There are times when you have to step back and look at yourself: your self-image, your mental abilities, your confidence.
In the world of selfies, where people post images with captions, “I look like hell,” but post them anyway, it makes you take a closer look at self-evaluation. If you really thought you looked like crap, you wouldn’t post them. Obviously the poster likes the way they look, and then I wonder if they have a higher opinion of themselves than they should.
Wow, Erica! What a horrible thing to say!!!
Bear with me, here. I’ll get to my point shortly.
Anyone who has paid attention to my postings in the past month or so, knows I’m rewriting my Mistress & Master of Restraint Series- FROM SCRATCH. What a humbling, crippling experience. So I will explain my self-evaluation and a false sense of confidence comment.
Erica has taken a step back and did some major self-evaluation these past few months. In the now, you feel great about yourself: I look good. I feel good. I’m smart. This book is fabulous. Right? Isn’t that how you feel when you look into the mirror of yourself?
A few years ago, I was a bigger girl, and I felt confident about myself. I thought I looked good. (Now, don’t go tar and feathering me, as if I’m saying my size was a reflection of me as a human being. That is NOT where I’m headed with this blog post. I’m long-winded, I’ll get to the point eventually.) Anyway, I was a size 18/20 and quickly gaining ground on the next size up. At the time, I was working on changing my life, all aspects. So I lost weight, dropping down to a 10/12. Yay for me, right? Not really. Because there is fallout from that as well. You start to feel shitty about who you used to be because you still feel like shit now. When I look at pictures of myself- new pictures- I think I look bad. So then I start to question my own sanity. I thought I looked good in images from several years ago, several sizes larger, yet now I feel like crap when I look at myself. Was I thinking clearly back then, then?
My entire life I’ve thought myself as intelligent: quick to learn knowledge that I easily retained. Smarty pants. Know-it-all. With the mistakes I’ve made in the past, where I objectively look at my actions and reactions to the stimulation around me, at the time I felt I was making the proper decisions. Now I think I was a flippin’ idiot.
A stupid, stupid girl.
With the M&M rewrite has came a LOT of fallout, especially to my confidence in all things. In order to grow in my craft and as a person, I had to admit defeat. I had to recognize my faults. I had to take the bitter consequences of my actions. I had to look at myself in the mirror and say, “You suck. You f*cking suck, Erica!” Then, and only then, could I move on.
This new humbled, self-effacing person is now indecisive- demoralized. With my confidence destroyed, laying amongst the deleted words of my manuscripts, my world view has shifted.
The Erica from the past thought herself smart, average looking, and confident in her abilities to do her job. The Erica from the present disputes those claims as she cleans up the messes from the past Erica. The Erica from the future is shaking her head, clearly disappointed, and she’s shouting, “Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t make me redo your work because you’re an idiot. Don’t make me stand in front of the mirror and say, ‘I suck. I f*ckin’ suck!’ Don’t make me clean up your messes because you had a bloated self-image!”
Yes, future Erica is a bit pessimistic and bitter, while past Erica was naive, and present Erica is just… resolved.
Where does this leave me, present Erica?
Rolling along, doubting myself, because the past predicts the future. The Restraint I’m writing today (from scratch) will be a Restraint I’m proud of today. But I fear that future Erica will be embarrassed by it, and will want to go back in time and kick my behind. Just as present Erica longs to do to past Erica.
As I go back to Restraint, where I’ve deleted 3 out of every 4 words and replaced them with new, I know I can only do what I am capable of as of today. Tomorrow I may be better. But when it’s all said and done, Restraint will be a reflection of who I am today, and future Erica will have a different reflection of herself within a new book. But for the past Erica’s honor and reputation, present Erica and future Erica have joined forces, refusing to allow their naive, younger self to be demoralized and humiliated.
I’m sure I will doubt myself next week, next year, a lifetime from now. But that shows the ability to recognize my faults and grow. If I truly had a bloated self-image, I’d destroy myself with my narrow view. The only thing I have in common with future Erica, at this time, is the fact that my world view is 360 degrees.
As of this morning I hit 200,000 words on Widow. I’m now on the downwards slope towards the ending, where I’m tying all the loose threads from the entire book while adding insight for the books to come.
Since I published Integrated, I took a step back to reevaluate myself as a writer. I am determined to eliminate my bad habits, writing-wise, and slow down. A major thread of Widow is regret, and that is channeled from its author. My biggest regret is rushing a story.
When Good Girl was first published, I was proud of it. I thought it complete. I was wrong. I had written 70% of Widow shortly after Good Girl’s completion. I then took a step back and wrote KING, Faithless, The Hunter, Integrated, Hero, and found myself back to square one with Good Girl.
The foundation of the entire Blended series wasn’t right, which made me rethink all of my choices.
The day I had to delete over 200 pages of Widow… was a sad day, indeed.
Originally Widow began where Good Girl ended- that explosive cliffhanger of a scene that changed their family dynamic. I will prove a point now: Rushing would have killed the book and the subsequent books if I had released it over a year ago. All 200,000 of Widow’s words thus far, are before that end scene. It is the entirety of the book itself, with only a handful of scenes wrapping up the novel. Widow, as it is now, with the way the family’s lives have evolved, would never have been written. Warped would have been dead in the water, unable to be written.
After this major change, Warped will be one of my most challenging books. Picking up with Devon in rehab and showing the aftermath of Widow for the entire Blended family.
