Author Rachel Graves Where Sexy Meets Scary Sat, 28 Jul 2018 15:49:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Author Rachel Graves 32 32 One Hundred Days – Done! Wed, 16 May 2018 00:03:16 +0000 I’ve just completed a huge achievement, drafting an amazing novel in under four months. When I started, my goal was to get back into a writing routine. Writing every day seemed the best way to do that, but once the gold stars marking my accomplishments began to appear on the calendar, I wanted to see how long my streak could last.

Could I go for a month? Writing every day in February? I’d gotten half way through when my beloved rabbit editor died. I try not to be superstitious, but every word I’d ever written happened with him by my side. Every book, every manuscript, every idea, came into life under his fuzzy nose. When he died after fifteen years as part of my everyday life, all I could think about was my loss. So I wrote about it. Giving my character a funeral to attend, sending another character to the emergency room.

Then came March, and with my first goal accomplished, I wanted to see how long I could keep it up. Except March is a month of tough anniversaries for me. Donalyn, my dear friend who inspired the Mermaid and the Murders, died in March. I’ve lost a few others in March, people who mattered enough that I always remembered them during that time of year. Those memories make me stop and reassess, am I making the right choices? It’s probably not surprising that in March the couple that had been falling so blissfully in love broke up with a screeching halt.

April is a month of new beginnings, and my couple started over. They shared secrets while a dragon chased them down and a serial killer hunted for victims (yes, this book is that epic). I had a thousand reasons to break my streak: work travel, early morning appointments, days when the words refused to come. I adjusted my goals. Sure, I wanted 1500 words a day, but I’d take 200 if I had to. I preferred to write in the quiet solitude of my home, but I could churn out words in hospital waiting rooms, crowded airports, or in between phone calls and online chats. By April, I knew 100 days in a row was possible, and I refused to give up.

And then in early May, I realized I’d hit my 100 days and my manuscript would soon be finished. I’d almost overwritten, coming in at nearly 200,000 words. That’s enough for two slightly long fantasy novels, almost four romances. I cut twenty thousand words but kept writing. I finished at 106 days of writing. I suspect I’ll spend three times that editing, and I can’t wait to get started.

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Every Day for a Hundred Days Wed, 02 May 2018 00:01:02 +0000 I recently challenged myself to start writing every day, at least 1,500 words. I’ve been working on this goal since January 27, when it started as the vague “write more” and grew into “the every day goal”, then “every day for a hundred days” challenge. Along the way, I’ve discovered a few things about how I handle writing every day. So here’s my list of things I do when I’m writing every day:

Ignore every other thing. Getting up at 6am to write meant I was knackered by the time my day job ended at 6pm. I didn’t have the mental energy to blog, post on social media, or chat with friends. My gym time suffered, running became a once-a-week prospect. My quilting stopped. My attendance at community events and meetings? Gone. The birth of my nephew? Happened while I wrote a really great romantic scene.

Ignore other books. I read books in one gulp, usually in an afternoon, although sometimes taking the whole day. Reading another story was a sure-fire way to make the next morning’s writing session into a poor copy of that novel’s style and tone. Thus, the third novel in the amazing Crazy Rich Asians trilogy by Kevin Kwan had to stay on my shelf. The influences of the first book are fairly obvious in my character and how his family works. After that, my to-be-read pile grew by leaps and bounds.

Show up late. I’d like to offer a blanket apology to the world for my tardiness over the last four months. I’ve been late to everything – my day job, appointments, dinners. I thought I could contain my inability to stop writing and get on with life by writing in the morning, instead I pushed everything around and became a completely unreliable attendee. In my defense, it’s hard to show up for a meeting or concentrate on a conversation when a dragon is battling with a sorcerer in your head. Or seducing him. Or vice versa. Actually, the more I think about it the more I should go write more….

