It's fall, a time of change in many ways. If you live in North America, these are the changes you can expect. The leaves change. The temperature changes. The light changes as the days grow shorter. You may have to turn off your AC and turn on your heat (not here yet, but it's coming). You're dragging out the long sleeves and long pants and putting away the shorts and capris and tank tops. The flip flops are going in the closet and the closed toe shoes are coming out. Coats go to the cleaner if they didn't at the end of winter, scarves come out.

Basically, for me, fall is a time of new beginnings and new promises. I think it goes back to my school days and the excitement (dread) of a new school year.

I don't have to worry about school anymore, but I did have at least one big change that's kinda the equivalent of changing teachers. I got a new editor. I love my old editor, who was with me from the very beginning, but her change is that she got a promotion to a different branch of the company and had to leave all her category authors behind.

So now I have a new editor, who is just as fun to talk to on the phone as the old one, and I'm both apprehensive and excited about what the next phase of my career brings. Fortunately, my new editor didn't blink an eye this morning when I said, “So, for the next book, there's this guy, and he has this thing, and he might come from this place–but I'm not sure–and then there's this girl, and she's from here and she does this, and then this is what happens. Or I think that's what happens, but it could change.”

Thank God. Honestly. They get me over there in the London office, and I am so grateful to have them.

Change is good. Change is necessary for growth. It's scary sometimes, but we can't go through life without change. So learn to embrace those changes and make them work for you!

I leave you now with this awesome video interview with Nora Roberts. She is an inspiring woman, is she not? I love the part where she says writing isn't easy. It's not meant to be easy. I'm always glad for that reminder, because it's easy to feel down about yourself when you're struggling through a story.


Saturday Special – An Excerpt

Y'all, I'm hard at work on my military series while I'm in between Presents, and today I decided to share an excerpt with you. I've loved this story for a long time. It's undergone a few revisions, as I learned how better to tell a story, and looks almost nothing like it did when it was a Golden Heart finalist in 2008. It's my hope to make this story available in the next couple of months. There's still work to be done, but I will get it done.

Sharing this extended excerpt with you today is one way to keep me motivated. If I promise you I'm working on it, and you like what you read, how can I break that promise to make it available as soon as possible?

In this story, which has been called HOT PURSUIT for a very, very long time (even before Suz Brockmann published her story by the same title), a sexy Special Forces commander and the hometown girl whose heart he once broke team up to save her sister from a killer.

I've given you the prologue and first chapter today. I hope you enjoy it!


Two months ago…

Something was wrong.

It wasn’t anything obvious, but Captain Matthew Girard felt it in his gut nonetheless. It was an itching sensation across his skin, a buzzing in his belly. Perhaps it was simply the weight of this mission pressing down on him. Though STAG 10 always performed critical missions, this one was even more so. Failure was not an option.

Beside him, Kevin MacDonald lay in the sand, his camo clad form as still as marble until the moment he turned his head and caught Matt’s eye.

Kev’s hand moved. Doesn’t feel right, he signaled.

No, Matt signaled back. Count on Kev to pick up on it too.

“It’s awful quiet in that compound.” Jim Matuzaki’s voice came through the earpiece a few moments later.

“Yeah,” Matt answered into the mic attached to his helmet. Almost as if the tangos inside knew that STAG 10 was coming and had abandoned the compound.

The stone structure thirty meters distant rose two stories high and lacked windows. The roof was flat to enable gunmen to look out on the surrounding territory and defend their position.

But there were no gunmen. Not tonight.

In the surveillance photos, the gunmen were so many they’d stood out against the pale roof like a porcupine’s quills. And now…


Though it was quiet here, gunfire exploded in the distance at regular intervals. A pitched battle between a pocket of enemy forces and a Ranger battalion raged a few miles away. STAG 10’s mission was quieter, but no less deadly.