I’ve had some flack over Good Girl for a few things, things I wish to address now.
DRUG USE: I’m not advocating it, nor am I preaching about it. I’m showing it from both perspectives, and both are very real. I don’t write fairy tales. Drug and alcohol abuse are very present in our everyday lives. It’s not pretty because it’s reality. If this presses a trigger for you, then perhaps you’ve been affected by it at some point, and you should continue to read to see how I show it from the different angles. If you believe I’m advocating use, then perhaps you should continue to read to find out that is not the case. If you don’t believe drugs are everywhere, and as such, they shouldn’t be in books, then perhaps you are living in a world of your own creation. If you just don’t like reading about reality, then the Blended series isn’t for you, so don’t penalize me for it.
S-E-X: If you are on this earth, you were created through sex. If sex offends you, see above post in DRUG USE about reality. I DO NOT write closed-door romance. Nowhere do I say I do. Everywhere I say I don’t. 2 seconds of research through the reviews or my backlist will inform you that I write contemporary romance, erotic romance, suspense, LGBT, and BDSM. Unless I’m living in an alternate universe, I’d expect those to have sexual situations, and I wouldn’t expect the author to be penalized because of it. To me, it makes about as much sense as buying Science Fiction, reading Science Fiction, and then writing a 1 star review because it was Science Fiction. NOTE: for my deviants, Widow is more mild because of its characters. If you are a long-time reader of mine, you know I don’t write sex-fests.
Length: I’ve had readers complain of the length of Good Girl, with the irony being those same readers complain about spending their hard earned money buying what I call episodic series. (a series of novellas or short stories, all ending with a cliffhanger, forcing readers to wait for what comes next while it’s being written or to buy the next episode to see what happens next) While as lucrative for those authors as it is frustrating for its readers, I am not those authors. As a writer, the only thing I can do is write the way my muse programmed me. For me, a book has a beginning, middle, and an ending, and I will write that book the way it tells me to write it.
Yes, I’ve had cliffhangers. But the ending was to change the POV of the character, optimizing the readers’ experiences by telling the story in the voice best to relay the story. Good Girl was the length it was because it chose its length, ending because it was Clover and Malcolm’s turn to voice their story. Widow is the length it is to give you an entire story from start to finish, where the children will pick up the story to show you a new side in this journey.
As a reader, if long books aren’t for you, that is not my issue. I know there are so many amazing stories being written, and we, as readers, will never read them all. So we rush like kids trying to earn BOOK-IT points for Pizza Hut. But there is no gold star for reading the most books the fastest. I used to rush-read as well, until I realized I was short-changing my own entertainment. Reading isn’t a job; it’s for pleasure. A pleasure we pay for, so the faster you read, the more expensive the hobby. So when I get negative flack for a 700 page book you received for free or for only 99 cents, I get insulted. So if my writing style isn’t for you… I will not change, nor be penalized for it.
3rd person vs 1st person: I’ve heard this one many times: If only Ms. Chilson wrote in 3rd person… usually followed by, the book would be much shorter, and we’d know what so&so was thinking. 1st: I’ll let you know what they were thinking when I want you to know. Otherwise, it ruins any surprises, and I’m all about the surprises. Second: Well, that’s great that you enjoy 3rd person, but Ms. Chilson is the one who has to write the book. Ms. Chilson doesn’t write 3rd person. She also isn’t a fan of 3rd person narratives.
As a reader, you can choose what you read. As a writer, you CAN’T choose what you write.
This works for both my reading and writing styles: I must become one with the narrator, so 1st person present tense draws me into them. An overview isn’t intimate enough for me to connect with the characters. I’m in too many characters’ heads, and not deep enough. There is no deep connection when the internal monologue is disconnected from the readers. Also, past tense confuses me. I feel like saying, “I’m reading this RIGHT NOW, but it’s past tense.” I want to be walking around with the character, not hearing about how they walked around five minutes ago or ten years ago.
We all read differently because we are different people. Since I am the one writing the book, I can only write it the way I write. To each their own. To the joys of individual expression. *cheers*
Long story short: expect Widow to be a 700 page book in 1st person narrative in the present tense. Whether you find that boring, drawn-out, is not my issue. There are no unnecessary scenes written as filler in these pages. I don’t have time for that, not with all the characters screaming in my head. No shopping trips, car rides, or incessant decorator or fashion descriptions. Every scene is to propel the story or character development. There will be no doubting who the characters are on a soul-deep level. You, as the reader, will be able to predict their future actions as if they were your own. Why? Because I’ve bared their souls to you while you read, connected you, through the 1st person, present tense narrative.
Angry diatribe complete!
In other news. Widow will be released mid-June. Angela is organizing a Blog tour for Widow’s release, with ARCs for both Good Girl and Widow for review, as well as a Blitz and cover/blurb reveal. (All foreign language to me) So if you wish to join the fun, I’ll post the information when it becomes available.
As of mid-June, I will have publish 1,500 pages in the first half of 2014. I am stepping back again, reevaluating how Warped should proceed. In my leisure, I will be editing the M&M series, as well as writing a novella titled Wanton. Wanton is a (for Amber, who requested a BBW) BBW Lesbian romance centered around two females in Blended’s cast of characters. I will release the details on this title after Widow’s release. This book is my version of a test- a test to see if I can write about two people, centering the entire book around their connection, and manage to fit it into 120 pages or less.