Struggle to pay attention. If you’ve talked to me since January you probably noticed a lot of ‘umms’ or ‘ahhs’. When I was feeling smart, I’d try reflective statements “Wow! What do you think about that?” to cover my inability to stick with the program. Because, having dragons and magic and murders and battles in my head makes it a little hard to follow stories about grocery shopping and mowing the lawn. I’m sorry. I’m ready to talk now. Promise. Just don’t mention dragons.

Because even acknowledging all that, and knowing that I need to get back to the work of writing (editing, submitting, promoting), oh, and this dear neglected blog…I’m still more excited about the story. Not the one that started this 100 day challenge, but the next one. I’m not sure what it’ll be (the werewolf deserves his own book, but then so does djinn) but I can’t wait to have it take over my life.

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Scary Author things Sun, 11 Mar 2018 20:39:05 +0000 Scary author things I have done today:
1) Sent my first manuscript off for a Beta read. I wrote it 12 years ago and worry it’ll never be good enough to publish. It’s the prequel to Under a Blood Moon, and a fan, an actual fan, sent me asking if it would ever be published. She took the time to send that email – my first piece of fan mail ever – so I can do the work to submit that prequel.

2) Send an email to my wonderful editor at The Wild Rose Press (TWRP) explaining the  complicated situation around Dead Man’s Detective, the first novel of a trilogy set in the same universe as Mallory. It has much darker themes that I suspect  will make TWRP pass. When they do I’ll have to decide if I should keep submitting or venture into the scary waters of self-publishing.

3) Did my taxes. God, there’s nothing worse. I spent about $2000 on writing last year. Ten percent of that was on a custom logo, that I love but haven’t done anything with.  About half of it was on classes, critiques, and workshops. Was the money well spent? Should I have invested in other things? Am I making all the wrong choices? In any other business if you spend more than you earn it’s a disaster, but publishing is a long game. Hopefully, my net loss last year gets evened out next year.

But on a very cheerful note, my writing streak continues: I’ve written at least a thousand words a day, every day since Jan 29. That’s 42 days of writing and a total of 98000 words on the new manuscript. That’s more than enough for a single book (most paranormal romance/urban fantasy stories are 75k to 90k words) but I’m about half-way through and having too much fun to stop.

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Writing Tools: Microsoft Word’s Navigation pane Sun, 04 Mar 2018 14:49:02 +0000 I’m working furiously on a new story. It’s something I’ve been half-writing in my head for about a year and a half now. That means I have a lot of scenes written but not a clear plot outline. I’m a dedicated pants’er -I write by the set of my pants – so not knowing what happens next isn’t a big problem. Realizing I hinted at a scene in another scene or needed to reference something earlier is.

The Navigation pane in MS Word has made drafting my story so much easier. Each ‘scene’ in the story gets a title, which I apply the style “Heading 1” to. Every time I switch the Point-of-View in I add a second title, this time in the style of “Heading 2”. That way, when I view the Navigation pane my scenes and the related scenes are neatly nested together.

But the magic happens when I realize the Psychic Reading scene needs to come before they met the vampires. You can click and drag on the “Heading 1” styles in the Navigation pane to move all of the words associated with that heading. Suddenly moving several pages of story so they investigate the crime before they find the corrupt psychic takes two clicks. And because Word does the moving for me, I don’t have to worry about leaving a poor orphaned sentence behind.

If you’re writing something – a report, a thesis, or the next great novel – check out the Navigation Pane. It really makes re-organizing sections a breeze.


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3am Thu, 22 Feb 2018 10:02:31 +0000 The best part of writing at three in the morning is the soft hooting of the owl outside and the way my characters are loud in the quiet. The worst part is hearing the five am train go by as I finish fourteen hundred words and realizing I need to be at my day job in three hours.

Today will be a day for tea.

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New Chaotic Update Schedule Fri, 02 Feb 2018 01:51:31 +0000 You may have noticed that my blog took a temporary hiatus with no notice for the last few weeks. It’s become something of an internet tradition for bloggers to put a post bemoaning their lack of posting and promising to do better, only to fail at regularly updating their content again. I’m not going to do that.