They were here for Jassar ibn-Rashad, the rumored new mastermind and heir to the now deceased Freedom Force leader Al Ahmad. But this mission was different. Usually, they killed the target. Tonight, they were extracting him. The bastard was wanted higher up the chain, and Matt didn’t question orders from the Pentagon. They wanted him, they were getting him.

Matt and his team had planned the mission to kidnap ibn-Rashad for weeks. Down to the last damn detail. And then they’d gotten word just a few days ago that ibn-Rashad was moving to this location. It was their best chance to get him, so they’d pressed forward with the op.

The intel was good. Damn good. And their contact had been reliable on more than one occasion. Nothing he’d ever told them hadn’t checked out.

But this time?

The bad feeling in Matt’s gut was getting stronger by the second. He’d thought the kid seemed more nervous than usual the last time he’d gone to meet with him. The kid had always been nervous, but he’d seemed to trust Matt’s word. And Matt had trusted him as much as he was able. Trust, but verify.

Which the CIA had done. All the chatter indicated that ibn-Rashad had moved to this location. Nothing indicated that the Freedom Force had any idea they were being targeted. And in spite of the niggling feeling he’d had about the whole thing, Matt had chosen to press forward with the op.

Just then, a light flashed up on the roof and blinked out again. Male voices carried in the night, followed by a bark of laughter.

“Two men,” Marco San Ramos said over the headset. “Smoking.”

Marco and Jim were closer and had a better view through the glasses.

“Richie?” Jim’s voice came through the headset again, calling Matt by his team name.

He knew what the other man was asking. What they were all waiting for. In another location close by, Billy Blake and Jack Hazelton also waited for the signal to go or to retreat. The timeline was tight, and if they didn’t go in now, they’d have to scrub the mission to make it to the extraction point on time. They had precisely twenty minutes to infiltrate the compound, kill the tangos, and extract ibn-Rashad.

If they were going in.

“Mission is a go,” he said, making the split-second decision in spite of the acid roiling in his belly. What if they didn’t get a second chance at this? Lives hung in the balance with ibn-Rashad remaining free. This mission had always been risky, but what did they ever do that wasn’t? “Repeat, mission is a go.”

“Hoo-ah,” Jim replied, giving the standard Army acknowledgement. The rest of the men chimed in. Seconds later, two cracks rang into the night. And then Billy’s voice came over the headset. “Targets on roof neutralized.”

Jack “Hawk” Hazelton could always be counted on to make the difficult shots. The dude was probably the best sharpshooter Matt had ever seen.

Everything went like clockwork from that point on. They converged on the compound from their separate locations. Kev set a charge on the door and then it exploded inward. Billy Blake tossed a flash-bang into the opening. It went off with a loud crack, the light flaring as bright as a nuclear flash for a split second. Whoever was in that room would be blind and disoriented after that baby went off.

The team rushed through the door, going right and left in succession, guns drawn as pandemonium reigned among the unsuspecting terrorists. STAG 10 worked like a well-oiled machine. Each man knew where to shoot instinctively, could have done so blindfolded if necessary.

Within seconds, the terrorists lay dead and gunpowder hung heavy in the air, along with the odors of smoke and stale sweat.

Sweat also trickled down the inside of Matt’s assault suit. He didn’t have time to be uncomfortable. Instead, he and Kev raced up the steps along with Marco and Jim, searching for ibn-Rashad, while Billy and Jack secured the perimeter.

A methodical sweep of the rooms proved futile.

“He’s not here,” Marco spat. “There’s no one else.”

“Goddamn,” Matt swore. The skin-crawling sensation he’d had from the beginning of this op was now a full-blown assault on his senses.

Kev looked at him, his face bleak behind the greasepaint, his eyes saying everything Matt was thinking.

Jassar ibn-Rashad was supposed to be here. He’d been reported here as of this afternoon, in fact. There was a price on the man’s head, and no reason to move from this location…unless he’d been tipped off they were coming.


“Do another sweep for information. West side. Three minutes, and we’re out,” Matt ordered.