Gauntlet thrown down: the Deviants over at M&M of Restraint don’t think I can do it. Anyone who reads my books knows I’m a challenge-taker. I’ll do it because you guys think I can’t, whether said in jest or not (I wasn’t offended. First, it made me laugh, and then it made me get down to business. As I end Widow, that novella has been writing itself in my head)
Off to finish Widow’s draft in the next week or so, and then the betas will work their magic while I put my editor hat on… and then things get really serious.
Question: Do you find your reading tastes evolving as your life changes? (not that any genre is better than another, just differing from before). Please answer this for me via the comments on this blog, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or M&M of Restraint closed group on FB. My curiosity is getting the better of me. I want to know if I’m somehow… broken.
My long-winded answer, with a side of defensiveness over some comments over Good Girl NOT being Erotica: (must never read another comment or review, because to me it’s like telling a mother her kid is homely. I’m sick of explaining myself, as if I have a reason that I should be defensive. My book. My rules)
As a child, I was a reluctant reader. My teachers were beside themselves because I didn’t want to read ‘Clifford the Big Red Dog’ or other books children my age thought were entertaining. I looked older than I was, and apparently I thought older than I was as well. This was decades ago, way before Kindles and ebooks. Books for the tween-aged girl were The Baby Sitter’s Club or the classics. Easily bored, it took a lot to entertain me and keep me engaged- still true to this day. My parents were at a loss, so that is when I received my first magazine subscription in my name at age 8: Mad Magazine. <- My father’s idea. 😉 Somehow he knew I’d turn out to be a closeted pervert who thought violence was humorous. “Spy vs Spy”
When I began reading novels at 10 years old, I read VC Andrews and Stephen King. Horror, mystery & suspense, with a side of sex, was the only thing that would capture my attention. Too mature for most kids my age, I’m sure. I’m no worse for wear, but highly well-read. Mom wouldn’t budge on Anne Rice, though. If a stranger had found my library card, they would have thought I was a grown woman. Good thing the librarian was my aunt and didn’t bat an eyelash at my selections. I never really thought about that until now… what did my aunt think? “Strange Kid,” I bet.
My early 20s were dedicated to VC Andrews and Oprah’s book club selections. In my late 20s through early 30s, I read Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. Yes, you can thank the over-criticized Twilight to that obsession, and I’m not ashamed. It’s still one of my guilty pleasures.I was entertained; what more can I say?
For some reason I’ve yet to explore, I moved onto Dark Erotica, mixed with Young Adult as a palate cleanser. This is when I began writing. Although I was leaving UF & PNR behind, my first book was UF, and that’s why it’s my first book- the shelved Chrysalis that may never see the light of day. My second attempt was a mix of BDSM and Crime.
Restraint was a whim that I thought would never come to fruition, and less than 3 months after I started writing it, it was published. Obviously after this I read many books in the Dark Erotica and Erotica genres. Yes, I wrote Restraint way before I ever read a book it would be classified alongside. For me it was about control, and the lack of control I felt over my life, and had absolutely nothing to do with sex. Sex was just a metaphor to express how trapped I felt. While I had to categorize Restraint as Dark and Erotica because of its explicit nature, it was never smut. Never sex for the sake of sex. It was human behavior- a cerebral fucking.
Good Girl was another precipice in my life. A hybrid of contemporary and non-sexual BDSM(control over your own life and actions) with playful sex added into the mix. I was no longer reading Erotica or Dark Erotica. I’m not sure why my tastes have changed yet again. But I can’t read this type of book, and I haven’t for almost two years now. When readers recommend books that are in a similar genre as my own, I try, truly try, to read them. But I can’t. My tastes are now story-driven. It’s why I always liked YA so much. I want 100% story with amazing chemistry between well-fleshed-out characters, not 10% story with repetitive sex. Once sex is introduced, I get bored and check out, or want the story to end.
While many enjoy this: the following statement is about what I enjoy. You can debate me if you wish, but this is about personal preference and how it affects my writing style. What is sex without buildup? If it’s just input a character name here, put peg A into slot B, it doesn’t hold my attention. A hot, smooth talking dude just makes me groan. Give him some kickass name that I think is beyond ridiculous, make him heavily muscled, borderline abusive, and without any true characteristics, add a whiny woman without any self-respect, and make them screw in between 5 pages of storyline, and then screw again and again and again. Maybe add another cookie-cutter character into a menage. Don’t forget to add the Baby/Babe. Sorry, no! I can’t swallow it. I just can’t.
I understand the appeal of smut, why readers long to read it. It just doesn’t hold any appeal for me. Erica longs for… more.
In real life, that same douche wouldn’t do a thing for me, either. If he’s the abusive ass, I’d find him as an abusive ass. If he flashes me a bullshit grin… charm to me is false, lies, and highly annoying and predicable. To me it’s like small talk- I don’t have time for that waste of time… I am nothing if not serious. Debate me; that will get me hot and bothered, or just bothered. But either way, you’ll get an honest reaction out of me vs polite bullshit uttered out of social obligation.
When I read a book, I want to be left wounded, raw. I want real- real in all its glorious, pain-filled flaws. I want my emotions warped until I feel what the character is feeling, until the character becomes a true entity, and that is what I hope I achieve with my writing.
