn't want to hurt. Some readers and reviewers might call that cliche. I call it reality. If we could protect ourselves this way, mightn't we try? Some of us would, and some of my characters do.

Naturally it doesn't work out for them. The hero usually finds out he can't stop love, and he becomes so terribly vulnerable when he realizes how he feels about the heroine. That's got to be scary.

I saw a photo this week of a woman holding her husband's hand while he lay in his casket. And I thought how sad that was. How awful that she would never see him again in this life. That all those years together ended and she was alone.

Pain. It's what we write about. It's what we try to overcome and control, at least in fiction. If you're a writer, you have to put it all out there. You have to put your feelings on the table, or your fiction will be flat. You want to feel and you want the reader to feel.

That doesn't happen if you leave your own sorrows untapped. I know it's hard, but tap them. Mine them. Does it help? Hell if I know. I do it anyway, and maybe I feel better somewhere down the road.

Right now, I feel like hell. I ache and I'm frustrated because I can't fix this. But I have a book to write and characters to torture and I know part of that is me working out my own feelings on paper. It's how I cope. I couldn't imagine not writing for a living, because I think I'd burst otherwise.

I put my heart on the table every time. I give it my all.

And now I'm going to bed and pray my kitty girl gets to come home again. It's borrowed time, I know it, but I want more of it. Don't we all?


EDITED TO ADD: There is good news for now — the clot resolved and MPP can come home. I am relieved, and still scared because I know I'm going to lose her to this awful disease. But hopefully not just yet.

Writer Wednesday: Faster than the Speed of Light

You know what the speed of light is, right? It's 186,000 miles per second. PER SECOND. That's pretty damn fast. Still, even at that speed, it takes the light from distant stars thousands upon thousands of years to travel to where you see it in the night sky.

So why I am nattering about the speed of light? I'm a writer, not a scientist, right? Right. But I do love me some science (the bits I understand, anyway, and that's one of them). I digress.

No, the reason I'm writing about speed is because, increasingly, I am seeing writers worried about the speed with which they write. Those who write super fast seem to be the ideal, right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

It's true that writing a book fast doesn't make it a bad book. It's also true that it doesn't make it a good book. What makes a book good or bad is what the readers think. Sorry, but an author doesn't get to say that she wrote her book in only 2 weeks and it's a damn good book because she only writes damn good books. (Same thing if it took her 2 years, btw.)

Only the readers get to say that. If the majority of readers say it's a damn good book, then guess what? It probably is. 🙂 If there are a lot of comments about “light,” “fluffy,” “shallow,” “could have used more thought,” well, guess what again? That author might have lost an opportunity to make an okay book great because she was in such a rush.

It's not about writing lots and lots of words and telling everyone how fast you are. Ten thousand word days aren't necessary in order to have a career at this. Remember the tortoise and the hare?

I'm gonna tell you a little story about that. First, I am generally a pretty fast writer. I've written a complete category romance in as little as 3 weeks. (I still think that book could have benefited from more time, btw, but I am a bit of a perfectionist.) I usually write a category romance in 5 or 6 weeks. I like at least that much time. That's still pretty fast, all things considered. At that pace, if I started one right after the other, I could write eight books a year — and that's assuming I take a full 6 weeks to write them. Less time means more books, right?

Now here's the story. I was doing 1K1Hr on Twitter with another author a few months ago. We both had 50K word books due, though her deadline was a couple of months after mine. I started the book with 5 weeks to go until D-day. So we were doing 1K1Hr together, several times a day.

Every time, she'd come back with huge word counts: 1200, 1500, 2000 words while I was lucky in that one hour to hit 1K — and often didn't. I started to feel depressed at the end of the day that she'd written 5 to 7K and I'd been lucky to get 3K.

But guess what happened? Slow (if you call a book in 5 weeks slow) and steady won the race. I finished my book and turned it in, and while she'd racked up huge word counts, she was a rewriter. Meaning she wrote the book all the way through, fast, and then threw most of it away and started over.

