save a horse

I’m back at the Contemporary Romance Cafe today, with a gratuitous cowboy butt shot:

There’s lots of other exciting stuff coming soon – my first-ever cover reveal, a new title reveal for my holiday novella, and the madness of attempting Camp NaNoWriMo in the same month I’m moving continents. Stay tuned y’all!

if at first you don’t succeed

Last spring, freshly returned from two weeks in Cape Town and the Western Cape, I stumbled upon an old documentary about the Special Task Force, the South African Police Service’s answer to the SAS. The guys featured in the documentary were like human tanks. They went through an insane, multi-day application process that involved severe sleep deprivation and dodging live rounds. Then they became experts in sharpshooting, explosives, urban combat, and hostage rescue, complete with breaking down doors and high-speed chases. And just in case they weren’t yet sufficiently bad-ass? They all have to be proficient in skydiving, so they can be parachuted in wherever they’re needed.Neil McCartney STF (2)

In short, these dudes were amazing. And I got to thinking.

I had a few days off over Easter and thought it was the perfect time to kick off a manuscript. Thus was born Secure Target, the first installment of the three-part Elite Operators series. It was a romantic suspense in which super-sexy STF officer Bronnik Mason is assigned to protect girl-next-door Lacey Cross from a serial killer who has named her as his next victim. I loved the way Bronnik’s big, blond, rugged strength was softened by his over-developed sense of honor, and I loved the way Lacey tapped into a fearlessness and strength she’d never had reason to access, and certainly didn’t realize she possessed. After a few revisions I decided the manuscript was ready for submission, and began shopping it around in July 2012.

This was my first completed work – and subsequent submission – in five years. The story of my previous attempt is too long to include here, but needless to say the industry had changed a lot in that time and I was now targeting digital publishers rather than narrowly defined Harlequin lines. I knew these things took time, so as soon as the submission e-mails went out I put them to the back of my mind and set to work on the next project.

The next project, as it turns out, was The Striker’s Chance, the novel that began as August’s Camp NaNoWriMo effort and ended with an offer of publication from Carina Press in November. I was already halfway through my November NaNo project at that point, and that story has ended up as Love at Last Sight, one-half of a forthcoming military holiday duology from Carina Press. So to say I had a lot of writerly things to think about is an understatement, and sure enough, Bronnik and Lacey fell even further down my list of priorities.

Cue January. My military holiday story is done and submitted. I haven’t yet received edits on The Striker’s Chance, but I know they’re coming. Do I start something new? Do I save capacity for edits? Probably a good time to update my query tracker spreadsheet… And oh, I realize it’s been six months since I sub’d Secure Target and I haven’t heard a thing.

I sent a polite nudge to Samhain Publishing, the place where I thought the novel would have the best fit. I received a very quick response, and by mid-January the verdict was in: the manuscript had gotten waylaid between its first and second readers, and while the editor felt it had potential, she wanted revisions.

Okay – a revise and resubmit request. I’d heard of these, and I thought they sounded a hell of a lot better than a rejection. As fate would have it my Striker’s Chance edits came through around that time, so when I turned back to Secure Target a few weeks later I not only had fresh eyes, I had a HUGE arsenal of new skills from my first professional editing process. I turned the manuscript around in early March – about six weeks after receiving the R&R request – and crossed my fingers this story would finally find its home.

On April 23rd – more than nine months after it was originally submitted – I got the e-mail. The editor loved the revised version and offered a contract! And so, now that the ink is finally dry, I’m delighted to announce that Secure Target, the first book in the three-part Elite Operators romantic suspense series, will be released by Samhain Publishing on March 11, 2014!

I’ll leave you with the preliminary blurb, and the earnest encouragement for anyone losing patience with the submission and revision process that sometimes, it really is worth the wait!

Experienced hostage rescue operative Bronnik Mason has been chasing a serial killer around the globe for over a year. He’s taken the case after four women have already died, and he’s sworn to do everything in his power to ensure there won’t be a fifth. But when it comes to safeguarding Lacey Cross, a beautiful and fearless small-town receptionist, Bronnik realizes this case will put his professional boundaries to the test.

Having grown up in the shadows of brothers who were always on the wrong side of the law, Lacey is dutiful, hard-working and uncomplaining – and bored. When the sexy South African police officer bursts into her office, she’s yanked out of her sleepwalking existence and into a world of terror and jeopardy. She’s never been more afraid – or had more fun.

Can Bronnik protect Lacey from the most ruthless criminal he’s ever faced – or will her death be as anonymous as her life until now? Secure Target follows Bronnik and Lacey on a high-stakes, international journey fueled by action, danger, and a hefty dose of sexual tension.

my sophomore effort

After a long time spent sitting on my hands, I’m delighted to announce that my novella, Love at Last Sight, has been accepted for publication in one of the annual holiday anthologies compiled by Carina Press!