So now I find myself reading cheesy Historical Romance. Why? Why the hell would a woman who writes the M&M Series read about that era, an era that goes against her core belief system with its maltreatment to women? Easily answered: because it’s the same as when she was a child; Erica wants to read the opposite of her situation. She wants anti-reality. I’m also reading contemporary. Why you ask: because Erica also wants to read about reality. The mind that creates stories is complex enough to have to read varying genres to fight ennui.
Never fear: nothing will EVER inspire me to write historical. I love it, but just like novellas and short stories, I couldn’t write it if my life depended on it.
What does this mean for my writing future: I don’t know. M&M holds my undivided attention because it is so involved, twisted, character-driven. And as you can see from earlier books in the series vs later books, I refuse to add sex for the sake of sex. Any and all sex is to drive the story.
So I find myself with some negativity on Good Girl, not only for the addiction theme, but for the lack of erotica. Nowhere do I list this book as a sex-fest. I know readers do like smut, and I have nothing against it. I do not enjoy smut, so therefore I cannot write smut. So to negatively rate Good Girl because you are judging it against M&M or books in differing genres, is ludicrous. Good Girl, the Blended series, is NOT erotica, so to judge it against erotic is like judging Harry Potter against Fifty Shades. While Good Girl has sexual situations and themes, because real life has those, it is not a sex book. Never was, never will be, and I will make no apologies for it either. Other books in the Blended series, the sex will vary by the character. I’m not cookie-cutter. My characters are complex and different than the others. One book will not be a repeat of the last with the names and locations changed.
Is there anything I haven’t written? Any line I’ve refused to cross? I can understand why M&M readers would be blindsided by… borderline normal in Blended, but that doesn’t change a dang thing. I am the immovable object, and the only unstoppable force I will ever concede to is my own mind. Negativity will NEVER get me to move. It will only get me to become even more unbending. I’m always baffled by some comments and emails I get. My characters are dominant being. Who do you think created them? Exactly.
While many of my hardcore M&M fans will NOT enjoy Good Girl, the small following of Blended fans will NOT like Restraint. Why, you ask: because Erica Chilson is not a one-trick-pony. I have the capacity to write differing genres with equal fervor. I can write both, and I don’t ask my readers to read both. I’m good with two separate followings with a group of readers that straddle the genres. Just as my tastes have evolved over time, my writing does as well. Just as I was as a child, I am easily bored. I need both anti-reality and reality to keep myself interested… and an interested Wicked Writer writes better books than a writer that feels pressured into writing what readers want.
Good Girl’s final edit and the beta process have taught me that you can, in fact, over-edit your work. I write in first person, present tense. I am the character as I write. I am in their head, expressing their thoughts and actions on paper. During an edit, I am no longer the character. I become the editor. It’s hard to step back and not mess with the flow. Yes, when you wear your editor hat you have to check for grammar, punctuation, misspelled and misused words, redundancy, and bad habits, WITHOUT stepping on the other voices. But there comes a point when your characters no longer sound like your characters and begin to sound just like you. It’s called your author voice, and it carries over into everything you create. The line you should never cross is the editor voice. If you find yourself second-guessing words, replacing them- prettying them up, you’ve crossed that line.
Since I completely revamped Good Girl, I sent it to way, way too many people to check over my work and look for mistakes. I entered the ‘too many cooks in the kitchen‘ zone. Betas are invaluable, and I can never express how thankful I am that they are willing to give me their time and opinions. But, at the end of the day, this is my creation. The large grouping of betas gave me great insight into how you can over-edit. A few over-thought the process, becoming head-blind and only noting one thing, to the point they didn’t see anything else. This was valuable to me, because it showed me how I was doing the same thing. It is called a beta read for a reason. They are to ‘read‘ and note anything that yanks them from the story, and I need that. That is what annoys purchasing readers and reviewers. But with too many betas, you begin to have too many ‘voices’.
I am the one who has to rewrite the draft, because I am the only one who knows the characters. I am the one that has to rewrite the draft, because it is my author voice that created the characters. It has been an uphill battle to overlook everything that wasn’t necessary during the editing process. I kept second-guessing myself. “Maybe they are right.” “Maybe this sucks.” And then I realize that the sentence structure was not my sentence structure, that it began to take on the cadence of the beta reader. And that is why it’s not called Beta ‘edit’ or Beta ‘write’.
Whether wrong or right in the eyes of a ‘professional’, it has nothing to do with my storytelling. Two of my favorite authors are without a doubt butchers of the English language. Does that make me love them any less? Hell, no! It makes them unique. Now, I’m not talking sloppy, lazy writing. I’m speaking of their voice and the way their stories unfold, be it the flow of their words or the way they put it to paper. If you handed me a passage of their writing without stating who it was, I could accurately say who wrote it. That everlasting impression is what captivated me and kept me entertained for years. It’s what makes me salivate for their new releases- waiting more than a year per book. I want to be that for my readers, flaws and all.
Voice is more important than anything in my eyes, for without it, everything else just falls flat. It’s when you’re reading a book that is perfect but boring. Currently my character is a flawed 18 year old girl. I don’t care if the dialogue is flawed because what 18 yo, let alone a 35 yo, speaks perfectly? I’m not speaking of a jumbled up mess with shitty editing. There is a delicate balance between allowing your character’s voice to shine alongside the author voice, without infringing upon it with the editor voice.