That's no way to work — or at least not for me. (If rewriting is your process, and it works for you, great. It does not work for me.)

All I am telling you is this: if you're on Twitter or Facebook and you keep seeing writers talking about their huge days with 5K or 7K written and you're getting depressed with your measly 1K (or less) and you're thinking about hanging up the keyboard because clearly you can't keep up and only the super fast writers are successful these days, I'm telling you to think again.

Speed doesn't equal quality. It also doesn't NOT equal quality. All it means is the book takes as long as it takes. I've read books where I knew the author wrote it fast and been blown away. I've also read books where they wrote it fast and it was clear, to me at least, that another hard look at the story would have resulted in a deeper, more rounded book that touched me rather than irritated me with the shoddiness of the work.

You do not have to write fast to succeed. You need to write an awesome book. And then another and another and another. That's how you succeed. Sit down and write your book. 1K a day will get you a 90K book in 3 months. If you take weekends off, it'll take a little longer. But that's nothing to sneeze at, folks.

Do NOT let the idea that you have to write fast stop you from writing at all. If you keep seeing all these writers racking up terrific word counts and it makes you depressed, stop looking at their stats. Just log off of social media altogether for a while. No, you probably shouldn't spend two years rewriting the same 50K words, but you also shouldn't be depressed because you need four months to write those 50K words.

Write the book. It takes as long as it takes. Some take longer, some go faster. But if you aren't writing 5K a day, don't sweat it. It's perfectly fine. The goal is to write a good book, not to write a fast book (which is not to say those two are mutually exclusive). And the more consistently you work, the more often you put your butt in the chair, you might just find yourself getting faster as certain aspects of your process start to make themselves more recognizable to you.

Write the darn book, y'all. Don't worry about the fact Suzie Q. Author wrote her latest novel in one booze and chocolate fueled weekend. You aren't her. She's not you. And there's room enough for you both. 🙂 Now get your butt in the chair!

Moving forward

Yesterday, I said I thought I needed to cut 30K words. I wasn't quite ready to give up on them yet, you see, and I was still hoping to make them work somehow.

But then I came to the realization the book was moving forward so well when I was writing all new stuff that I realized those 30K words really had to go. Yeah, it's a setback. A blow.

But sometimes you have to do it, friends. If it's not working, no matter how pretty the prose, then it has to go. The story I wrote was perfectly fine — for another line. It's not a Presents as I wrote it. Why? Well, I have an American former military hero and my knowledge of the military got in the way of my knowledge of what a Presents should be. I don't see the two going together at all, so it just didn't work no matter how hard I tried to be true to both.

What is the solution? Obviously, this story is a Presents. So I have to forget what I know about the military and make this guy be what Presents heroes always are. Rich, fabulous, arrogant, etc.

And that requires chucking the entire last half of the book and rewriting it. Of course I'm not happy about it, but this is what you do when you have to get the work done.

I once knew someone who had been working on the same novel, her first, for about six years. She hadn't written anything else, just that one book. And she kept workshopping it to death. Taking it to writing groups, listening to all the crazy advice about passive voice and adverbs and etc (not that all that advice is crazy, but when it's what gets focused on to the exclusion of story, it IS crazy. Not to mention so many writers don't even know what passive voice really is and they get it wrong) and changing the book to satisfy an endless group of people.

I believe she even hired a copy editor. Not a developmental editor, but a copy editor to help her polish that prose. Because she was so focused on the idea her words needed fixing that she couldn't understand the words might be perfectly fine — but they might be the WRONG words. The wrong story.

Sometimes, you have to cut the words and move on. You can save them in another file (I always do) and mine them if you need to. But I think once you get going on that new draft, you won't want the old words. You'll find new ways to say things–not to mention your characters will be in new situations, perhaps even different people now.

It's not a failure when you realize you have to start over. It's a hard lesson, no doubt about it, and it's frustrating as hell. But you can't keep going over the same set of words, the same story, for years and try to make it work. Wouldn't it just be easier to start over?