This novella, about a wounded infantry officer returning home to Kansas and the woman he left behind there, was my NaNoWriMo project for November 2012. I absolutely fell in love with the characters and the words have never flowed more easily, so I felt extra sensitive about sending this manuscript out into the big bad world to face potential rejection. When I received my acceptance e-mail from the Executive Editor, I actually cried with happiness that my hero and heroine, Chris and Beth, had found their home. I can’t wait to share them with readers, who I hope will be swept up by their story just as thoroughly as I was.

In the meantime, you can read Angela James’s announcement here. Yes, that’s my name!

select all + delete

I’m a huge fan of the NaNoWriMo project (National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated), wherein one sets a goal to write a novel (defined as 50,000 words) in a month’s time. The original event is held in November, but there are also ‘Camp’ NaNoWriMo months in April, June, and August. These are formatted slightly differently, with the major change being the ability to set one’s own word count goal.

Although I try to always have a daily goal of a thousand words, I hugely enjoy the structure and impetus that participating in NaNoWriMo provides. The novel I wrote during last August’s camp (although admittedly I didn’t finish it during the month) is due for publication in September, and the project I started (and completed!) this past November has just been contracted as well. So I went into this April’s camp with a carefully plotted idea, a 60,000-word goal, and high hopes.

And two weeks and 35,000 words into the challenge, I deleted it all and started over.

By that point I could no longer pretend that the novel was working. My lovingly conceived characters were flat and unsympathetic. Their conflicts were muddled and their relationship had no spark. Worst of all? The novel was boring. It bored me to write it and it bored me to read back over. I made a couple of half-hearted attempts to revise as I went along, but at a certain point I knew I had to do something drastic if this was going to be worth the time I was investing.

I can pinpoint the single thought that made me decide to start over. I was brushing my teeth, of all things, and running through various half-baked ideas for other stories that I might want to start should I abandon my current WIP. None of them were truly firing me up, and I thought back to my poor characters, languishing in Microsoft Word, their intriguing personalities and compelling backstories still unrealized. Then the figurative light bulb switched on: If I don’t love these characters, no one else will.

So it was back to a blank document, but this time with honest, earnest intention. I binned my rigid plot outline and though I’ve salvaged one or two scenes, I’m as good as starting from scratch. This time, however, I’m letting the characters lead the story, thinking only about who they are and not what they need to do and when it needs to happen. After all, they don’t know – why should I? This is a new and slightly terrifying system for me, but so far I think it’s working. I’m so much happier with what I’m creating and, most importantly, I actually look forward to seeing where the story goes.

Will I reach my 60,000-word NaNo goal? Highly doubtful, and even if cumulatively I count everything I’ve written this month (about 40-odd thousand words at this point), it’s moot, as the novel itself is only up to 15,000. I won’t pretend it’s not discouraging to realize that I’ve gone from being more than halfway finished to not even a third of the way through. But I console myself that those 15,000 words are solid, and that’s worth more than 100,000 words that are too boring to read.

(Go on: watch my progress!

sometimes you feel like a nut

The Easter weekend – for which we get two public holidays in the UK – is always a phenomenally productive time for me, writing-wise. With my fiancé and most friends out of town for the holiday, it offers a great excuse to spend the whole day in front of the computer screen, busily tapping away at my latest WIP. Considering my writing always comes easiest between about 11 PM and 2 AM, not having to get up early for work means I can maximize my creative witching hour.

This weekend was no different. The weather was gray and freezing, which alleviated any guilt about spending so many hours indoors, and that the Monday bank holiday coincided with the first day of April’s Camp NaNoWriMo was an extra incentive. I wrote furiously, and accumulated about 5,500 retainable words over three days (which, for my 1k-a-day average, is not a bad result).

This morning, however, as soon as I opened the Word document where I’m drafting the novel, I knew I’d be lucky if I got 30 words today. The story that insisted on being written yesterday has dropped somewhere to the back of my brain, behind work and wedding planning and going to the gym. If I had the time and inclination I could forcibly wrench it back to the front – probably by staring at the screen and plucking out a handful of sentences until my brain shifted gears – but today, I don’t. Today will most likely be a zero word count day. And I’m fine with that, because it’s all part of the process.

Some days characters shout so loudly that any other noise – conversations, television programs – are nothing but an annoying distraction. Other days they’re completely silent, percolating quietly in the background while the next step in their story slowly, slowly takes shape.

Today I’ve taken advantage of the latter to get various other bits of admin finished, because I know that sooner or later the words will be clawing to be written again, and I’ll be unable to focus on anything else. The key is to be at peace with the quiet because you know the noise will return. That’s where I am right now, and I’m trying to enjoy the silence.