“Hoo-ah,” Marco said. He and Jim headed for the west side of the house while Matt and Kev split up to cover the rooms on the east end. Matt swept into each room, weapon drawn, helmet light blazing. There was nothing. No papers, no computers, no media of any kind. Nothing they could use to determine what ibn-Rashad was planning next.

He hit the hall again, met up with Kev, who shook his head.

Jim and Marco arrived next, empty handed. The four of them pounded down the stairs. Another quick sweep of the rooms on the ground floor, and they were back into the night with Billy and Jack, running for the extraction point five miles away.

They hadn’t gone a mile when bullets blasted into the air beside them. A hot, stinging sensation bloomed in Matt’s side. He kept running anyway. Until they crested the dune they’d been traveling up and came face to face with a series of rocket-propelled grenade launchers pointed right in their faces.

Fuck. The mission was definitely a bust, and in the worst way possible.


Rochambeau, Louisiana

“Mm-mm, look at that Girard boy, all grown up and better looking than a man ought to be,” said one of the ladies under the row of hairdryers.

Evie Baker’s heart did a somersault. Matt Girard. Dear God. “Careful,” Stella Dupre yelped as warm water sprayed against the side of the sink and hit her in the face.

“Sorry,” Evie replied, shifting the hose. She was a chef not a shampoo girl, but she didn’t suppose that distinction mattered anymore since the bank now owned her restaurant. Shampoo girl in her mama’s beauty salon was just about the only job she could get right now.

Mama glanced over at her, frowning even as the snip-snip of scissors continued unabated. The ladies in the salon swung to look out the picture window as Matt strode along, and the chatter ratcheted up a notch. The odor of perming solution and floral shampoo surrounded Evie like a wet blanket, squeezing her lungs. Her breath stuttered in her chest.

Matt Girard.

She hadn’t seen him in ten years. Not since that night when he’d taken her virginity and broken her heart all at once. She’d known he was back in town—hell, the whole town had talked of nothing else since his arrival yesterday. She’d even known this moment was probably inevitable, except that she’d been planning to do her best to avoid all the places he might be for as long as possible.

“Heard he got shot out there in Iraq,” Mrs. Martin said as Evie’s mama rolled a lock of grey hair around a fat pink curler.

“Yes indeed, got a Purple Heart,” Mama said. “The senator was right proud, according to Lucy Greene.”

“That’s not what I heard!” Joely Hinch crowed. “Miss Mildred told me he’s being kicked out of the Army because he didn’t obey orders.”

“Fiddlesticks,” Mrs. Martin said. “That boy bleeds red, white, and blue. Same as his daddy and every last Girard that ever was born up in that big house.”

Joely crossed her arms, looking slightly irritated to be contradicted. “You just wait and see,” she said smugly.

“Shush up, y’all,” Mama said. “I think he’s coming in.”

Evie’s heart sank to her toes. She finished Stella’s shampoo and wrapped her hair in a towel. “I’m not tipping you, Evangeline,” Stella said with a sniff. “You have to be more careful than that.”

“I know,” Evie replied. “And I don’t blame you at all.” Except, of course, she desperately needed every penny she could get if she hoped to escape this town ever again. It wasn’t that Rochambeau was bad—it’s that it was bad for her. She glanced out the window.

Matt was definitely coming this way.

Magazines snapped open in a flurry as the ladies tried to appear casually disinterested in the six-foot-two hunk of muscle about to open the glass door. More than one pair of eyes peeked over the top of the glossy pages as he stepped up to the sidewalk from the street.

No way in hell was she sticking around for this. It wouldn’t take these ladies more than a few moments to remember the scandalous rumors about her and Matt, and she didn’t want to be here when they did.

“If you’ll excuse me, I have to get some things out of the back,” she said. Without waiting for a reply, she strode toward the stockroom. Rachel Mayhew, Mama’s regular shampoo girl, looked up and smiled as she passed. Rachel was only twenty, so she probably didn’t know about Evie’s disastrous night with Matt. Or maybe she did considering the way this town talked.