A few blog posts ago, I gave y'all an excerpt of my single title contemporary military romance. That book is with an editor now, and I hope to get it done and available in the next 2 to 3 months. But want to know a dirty little secret about that book?

I started it eight years ago. I wrote it one way. It was terrible. I rewrote it. And then I rewrote it again. And I mean chucking it all and starting over. Four years ago, I sold to Harlequin, and I put it away. I'd rewritten it three times by then. Last year, I pulled it out again and started working on it. Not a rewrite, because it was much closer now, but a real revision. Deadlines got in my way, but I finally finished that revision and got the book to an editor. Not a copy editor, because I recognize the book may still need more changes.

By the time you're able to read this book, it will have been rewritten several times and revised a couple times more. That's me being stubborn and believing in the story, sure, but it's also me being a professional. You must be willing to kill your darlings. When the story isn't working, don't keep trying to patch it up and move on. Start again. It may be as simple as reworking a character's conflict — or as complicated as chucking it all and starting over.

Not every story needs to be completely rewritten. But if you've been staring at the same words for weeks and having trouble moving forward, you may just need a fresh start. Don't be afraid. Go for it!

Stuck in the muck

Today, it's all about revisions here in Chez Harris. I'm working on rewriting (and I do mean rewriting) the latest Presents. There are various reasons for it, but let's just say the first version missed the mark by a wide margin. It happens, y'all. If you're still trying to get published, you may believe that once you get that foot in the door, it's all magical and wonderful from there on out.

It is, in a way, but the work is still difficult and there are no guarantees.

In this book, for instance, I think I've come to the realization that I have to cut 30,000 words. Yes, you read that right. I have to cut that and rewrite it all. How did this happen to a seasoned author?

First and foremost, this book is a continuity, which means the story was handed to me by the editors. I've done two continuities before and had no trouble at all. But this time, I just couldn't get a handle on who these people were. I kept forcing the story forward, thinking it would all work out in the end. It didn't.

There were reasons for the difficulties, not all entirely my own fault, but it happened and now I'm stuck in the muck and suffering the consequences. It's disheartening, sure. But all writing is rewriting. There is no such thing as a perfect story the first time through. Or at least not for 99.9% of us.

The worst part of this right now is I want to be working on other things. I have a new Presents in the works and I need to get to work on Book 2 of my Special Ops series.

But first I have to suck it up and finish this revision. Sometimes, in the immortal words of Kenny Rogers, you got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em. Don't get stuck on the idea that you must keep all those beautiful words. You can cut them, and you can replace them. It hurts, but the book will be better in the end.

It's the only thing that keeps me from curling up in a ball and blubbering hysterically…..

Blast from the Past: Getting the Call

Today, I thought it would be fun to share my original Call story post with you! I wrote this post for I Heart Presents, but I think it's appropriate to share it here with you now. Four years ago, on October 6th 2008, I got the Call. It was a thrilling day!

I can hardly believe it's been four years since that magical day. My 10th Presents comes out in just a few weeks, though I've written nearly double that number now. I've hit the USA Today bestseller list, had a couple of number one bestsellers at Borders (when they were still doing the list, sigh) and Mills & Boon, and met so many wonderful readers from around the world who write and tell me they like my books.

It's awesome to be able to share my stories with you! Soon, I hope to share even more stories with you. I'm working hard on those special projects, and hope to have good news for you soon. In the meantime, I hope the writers will enjoy the Call story — and I hope the readers know just how grateful I am to them for continuing to show me their love!

All y'all rock!

My Call Story by Lynn Raye Harris

When I last wrote a post, I’d just turned in my second round of revisions and I was waiting for my editor, Sally Williamson, to let me know how I did. Naturally, I was apprehensive! I was hopeful this time, but nowhere near certain I’d gotten it right enough for the Magical Phone Call.