How many times do I write one sentence? Dozens- at least. By the time I get the ‘beta copy‘ back from the betas, I’ve already rewritten that sentence again once or twice. That is why I try to stress that I’m only looking for the things that are off, because everything else is never the same. I will use this mortifying example: Panty vs Pantry. Yes, Erica wrote Panty in place of Pantry, not once, but TWICE. Isis gained an evil (good?) twin named Iris two times as well. I had a sLiver tank top versus a siLver tank top. Suz and her ‘inequity’ had me imagining a bunch of lawyers sitting around a table in their den. Iniquity 😉 Puts a whole new spin on a den of ‘inequity’, eh? My point being, what is more embarrassing: a missing comma or getting food out of your panties? While some lawyers are sexy, not all of them are. So I don’t think I’d enjoy a den of them, would you?
By the time I get the beta copies back, the odds that the words are shuffled around in the sentence and the punctuation has been fiddled with are about 100%. But the majority of the words remain the same. Those are the words my mind replaced on me. I become head-blind. This is why I need beta ‘readers’ to spot these words. I cannot stress this strongly enough. The editing is done ‘after‘ the beta ‘read’. Trust me; I know. I’ve been doing it for the past 13 days straight, twenty hours per day. (Hell, when was the last time I slept, anyway? I’m not joking. It’s 5 a.m. est, and I’ve yet to shut my eyes from the day before- I’m not writing or rewriting. All of my attention is solely focused on those dang rules- editing. I’ve learned my lesson from past horrors) Number one rule of writing: you NEVER edit while you write. You’ll get nowhere- FAST. It’s only good habits that keep your first three drafts from being a total disaster. There is a highly probable chance that those commas, periods, quote marks, ellipsis, and hyphens no longer exist. The betas receive a draft of many, not the final draft. It was one draft from being the gibberish in my head. That’s why I stress, “don’t over-think it.” Obviously I’m stressing this now for a reason 😉 *maniacal laughter*
I found myself going word-for-word, nit-picking, worrying that I was doing it wrong, and I was leaving my character and myself behind. If you look at anything too closely, you’ll find fault in it. A sentence is a string of words with endless possibilities of rearrangement. My character spewed them onto the page, and it is my job to make sure they make sense for the reader. But it is not for me to twist their words until they are no longer ‘their’ words. Writing a sentence is not complicated, unless you complicate it with over-thinking. You are expressing a thought, and nothing more.
What is complicated are the rules of your language, which vary by country, and are all up to interpretation. Writing rules change, and we can debate them to death. Oxford Comma debate, anyone? Chicken/egg? Let’s debate grammar and punctuation until it’s just a string of words that no longer read like a story, shall we? But those rules must also take a backseat to an area’s dialect. I only write characters in the North East for a specific reason- that is my region, with my dialect. If you use rules and forgo the dialect. FLAT. While perfect, it will be perfectly flat.
I cannot even guess the amount of hours I put into Good Girl. Thousands upon thousands of hours- all my hours. So it will be up to me to know what is best for the quarter of a million words that were my creation. I’m sure when it’s completed it will be flawed, that if someone wishes to tear it to shreds for their own entertainment, they will find enough wrong to do so. But as I said, a sentence is a string of words with endless possibilities… string your own sentence together, and then have the balls to withstand an army of backseat ‘editors’ dissecting it. I bet you get the same amount of variants as you do editors. You have no idea the amount of courage it takes to press publish, and how much more courage it takes to ignore the negativity. A writer has to possess quiet dignity and suffer in silence.
Good Girl is a story about a young woman learning to love herself, to be comfortable in her own skin. I had an epiphany this evening as I was editing. Me, Myself, and I get along famously with the hundreds of characters thriving in our mind, so why am I allowing anyone to enter my sanctuary? You can debate my writing style, but you will never debate me about my writing style.
Back to those rules: I play by the rules for the most part or my novels would be impossible to read. Anyone who knows me personally, or knows my ‘voice, should have figured out by now that I do not like being told what to do or how to do it.
I’m a rebel, and I’m perfectly fine with being perfectly flawed.
The Wicked Writer.
Many know that I’m editing Good Girl, but few know I’m completely rewriting it for publication into paper. The rewrite has been an eye-opener into my growth as a writer. I could go into great detail over the changes I’m making, the scenes added or subtracted, the abundance of words deleted, and the total restructuring of, not only the novel, but, the series as a whole. I’m not going to bore my readers(new & my faithful followers from the beginning) with over-explanation since it starts to sound like bragging or like I’m putting down my own work. I’m nothing if not humble… because this rewrite is a humbling experience to say the least. But I take great comfort in seeing my growth over the past sixteen months since I began writing Good Girl.
I’ve said time and time again that I was releasing Widow by such and such a date, only to go back on my word. Subconsciously I was stalling because something felt off… and then I knew. I knew what I needed to change for the betterment.
When I announced my rewrite in the M&M of Restraint group on Facebook, I was asked why I’d change a novel that was currently published. My answer was that as I grow as a writer, I want my books to evolve with me, and it would be disrespectful to the story and the readers to leave it… as less than it could be. But the reality of it is, Good Girl is the foundation of a 7 book series. If a foundation is weak, the entire series could crumble. I don’t work as hard as I do; I don’t create these characters, their worlds, and breathe life into them only to fail.