Instead I want to talk about balance, specifically the balance between my writing life and my day-to-day life. Less than 3% of writers can support themselves based on their writing income alone. Very, very few of us don’t have day job. In most cases, where it seems like a writer is totally self-supporting, they’re actually working an ‘invisible’ day job, like being a stay-at-home spouse, or they’ve retired from their day job. Still others are supported by someone, a partner who brings home a steady income and provides health insurance.

For the rest of writers like me, there’s a nine-to-five daily grind kind of job. I’m lucky because my is fulfilling (most days), generously salaried, and provides very good health insurance. It’s very far from perfect. I’m obligated to never mention it in relation to my writing, a fact reiterated in the ten page social media policy and ethics statements I re-sign every year and again with every contracted book. Then there’s the busy, stressful times…

Every job has them, and mine has been in the middle of the busiest point in the last five years. Things started to get bad last August, as I was in the final edits for Blood, Dirt, and Lies. The busy-ness ramped up around the holidays, hitting peak crazy in January with 12 hour days. It’s hard to summon the energy to keep up with both the work of writing (promoting, editing, querying, networking) and the creative side (actually building worlds with words).

And so my blog suffered. But after talking with other writers and industry professionals, I’ve found that the schedule I strived for (two to three regular updates a month, on at last the 1st and the 15th) is perhaps not as important. For 2018, I’m going to be trying something new – shorter blog posts, more photos to show you what I’m doing, and (most importantly) chaotic updating.

I wish I could give you every word as I write it, but books need to age, be edited, and polished. I’ve written 17K words on an exciting new project this week. I have 20K words on the next Mallory novel and 14K on the next mermaid book. They won’t be ready for me to share with you for a while, maybe even a year or two. But snapshots of my life and a few sentences here and there can go up on the blog without much trouble. Hopefully, you’ll find them just as good, maybe even better, then my usual posts.



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Research at Cafe Du Monde Mon, 15 Jan 2018 18:15:57 +0000 Some days the best part of writing is the research:

The next Mallory book is going to take place in and around New Orleans. I was lucky enough to spend some time in the French Quarter soaking the essence of the city…and sipping hot chocolate while eating beignets from Cafe Du Monde. Walking around New Orleans I can’t help but wonder about the person I might have been if I had followed through on my carefully detailed plans to run away to the city the day after high school graduation. Would I have written the same books?

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Five Star Review for Blood, Dirt, and Lies :) Tue, 02 Jan 2018 02:39:34 +0000 Blood, Dirt, and Lies was available to book reviewers and libraries on NetGalley for two weeks after it was released. In such a short time, and over the holidays, I didn’t expect a lot of notice. I’m delighted to share that it earned a five star review:

Blood, Dirt, and Lies has ended its time on NetGalley, but the you can still read the full review.  My favorite part is “The novel itself was fast paced with a fresh/different plot than the norm. The protagonist, Mallory Mors, was incredibly well-written, and even though her character was flawed, it made her all the more likeable and able to empathize with.” I’m grateful to reader Kel M for her kind words.

I’m getting over my usual December funk (so much easier to deal with now that I recognize it each year). Moving into January my goal is to write 20k words on the next Mallory book.  There’s no working title yet, but I’m already 20k words in. If I meet my goal I’ll be at the half-way point, and past the dreaded start-of-the-middle stall. Wish me luck!

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Who I write for Wed, 06 Dec 2017 01:09:24 +0000 I want to tell you about Jen. She runs triathlons, and has a couple of kids. I know their names and the races she’s going for. It turned out we like the same kind of books, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, vampire smut, that sort of thing.

I’ve never met Jen.

We follow each other online, and she reads my books. She loves them. She says nice things about them on Goodreads and, most importantly, to me. She’s the first reader who got a copy of Blood, Dirt, and Lies, and she sent me a message filled with love for the characters after she finished.