Evie wasn’t sticking around to find out. As if life hadn’t beaten her up enough already.

A month ago, she’d said goodbye to her dream. It still hurt. Her lovely little bistro in Florida was now in the bank’s hands, and all because she’d trusted a man. A man who’d shared her bed, robbed her blind, and ran off with another woman. The authorities thought that David had ties to organized crime and that he’d been skimming money along with other, more nefarious schemes. She hated to think about it. Evangeline’s had been everything she’d ever wanted when she’d shaken off the dust of this one-horse town and gone to cooking school a few years ago.

But here she was again, back in Rochambeau and washing hair in her mama’s salon, just like when she’d been in high school. Loser. All she wanted was to get out again at the first opportunity. Before that loser feeling wrapped around her throat and squeezed the rest of her dreams away.

Matt reached for the door, and Evie darted behind the stockroom curtain. Her heart slammed against her ribs as the tinkling bell announced his arrival. She turned to lean against the doorjamb, pushed the rose-print polyester aside with one finger. She was being silly. He wasn’t here because of her. He was here because his sister had sent him on some errand or other for her wedding.

Hell, he probably wouldn’t even recognize Evie if he ran smack into her.

Evie frowned. She damn sure recognized him. Her eyes slid down his body, back up again. He was still something to look at.

Something easy on the eyes and hard on the senses.

He’d changed in ten years, but some things were the same. That cocky swagger as he’d approached the shop. He’d always walked like his daddy owned all the oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Which he damn near did. The Girards had been Rochambeau’s wealthiest family for as long as anyone could remember.

Matt’s dark hair was cut very short, and his shoulders were much broader than when he’d been seventeen. The fabric of his white cotton T-shirt stretched across a wide chest packed with muscle. His bare arms made her throat go dry.

Something quivered deep inside her. Something hot and dark and secret. Evie squashed the feeling ruthlessly.

He pushed a hand through his hair, every muscle of his torso seeming to bunch and flex with the movement. She would have sworn she heard a collective sigh from the ladies in the salon. Rachel absently ran water in her sink, cleaning out the soap bubbles from the last shampoo. When she got too close to the edge, the water sprayed up into her face.

Evie would have laughed if she too weren’t caught up in Matt’s every move. She’d adored him ten years ago, worshipped him from afar until the night she’d screwed up her courage—thanks to a single shot of liquor—and asked him to be her first.

What a mistake. Not because sex with him had been awful. No, it’d been pretty exciting all things considered. It was what had happened afterward that ruined it for her.

“Afternoon, ladies,” Matt said, tipping his head to them.

“Afternoon,” they murmured in unison, voices sugary and lilting, eyes assessing and cataloging him.

“Miz Breaux,” he said as he took her mother’s hand and kissed it like a courtier.

“Oh, shoot.” She smacked him playfully on the shoulder. “What do you want? Don’t you know this is a beauty parlor? Sid’s Barber Shop is on Main Street.”

“Well, ma’am,” he said, grinning that devil-may-care grin of his Evie remembered so well. “I figured Old Sid can’t see so well anymore and I’m still fond of my ears. I’d much rather have a lady’s touch, if you know what I mean.”

“Oh my,” Mama said. Then she giggled. Giggled.

Evie rolled her eyes. No wonder she couldn’t pick a decent man. She came by the defect naturally. Mama had been divorced three times. She’d gone back to using her maiden name after the second one in order to avoid confusion. Evie had her daddy’s last name, her sixteen-year-old sister had a different name, and Mama had yet another one.

But at least she’d never let a man ruin her business, a mean voice said. Or turn her into the town joke.

Shut up.

“You don’t even look like you need a haircut,” Mama was saying.

He scrubbed a hand over the nape of his neck. “My sister thinks I do. And it’s her wedding.”

Mama giggled again. What was it about that man that turned even the smartest woman into an airhead? “Well, we can’t let Christina be disappointed then, can we? But you’ll have to wait until I finish with Mrs. Martin.”