I sent Sally my revisions on a Wednesday. On Friday, she responded that she loved what I’d done but she had some tweaks for me. I got excited as I read her email because I could tell these were easy things to do: take something out, add something in, expand something else. Nothing was major, and nothing was a total rewrite. Yay!

But the bad news (for me, not for Sally!) was that she was on her way out the door for a two-week holiday. I was seriously excited – but two weeks? Oh man, the wait. I finished the tweaks that weekend and sent the story back. But I still had two weeks to go.

Two excruciating weeks! Thankfully, I had distractions. My in-laws were visiting and we had a construction project going on. I had some contest entries to judge, and an anniversary to celebrate. I also scheduled lunch with a friend, and there was a costume party squeezed into those two weeks as well. So I was busy, but it was always there in the back of my mind. Would Sally have good news for me when she got back, or would I be rewriting again?

Sunday, Oct 5, I was thinking pretty hard about how I would pick myself up and dust myself off and start another book if Sally gave me bad news (maybe she was tired of these characters and figured I’d never get it right). I still had her for six months, so I was going to write another book! I’d already written a loose synopsis and character backgrounds, so I was ready to go.

Several of my writing friends told me to stop being silly and quit worrying so much. My husband said of course they were going to buy my book, there was no way I’d slid backward over something as easy as tweaks, and to stop obsessing (he’s practical like that). But that’s what writers do, right? We obsess.

I knew Sally was back in the office on Monday, so I figured if I didn’t hear something by Wednesday, I’d send her an email. I’d waited two weeks; surely I could wait a couple more days. Her “To Do” list had to be pretty full since she’d been away. I reminded myself I wasn’t her first priority and she would get to me when she had a chance.

Monday morning, my husband got up bright and early to get ready for work. I always get up at some point before he leaves and prepare for my day at the computer. That morning, I was a little behind the curve. I was sitting up in bed, still in my pajamas, and my husband had just kissed me goodbye. He was walking out the bedroom door when the phone rang.

Our phone is in the kitchen, which is next to the bedroom, and he was closer. But I’d jumped out of bed and was headed that way. My husband picked up the phone and looked at the Caller ID. It was Privacy Director, the service that filters calls it deems to be from telemarketers to a menu where I get to choose whether or not to answer. I don’t know why, but it always does this when Harlequin calls (sorry, Sally; if I knew how to turn it off I would). My husband was puzzled over the Privacy Director so early in the morning, but I just said, “Give it to me.”

I knew who it was (call it a feeling or a coincidence, but I was positive it was Sally), and I hoped like crazy I knew why she was calling. I answered and heard Sally’s lovely accent as she stated her name. Of course I accepted the call! By this time, my husband had followed me back into the bedroom and sat beside me on the bed. Sally asked me how I was, I think I asked her about her vacation, and then she said some combination of those Magic Words that I can’t remember precisely because my heart was beating so fast: “We want to buy your book.”

I squeezed my husband’s arm. I don’t remember much else, except to say how happy I was. (And I think I was bouncing on the bed, btw.) Sally said a few more things, something about calling my new agent with the details, but I definitely heard “two book contract.” My husband was so happy he said, “Thank you, Sally!” into the phone while I was trying to listen.

After I finished talking with Sally, I called my parents and my in-laws, because I’d promised I would, and then I started telling everyone. I can’t remember most of the morning, other than it was a rush of calls and emails. My husband brought home flowers and a card before I had to take him to the airport for a business trip. I spent the evening of my First Sale eating a frozen dinner and drinking a glass of wine alone. But I was too happy to be upset about it.

And that’s how, at 7:27 AM on Monday, October 6, 2008, I finally got the long dreamed about CALL. Four years since I got serious about my writing, and fifteen years since I first tried to write a romance novel, I sold to Harlequin Presents.

Never give up the dream, friends. It could be you next. Thanks for all the good wishes you’ve sent me, and a major thank you to the editorial team for having the contest and choosing me. This has been a wonderful experience, and I look forward to the future as a Presents author. (It gives me a thrill to say that!)