Someone else I’ve never met but follow online is a book reviewer. They hated my book. They wrote a scathing review about subtext I never meant and don’t think is there. (I promise you, when I say someone is a werewolf, that’s what I mean, an actual werewolf. Werewolf is not a stand in for any race, gender, sexual orientation, or creed.) I read their review.

Every author will tell you never, ever read reviews. It depresses you. You can’t argue back. You can’t convince them that, honest, the werewolf was just a werewolf. Nope. The review is their opinion and arguing is a waste of breath.

Reading the review threatened to start me in a downward spiral. If my work was that bad, why was I investing so much of my life in writing? I’ll be brutally honest here, it takes me more than a year to get a book drafted, edited, polished, submitted, edited again, and (finally) published. For that effort I can make as little as eight cents per copy sold (sometimes that number goes up as high as a dollar). I’m not in this for the money, but for the joy it brings when someone loves my characters. If people hate them, why not spend that time doing something less horrible?

And I stumbled. I fell. I dropped into that place where writing doesn’t seem worth it. But I remembered Jen, who liked my book just as much as the anonymous person hated it. (Although Jen’s message to me used fewer curse words.)

I’ll now be writing for Jen. I hope everyone else reads my books, and likes them. But if I focus on everyone else and on all those potential negative reviews, I’ll never get any words written. So if you like a sex scene now and then, along with a good mystery about strong, supernaturally powered people who happen to be diverse and three-dimensional, feel free to join Jen and me. For all those folks that don’t, reviewers or not, it’s okay not to like me. I’m not writing for you.

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Blood, Dirt, and Lies, Death Witch Book 3 Fri, 10 Nov 2017 11:11:13 +0000 I’m emerging from my editing cave, delighted to announce I have a release date for the third book in the Death Witch Series. Blood, Dirt, and Lies will be available on December 18th. While I don’t have a link yet, I do have some amazing cover art:

This book takes Mallory’s story in a bit of a new direction. She’s more experienced at her job, but also handling a difficult case. I wanted to show her working hard on ­­­a case that wouldn’t crack. She’s forced to take over more often as her more experienced partner gets stuck dealing with issues related to his supernatural heritage.

I’ve hinted about what Danny is and how it shapes his character in the past. In this book you’ll learn more about him, meet his sister (a formidable woman), and find out about his less than morally upright childhood. The contrast between how he was raised to think the rules didn’t apply to him, but is now the guy enforcing those rules, was one of my favorite parts of his personality. He’s deliberately made a break with his family, rejecting their values. This book gives readers a chance to see why.

There’s also some surprising insights into Mallory’s life as she contemplates moving her relationship with Jakob forward. There are some things the two lovers don’t discuss, secrets they both keep. Over the course of the story, a few of those come out. As much as I enjoyed making Mallory share those painful, sticky secrets about her magic, delicately drawing a picture of her tendency to run when things get tough was a bigger triumph. The Death Witch series starts off with Mallory escaping from her life, and in this book I got to write her thinking it might be time to run away again. (Don’t worry, Jakob won’t let that happen.)

Jakob’s subplot reveals a pair of new vampires – best friends he hasn’t mentioned. A married couple, the sexy, slightly crazy wife, Rowan is a great character to play with. She has a very small role in this story, but it nicely illustrates the divide between how the vampire community behaves and how Jakob strives to live his life.

And, of course, there’s the crime. A confusing, layered, event that starts with a simple murder, but spirals into a larger, darker conspiracy. The victim’s ghost begs for help, but as the investigation goes on her character comes into question. This is the first case for Mallory where she doesn’t really like the person she’s helping, the first case where the victim is (arguably) less redeemable than the culprit.

When I started writing this book, I wanted to move everyone forward in predictable ways – there’s a romance, an unexpected baby, family drama, tension over aggravating relationships, but as the story developed it focused on the difference between how people want to live and the lives they really lead. An unexpected theme of how we respond to the choices we face, either doing what we must, what’s best, or what we want, came out. I’m excited to see how my readers react to that, and delighted to see the story in its final form.

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