Mama gestured toward the pink vinyl seats in the front of the shop, and Matt gave her that famous Girard smile that used to melt the female hearts of Rochambeau High School. Evie felt a little hitch in her heart, in spite of herself.

Why did he still have to be so damn good-looking? Was it too much to ask for him to be balding, growing a potbelly? Apparently so. Mother Nature was cruel.

“Sure thing, Miz Breaux.”

Before he’d taken three steps toward the waiting area, Mama said, “You remember my daughter, Evangeline, don’t you? She was a year behind you in school.”

Evie’s heart crashed into her ribs. The ladies in the shop grew quiet while they waited for his answer. She knew what they were thinking. What they were waiting for. Why should it bother her what they thought? What any of them thought?

It had been ten years ago, and it didn’t matter anymore. She was grown up. Matt was grown up. Who cared?

Except that’s not how Rochambeau worked, and she knew it. It might have been ten years, but he’d humiliated her. He’d broken her heart and tossed her to the wolves when she wasn’t prepared to deal with the consequences of her actions. Not that anyone knew for sure what had happened, but the rumors were usually enough in Rochambeau.


“Yes ma’am, I sure do. How is she?” He didn’t sound in the least bit remorseful. But why would he? He’d gotten what he wanted out of the deal. She’d been the one left to pick up the pieces of her life once he’d gone.

“Evie’s great,” Mama announced. “Been living in Florida, but she’s home now. Maybe you can talk to her while you wait. Y’all can catch up.”

Evie’s stomach plummeted to her toes. Oh no. No, no, no. What if she went into the bathroom and refused to come out? Or just quietly slipped out the back door and disappeared for a couple of hours? It was time for her lunch break, and—

Coward. Evie stiffened her spine. She wasn’t running away. If it weren’t now, it’d be some other time. She couldn’t avoid him forever. And far better to get this over with in public, while she could maintain her dignity and show the good people of Rochambeau there was nothing whatsoever to talk about.

“That’d be great,” he said in an aw shucks way she didn’t buy for a second. He might talk smooth and act all friendly and gee-whiz ma’am, but she knew better. God, did she know better.

“Good,” her mother said as if it was the best idea in the world, her gaze sweeping the shop. “She was here just a minute ago. Evie? Evie?”

“She went in the back,” Stella offered with what Evie was convinced was an edge of glee. Bitch.

Right. There was nothing Evie could do except face the music. Because there was no way on earth she’d ever let Matt Girard humiliate her again. She’d learned the hard way, but at least she’d learned.

“I’m right here, Mama,” she said, whipping off her smock and pushing back the curtain.

A Celebration!

Hey, y'all! I'm so excited to be able to say that REVELATIONS OF THE NIGHT BEFORE is not only available at the Mills & Boon website a whole month early, but that's it's also the NUMBER ONE selling book on the site for the second week in a row. Yay! Thank you all for buying Niccolo and Valentina's story, and for all the wonderful things you've said about them. 🙂 They were a fun couple to write, and they took me places I didn't expect when I started (Gibraltar!).

I've just turned in the latest Presents, I'm working on another idea, and I've been working on that military romance I told you about. Much going on in Chez Harris as I work to keep the stories coming your way. But it's fun and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm going to leave you with a quote from Stephen Pressfield's DO THE WORK. This is so appropriate for writers, but also for anyone who wants to start a new project or venture: On the field of the Self stand a knight and a dragon. You are the knight. Resistance is the dragon.

Go forth and slay the dragon, friends. It's the only way the work gets done! You can do it. 🙂

It’s a Makeover!

It's finally here! The new site, as you can see, is live. My fabulous and talented designer, Frauke Spanuth at CrocoDesigns, does such good work, doesn't she? She's a very busy lady these days, however, so if you want to book her, you may have to wait a while!