A story starts with a single thought and is fostered over thousands upon thousands of hours… and that’s not when you’re writing. Willow and company have been in my mind since their conception, over sixteen months ago.
Every. Single. Day.
As a constant reminder of failure, I retain a few glaringly detrimental plot devices from the M&M of Restraint series. I’m currently writing book 12 in that series, and I’d love. LOVE. to fix some things that are set in stone. My only recourse was to slowly arc the story in the correct direction… lesson learned, I’m not doing that to the Blended series. I’m fixing it in the beginning before I make more work for myself in a later installment.
I will announce that the Playroom series is now the Blended series, because the premise revolves entirely around a blended family, not the roving environment of Augustus Kline’s creation. I also changed the genre from Erotica to Contemporary Romance and Erotic Romance, also because the focus is not on the lifestyle. M&M is hardcore, dark and twisted, mysterious and suspenseful, with a hefty dose of kink. That is not what I want from the Blended series.
My thoughts: if I wanted my two series to be identical, I’d just write more books in a particular series. In the beginning, before I knew better, I’d read reviews. A handful of reviews stated Good Girl wasn’t like the M&M series, and this was in a negative tone. No, Good Girl is not like the M&M series… because it’s NOT the M&M series. It’s the Blended series and they are nothing alike.
I needed completely opposite ends of the spectrum from my series. M&M is the scandalous tales of the rich and twisted. Blended is the real life issues of a blended family struggling to survive in mainstream America, while they endure the stresses of combining a two large families while one of their own battles drug and alcohol addiction. Blended is regular folks… and I’m okay with that. Sometimes you need to experience heartbreak and triumph from a source outside of your personal life so you can deal when real shit hits the fan- a story to draw strength from.
Each and every one of these characters is connected through blood or blended through marriage. The ties that bind have absolutely nothing to do with the roving playroom and everything to do with the blending of a family; hence my decision to change the series title. Their ages range from fourteen to forty and, with the exception of Good Girl, every book is an HEA book; hence the need to change the genre to Contemporary Romance.
The Blended series begins with Willow Prynne’s journey from a disillusioned teenager to a mature young woman. Good Girl has a brand-spanking new synopsis:
There aren’t many options for a girl who falls in the middle. I wasn’t an athlete or a geek. I wasn’t an artist or a musician. I didn’t shake my pom-poms along with my ass. I was just a good girl who got good grades and kept her mouth shut. I didn’t date my high school sweetheart and promptly get married the second I was handed my diploma. I’m not shiny enough to attract notice, nor dark enough to be a problem.
I don’t have a tragic sob story. My daddy didn’t leave us destitute and I’m not a victim of a bad neighborhood. I am a middle-America, middle of the road, middle class girl with both parents fussing over their youngest daughter, who has no aspirations or goals. I’ve had every opportunity to succeed- supportive parents, stability, and a strong upbringing. I’m wayward and everyone looks at me like I’m an alien.
My philosophy: how should I know what I want to do with the rest of my life the day I graduate? How am I supposed to know the second I turn eighteen what I am destined to become? One moment you are a disillusioned seventeen-year-old with the world at your fingertips, and the next, congratulations, you’re eighteen and you’re on your own.
With all the changes, I hope that the series appeals to the mainstream and deviants alike. The Blended series rides the edge of both categories and I believe it will be mind-opening for the former group and entertaining for the latter.
While writing Widow, I found many stumbling blocks. One was an event that was hard to swallow. The Widower sickened the Widow when she found out what transpired, creating a major point of contention within their budding marriage. From a parental standpoint: it was beyond disturbing. From a teenaged idiot standpoint: it was fun and exciting, thrilling, and equally fucking stupid… just like a real teenager would behave.
While I didn’t regret the scene, (it wasn’t one of those plot devices I wished out of existence), it was difficult to write and read. I didn’t want it to be sexy even though it’s perceived in that light. I wrote it in a impersonal, clinical manner with little to no description, and it barely took the length of one page. This scenes was the catalyst for every mistake thereafter… and responsible for the majority of Willow’s growth.
Willow’s future view on this moment in time vastly differs from how she felt in the moment. I added a caveat to appease my reservations. For the first time ever, I added a passage written in the future tense about the present tense, and I hope I accomplished my goal. For those of you who read Good Girl in any of its editions, you’ll know where this occurs in the timeline. .. and if you can’t place it, then that shows you just how much I’ve altered Good Girl.
There are moments in your life that you can never get back- the tipping point. These are the moments you simultaneously wish you could change yet keep forever the same. A time when your older self wants to transport back in time and scream STOP at your younger self, and perhaps slap the stupid out of you while you visit. You tell yourself pretty lies to cover the agony of betrayal. At some point, your future self accepts reality as it is and no longer believes the lie. But in present time, the only thing that saves you from life’s bitter truths is the lie you weave for yourself- the altered perception of reality that blinds you to the mistake you’re making. It’s a knife’s edge that can either be wielded to protect you or cut you, and either way it alters the core of who you are, who you were meant to be, and who you become.
This is the first of those moments for me- the first of many.