You'll notice some new features — first, we've separated out the UK books and North American books. Soon, the UK and NA schedules will merge, but the covers will still be different, so we'll keep the separate pages. Also, there are some books on the UK shelf that will not be on the North American shelf. Sadly, my D'Angeli Family duo will not be coming to North America in the Presents line. Oh, they may be released digitally, but they won't make it to store shelves. Yes, this upsets me. But with the merging of the schedules, there are a lot of authors who are losing books in the cross over. It's not what we would prefer, but it's necessary to line all the English language releases up.

And I am thrilled that my books will be available at once, with the same title, in different English language markets! No more telling the UK readers about a book and then informing my US and Canadian readers they will have to wait. I'm not sure when or if Australia and New Zealand will line up with this schedule, but hopefully they will do so soon as well.

On the front page, you'll notice a big cover with some smaller covers peeking out above and below. Hover over the smaller covers and click. That will bring the book forward in the slide! Very cool, right? There is also a Coming Soon page. Here, you'll be able to find out which books are coming next, both here and in the UK. On the individual book pages, you'll notice some foreign covers. Those are just fun, I think! I love seeing them. Not every foreign cover will be displayed, as some I never see until I get the book itself, but we'll put up many of them.

I still have to update some of my Behind the Scenes features. I'll be working on those as time permits. And there will be some things that are perhaps a bit wonky or out of place, but we're working on the tweaks. Well, Frauke is working on them. I just sit and stare and panic from time to time. 😉

I hope to keep you up to date more often on the blog now that it's shiny and new! This site is meant to grow with me as I expand my wings as a writer. And yes, that means there are some changes coming in the future. No, I'm not going to stop writing for Harlequin. But I am going to bring you my military Special Forces trilogy. And I'm probably going to do it myself. The first book, Hot Pursuit, is one of those “not quite right for New York” books. It's a blend — small town and military — and not a big, dark book with explosions (heh, I do blow up a house though) and car chases (okay, there's one of those too). It's just not a dark suspense novel. It's a romantic, adventurous, suspenseful, hot and steamy book about a Special Operations commander and the hometown girl who once had a crush on him. I've loved this book for a long time and feel like my readers would like it too.

I can't tell you when it will be just yet, but I'm working on the things I need to do to get this book out there. And of course I'm working on a yummy Presents too! I still have several books to write for the Presents line, so you'll be getting plenty of those in the year to come. In fact, for a quick peek at my schedule thus far, here it is: THE GIRL NOBODY WANTED, November 2012; MARRIAGE BEHIND THE FACADE, January 2013, and A GAME WITH ONE WINNER, April 2013 (no information on that one other than a title and publication date).

If you want to keep up with everything I'm doing — new books, new blog posts, new giveaways — then you have several ways to connect with me. You'll see on just about every page that Frauke has linked to all my social media sites. You can also subscribe to this blog. Look in the sidebar here, or just go to the home page, and type your email into the subscription box. I will NOT spam you! This is only so you can get my blog updates. There is also an option to subscribe to my newsletter. I don't spam you there either. I don't send them often, but once in a while I'll let you know about a new release or a contest. And you can unsubscribe from any updates at any time. I want you to feel welcome here, and I want you to feel like you can trust me not to send you things you didn't ask for. So sign up, or don't, and cancel at any time. 🙂 Not a problem.

Finally, you'll notice Pinterest buttons on my book pages. Feel free to pin my book covers to your boards and tell your friends about my books. 🙂

That's all from Chez Harris at the moment! More to come soon, including that promised guest post by Mr. Harris…. And please tell me what you think of the new site!

You Need to Blog

I was minding my own business, working on revisions to my latest Harlequin, when Mr. Harris called. “You need to update your blog,” he said.

I blinked. I might have nearly choked on the sip of water I'd just taken. “Huh?” I said.

“You haven't said anything in a few days. You need to update it. It's just sitting there.”

Well, I know that. But since when does he care about my blog?

“People want to know what you're up to,” he told me.

I think he has a much higher opinion of me than I do of myself, as I'm not sure anyone really wants to know what I'm up to.

“What should I blog about?” I asked, eyeballing the calendar and the blog posts I have due for other people. And the revisions. Let's not forget those.

“Your new office,” he said. “Or something.”

Something. Yes indeed, something. So here I am.

It's true I got a new office. I finally decided that I may have a career going, so it was time to move off of the old dining room table I'd been using as a desk and get something nicer. Plus I needed new bookshelves as well, so I got an entire matching office suite with a desk, bookshelves, hutches, and all sorts of fun stuff. This entailed moving my desk to another part of the office. Today is my first day sitting at my new desk. And, well, it's taking some getting used to. I used to sit on the other side of the room, desk against the same wall the door was on, but now my desk is floating in the room, unanchored by a wall.

This is a new thing for me. I'm facing the door, which is good, and there's a window beside me — but I have to lean forward to see out of it, which is probably a good thing because now I'm not observing whatever asinine thing the neighbors are doing.

Still, my order has been upset, at least for a little while. And I think it's seeped into other areas of my life. Today, as I was trying to put on mascara, I not only got a big blob between my eyes, I somehow flipped the wand into the air and let go of it. It landed in my hair. :/ That was fun.

But here I sit, hair and skin de-mascaraed, desk floating, writing a blog post because Mr. Harris told me to. Strange times indeed.

Anything new in your life? Anything you're still getting used to? Is it more exciting than a desk in a new place? (Though I AM excited about my new office. Very. I feel all professional now.)

Another exciting thing in my life is the release of my 9th book in North America tomorrow!

Captive But Forbidden features a hunky security tycoon who agrees to bodyguard for my heroine for a little while. Things happen. Sparks fly. It's all very exciting, I promise!

The news that wild socialite Veronica St. Germaine has cleaned up her act and stepped into her father’s shoes as ruler of a Mediterranean principality creates a tabloid frenzy! But it’s not just the paparazzi that are out for blood…

Duty demands that bodyguard Rajesh Vala must protect Veronica—whatever the cost… But Veronica has always rebelled against commands, and she isn’t making Raj’s job easy!

He calls it ‘safeguarding’. She calls it being held captive at his beach house. Both realise that the attraction between them is inconvenient…

Veronica is forbidden, not for bedding!

Cue the whining aka middle syndrome

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed a bit of whining of late. I do it quite well, I have to say. And it always, always happens when I'm in the middle of the book, right before I begin that race to the end. I always think the book sucks. I'm convinced I'm a hack, an amateur, someone who's been playing in the big publishing pond when they shouldn't be. If you searched my archives, you could probably find any number of posts about how my career is over and I'm a fraud. Guarantee they were written when I was in the middle of the book.

Yesterday, when I was whining, someone expressed surprise that a veteran author could feel this way and wondered if there was any hope for those still aspiring to be published. The short answer: YES. The truth is that when you sell a book, you will be thrilled, ecstatic, insanely happy that you have done so. That all this hard work has not been for nothing, and that an editor and a publishing house agree with you that you might have some talent. It's an awesome feeling!

But, it is my sad duty to inform you, that insecure artist that lives inside you will never truly go away. With every book, you'll wonder if you're doing it right. You'll feel like a fraud, a hack, and you'll think your career is over. It may happen for you at the beginning of the book. Or the end. Or the middle. Or not until you've sent the whole perfect thing off to your editor and realize that maybe it's not perfect after all.

The point is, it will happen. If it doesn't, consider yourself lucky. But I've talked to authors I've admired for years, those with over 100 published books and awards enough to build a house out of, and they feel exactly the same. (That was a bit disheartening, let me tell you. I kept hoping this feeling would go away!) Ladies and gentlemen, there are a lot of frauds out there in the publishing world. Or so it would seem if our insecurities were to be believed. :/

All right, I've told you the bad stuff, which is that the insecurity and fear never go away. So how about some good stuff? Though I am still mired in the middle (actually sliding down the hill to the end now), and still feel very fraudulent, I'm going to give you some tips on how to get through the middle of the book syndrome. Consider these Lynn's little guidelines for dealing with the crazy. 😉

1. Remember that, no matter where you are in this dream to write books, there is no correct way to feel when you are writing.