Days, weeks, years from now, I’ll wish I had analyzed what was happening and put an end to it. I won’t regret, because tonight’s actions, and those after, lead me on a path of enlightenment- a path I earned through mistakes. I’ll forever rue my teenage ignorance in trusting when I shouldn’t. As it is now, my mind is spinning, unable to light on one thought, let alone the dozens flitting around in a stew of confusion and unbridled lust.
The Blended series revolves around the following main characters, each of whom will get a voice within the series:
*titles listed in series order and subject to change, with all books after Good Girl sharing narration*
*shared narration does not equate romantic entanglements*
Good Girl:Willow Prynne.
Widow: Clover Webster & Malcolm Mason.
Wayward: Robin Prynne, Isis Mason, & Augustus Kline.
Waver: Willow Prynne, Devon Mason, & Kieren Mason.
Warped: Essie Prynne & TBA.
Wicked: Violet Webster & Raven Mason.
Wanted: Seth Webster & Weston Mason.
… and yes, I was tempted to either change Good Girl to Willow or Wanton to follow suit with the rest of the titles. But as the foundation of the Blended series, I wanted Good Girl to stick out, just as its single narration and lack of an HEA. Good Girl was merely an introduction to a vast cast of characters that longed to tell you their stories.
I find myself in a precarious position. First, I must give you the sequence of my WIPs for you to fully understand my dilemma.
… and possibly Monster- Ava.
One would assume I’d be diligently at work on Silenced, being as it is the next book in my series… believe it or not, Integrated is complete and with the betas, several have returned their edits already. It’s slightly longer than The Hunter, maybe 400 ebook pages. Currently, Silenced is 10,000 words in length with a daunting outline- totally at odds with the light, sexy story I’d originally planned to tell…
The Dilemma: As a writer, you are subject to your creativity- inspiration- the muse. We have a short attention span- yes, that sounds strange coming from creatures that must have intense concentration to build worlds from nothing. But we most certainly have short attention spans. Like a shiny object to a cat, a light will catch our eye and our minds flit… “Oh, shiny- a new story to weave.”
Novelists write in intense bursts of creativity- speaking of my own experience, I can go 70 hours of non-stop writing, 50,000 words in three days… and then pass out. Burn out. After which, I tell myself to slow down, LIVE a little… experience life instead of writing about it. But the siren call is so much stronger… and I’m pulled back in within days.
As a slave to inspiration, you need to determine if your muse is truly leading you astray or towards destiny. Next, you must decide if you are being indulgent with your creativity. Are you allowing yourself to be led to greener but never better pastures, or is it the path you should take.
Here is the issue: I want, no, I need to write Hero. It’s thrumming within me- screaming. A character needs voiced while it’s still fresh in my mind… but does it truly, or am I just scared to dive into the pain that Grant has to show me when Caleb is promising… hope. For Silenced is just the beginning of Grant’s journey while Hero won’t necessarily be an HEA book, it’s pushing into one… Silenced will open up to another much more pain-filled book that I don’t know when I will be emotionally ready to write- if I’ll ever be emotionally able to write.
So here I am… I have a book completed with the one that I should be writing shelved… and then I want to skip yet another book to write the one following it. Here, have a visual,
Silenced, Integrated *completed*, Prince, Hero.
But what readers won’t understand until they get their hands on the story within… those books are so interwoven that Silenced & Prince will be written together… and The Hunter, Integrated, and Hero are simply extensions of one other….
So, do I indulge my muse, leaving me with a huge backlist of books to publish once I get their predecessors written… or do I push through and fear ruining the story I weave?
Then there is the fact that it could just be a shiny object being dangled in front of my face, enticing me, seducing me when it’s the wrong path…
My books are complicated to say the least. The beginning books not so much, but as you delve into my series, you see why I must have 5 or more books outlined in order to keep A-Z straight. So one book interconnects with one several books into the reader’s future but they are my present… all of these books encompass the same time frame and cast of characters.
When I find myself hesitant to thoroughly commit to a project, it means there is an issue. I already broke form by writing Integrated before Silenced. When I finished, I completely revamped Silenced outline from being a fluff piece to something rivaling Faithless and the soon-to-be written Master. How Grant ended up with an epic book is beyond my scope. While in awe, I’m a so pissed at my muse I could shriek while yanking my hair out!
Yet again, after enthusiastically reworking Silenced outline, Hero is calling me.
One thing you must understand, when I commit to a story, I write it in its entirety without interruption- without living. I say without living because I become my characters. Don’t get me started on the fact that I wanted to bite faces off while writing Faithless… Syn was a hard girl to have within your mind for 330,000+ words… Ugh! Cort was a breath of fresh air… Ezra, not bad, surprisingly. So when the choice is a sardonic yet playful submissive dealing with an abuse victim, an eighteen year old man-child, or a stern yet compassionate Marine…
yeah, I’m a 35 yo woman… snorts. Yeah, none of them fit the Erica profile- but amazingly so, I write men better than women. I guess I go with my gut… much to the readers’ dismay with having to wait extra months for releases, but will get a bounty of the dang things in a month’s time- like four books dropping one week a part.
And then I say, “Erica, cut yourself some slack. Big-time authors only write one or two books per year, about 200k words, tops… you’re almost writing a million words a year (I just bypassed 800k in less than 9 months, in case you’re curious). Take a fucking nap it’s 5 am and you’ve yet to go to f’n bed! Tomorrow is another day, but it’s already upon you!”
I just feel pressure.