2. If you're a plotter, go have a look at that synopsis again (and if you are a plotter, I have no idea why you'd even feel the crazy at this point; you know what's going to happen in your book! I don't.).

3. If you're a pantser, maybe it's time to try and write a short synopsis of everything that's happened so far and what you feel should or can happen next.

4. If you're really stuck and fighting for every word, maybe it's time to go back and reread the book from the beginning so you can see where you've made a wrong turn or dropped a thread. I often notice that when I can't seem to make progress, it's because my subconscious knows I've left something untended earlier in the book. Maybe I planted the seeds for something to happen and then never had it happen.

5. Take a look at your characters' conflicts. Are they strong enough? Are you using them to their fullest advantage? Are you letting the conflicts drive your characters or are you meandering through the middle because you need words to fill the pages? Conflicts should be multi-layered. You peel back those layers as you go, letting the characters make progress or have setbacks, letting them get to know each other and learn new things about each other. This is the phase where their feelings are growing and changing based on what they learn about each other. This isn't the time for pointless fighting just to keep them at odds!

6. Go read someone else's book. Sometimes, seeing how another author deals with the middle can give you a light bulb moment about your own. I often go look at my own published books to see what I did (and to remind myself that I've done this before and can do it again!). Some people claim they can't read books while writing, and that's fine if that's you. But I find it illuminating. I'm a writer, but I was a reader first and I love to read. I also read heavily in my own line. Because I can't imagine a group of more talented, amazing writers than the Presents writers! I'm always inspired (and sometimes jealous) by the brilliance I read between the pages of a fellow author's book.

7. Whine to a friend. If you have a good friend who doesn't mind listening to you say the same things at the same point in every book, then call him or her up and whine. Or meet for coffee or lunch and have a good whine. I imagine you could whine to any friend, but sometimes a writer might be best. Though I have to admit, the person I most often whine to about my books would be Mr. Harris. And he is most definitely not a writer. But sometimes he has pretty insightful things to say about what I'm working on. Other times he tells me to buck up. 😉

8. Take a break. Deadlines can be harsh, but sometimes you just have to unchain yourself from the computer. Not for days (I sure don't have that leisure!), but maybe for a few hours. Go for a walk. Go for a drive. Meet a friend (see above). Go shopping. Go out for a meal. Just get yourself away from the electronics for a while and let your mind breathe. Often, the solution to a problem can present itself when you aren't focusing solely on the problem. Your mind needs a break. Take one.

9. Remember, above all else, this too shall pass. You're writing a book, not performing brain surgery. There are do overs. If you get it wrong, if you get to the end and it's a mess, it can be fixed. If you have an editor, she's going to tell you what you need to do. If you don't, then give the book to a trusted critique partner or beta reader and see what they think.

10. Just write the darn thing to the end. Write whatever comes to mind. Even if you end up with pages of character meandering, plot threads dropped, new threads picked up, you can fix it. There are times when a book is a lump that needs molding. And sometimes you can't mold it until you have the entire shape of it there (even if it is a lump). I have the most trouble with this one because I have an inner perfectionist streak. I expect the story to be, if not perfect, as close to the final version as I can get it before I send it off to my editor. I expect revisions, but I still feel like I'm failing her if I turn in something that I know will need a lot of revisions. But that is her job! She's not sitting there putting black marks next to my name because I send her something that needs work. So write without fear. Turn off the perfectionist (if you have one) and let the words flow. There ARE do overs! And isn't that a grand thing?

Those are my tips for getting through the middle of the book, such as they are. I'm sure they can be added to, so let me know if you have a tip you'd like to pass on. I can always use another one! And now I'm back to work, slogging through the forest of my imagination and hoping I make it out in one piece. All this to bring you a tortured Russian billionaire baby daddy. I hope you appreciate what I go through for you! 😉