I have pressure mounting me from every direction- it’s why I often fantasize of a world of only my creation, and get mightily pissed when yanked from said world.
I guess, in a nutshell, and it answers my dilemma, other than the pull of creation, Hero isn’t pressuring me- it’s enlivening me.
While I may write it from start-to-finish, or I may write a chunk and return to the one known as coward… who knows. But I just realized the irony that I’m debating the coward vs the hero… *rolls eyes*
I may write for public consumption, but that doesn’t mean I am public domain.
This morning I received a very disrespectful comment. At first, my reaction was utter shock. How can someone say that to me? Why do they believe that they have the right? My second reaction was one of outrage. My personal stance is to never engage in a comment war- a very good stance indeed. My third reaction was to passive-aggressively say something sarcastic that could be taken either way (nice or snide). Lastly, I decided not to reply at all or approve the comment.
While I will not call this person out or even voice the comment I received, I do have to say something about it. I write a strong message in my stories. Empowerment. Respect, both for ones self and others. And it blows my mind how easily readers feel they have the right to say whatever they wish to me. I liken it to going up to a complete stranger and saying nasty shit. As my readers well know, I take respect seriously. So at seven in the morning, instead of enjoy the last of sleep’s warm embrace, I am shaking from how emotional I feel.
The Hunter’s first chapter was all me- the majority taken from my blog postings or straight from my head. I was personally giving a plea to my readers, a plea I hoped they would read, understand, and empathize with. Not just for me, but for my fellow writers as well.
A part of each of my characters comes directly from me- so when you bash one, you are also bashing a segment of me. So I take personal offense. I feel like you just told me my newborn is ugly and stupid. Cort received my writing and insecurity. All writers are insecure in some form. We write for public consumption- meaning the public has to like it or they won’t read any more. So when I receive negative feedback it negatively impacts my confidence.
I can take constructive criticism. It’s par for the course and necessary so that I don’t get a big head and arrogantly go down a path of destruction. Then there are the personal attacks, which I just cannot fathom. Even my nearest and dearest do not know me well enough to personally attack me since I keep my emotions and thoughts closed off. They are private, between me, myself, and I. So when a reader or stranger personally attacks me, and it is personal. As they do not know my person, then how can they attack me? Why do they believe they have the right?
I cannot please everyone. Hell, I cannot please half of you. Most of the time I cannot even please myself. Why? Because we are all individual and see things through our own eyes. Never will two people see the same thing in something- it’s impossible.
Some may hate what I do to a storyline thread, others may praise it. Some may hate a cover of mine, some may love it. It’s up to interpretation. But what it is not up to… is any of you. This is my creation. This is the world and the characters and the stories I’ve imagined from nothing. And while it saddens me that I might disappoint you along the way, I refuse to change for anyone.
I could cater to specific fans, but it would only alienate the rest…. and since ultimately it is my name on this work of public consumption, I’m the only one that has to be okay with what I produce.
There are a few things that I must take into consideration when writing. I must stay within a character’s personality traits, their ethics, and their preferences. It is my duty to put them through their paces and make them earn their ultimate HEA. The title must impart the premise of the story, give you an idea of what lies within the pages. The covers must maintain a theme and color scheme (M&M series) (red/black/white/gray), must relate to the title (you cannot have a badass title like The Hunter and have a romantic cover, how silly would that look? It would be like having a book titled Blade but it’s a bodice ripper image) and contain a picture best describing the character. Note: Best describing the character as I’ve envisioned, seeing as I’m the one that created them in the first place. Each cover must blend, but also stick out among the crowd of their peers. Also, many readers may not realize this. We do not just pick a picture off the internet and use it. We must pay for the right to use the image- and it is not cheap. We also have to find a representation of a person we know inside and out, but is entirely fictitious- their clone may not exist in real life, and if they do, their image may not be for sale. It also has to be an image that can be altered, an image where the writing (title, author, series, etc..) doesn’t disrupt the image’s integrity. Then you have to pay someone to design your cover. So insults to any of the above are insults to the author, the cover model, the photographer/artist, the cover designer. That is a lot of people to insult over your personal tastes, I might add.
I will never apologize if my stories, covers, who ends up with whom, or the order in which I write my stories. But I will say is that receiving negative feedback that is more personal in nature and is more of a personal tastes of the reader’s is not constructive and very demotivational.
I am a writer, and we operate on emotion. Certain emotions feed our need to create, and the output is determined by the emotion. Obviously I am not a sunshiny girl, which is evident by my writing style. Which belies the readers reasoning to outwardly challenge me on my own works.
I love reader interaction, the good and the bad inspires me to strive. The bad motivates me to do better. But the personal… well, that just makes me feel sad.
It saddens me that I have to write this posting today. It saddens me that I’m sure the person who dealt me the offense may not even realize it, but for the life of me, I’m unsure how they could not. It saddens me that when they read this they will know it was about them. But that isn’t entirely true either. I receive these types of comments multiple times per day. Whereas the comment was directed at me, this is not directed at the commenter- truly.
My reason for posting my thoughts was simply to express that you should watch what you say- you never know how it will be interpreted by the receiver. And as you may not have meant it as it was taken as it was, it’s not up to you on how the other person feels. It is their right to feel as they do, and no one should dictate feeling.
Live a life of respect for yourself and your fellow creatures. Because hurt feelings just… suck.