Author Rachel Graves Where Sexy Meets Scary Sun, 17 Mar 2019 13:54:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Author Rachel Graves 32 32 2019’s 100-day challenge Sun, 17 Mar 2019 13:49:07 +0000 Last winter I challenged myself to write every day for a hundred days. The streak I developed kept me writing through a series of crazy life events.  As silly as it seems putting a shiny star on the calendar rewards me. Seeing a line of stars and knowing I need to add another one is the best way to get me to a keyboard.

The manuscript that came out of my hundred days finished at 180,000 words, roughly three times the length of most manuscripts. Editing it took up most of my year, and it’s not ready to submit yet. Even with all that work I’m still in love.

But it drew me away from creating something new. I’ve admitted before it’s harder for me to edit than to draft a new work. It lacks the same freedom to do whatever I want. Checking editing tasks off a list quickly feels like drudgery, and I’d much rather create. I ended up not finishing anything but that manuscript in 2018.  

Hence 2019’s 100-day challenge (now with goals!):

Goal 1: Write every day for 100 days.

Goal 2: Try something new.

Goal 3: Instead of writing one super-long manuscript, write at least three “tighter” stories.

To satisfy Goal 2, I chose new genre: erotic romance. My editor for the Death Witch series scolded me the stories bordered on too hot. Final edits for Blood, Dirt, and Lies cut about 40,000 words including three sex scenes. Rather than working to avoid that I decided to get it out of my system. Hence, Goal 3, write at least three stories. My general plan is three 60K word novels. My stretch goal is those three plus a 10K short story for each one.

Before you write in any genre you need to read in it, so I stocked my to-be-read pile with erotic fantasy, erotic romances, and erotica. A lot of what I found fell into two types: books that were cruel to women (rape, abuse disguised as dominance) or stories with a few erotic scenes that developed the characters but weren’t integral to the story (not unlike my own books). I went down a rabbit hole trying to find what I wanted: stories about consenting adults, who care about each other, and have hot sex.

Since I couldn’t find it, I started writing it.

Creating sex positive love scenes has been a lot of fun. It’s harder work than writing a mystery or describing a crime scene for sure, but the challenge keeps things interesting. After a month of writing I have treatments for three stories. The first story, which features an adorable puppy named Max who brings the couple together, is 90% done.

I’m a bit superstitious about my writing streaks. I didn’t mention the last one until it was almost complete. So while I’m crossing my fingers and hoping this post doesn’t jinx me, I’m also doing things a bit differently. I’ve lowered my daily word count goal from 1000 to 300 and I’m taking time each day to keep up with the business of writing. My new words don’t mean I get to skip out on editing other works, writing that synopsis, or submitting. It’s a balancing act I’m not sure I’ve got down yet, but so far it’s worth it.

(Apologies to any ardent followers of Chicago style reading this. The rules on numerals vs. spelling out numbers are slippery enough that I decided to post rather than study the options. Mea Culpa.)

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Speaking up and Listening Tue, 15 Jan 2019 22:10:55 +0000 In January, I faced a serious health issue and am now healing.

I’m sharing this because a friend told me about her own serious health concerns. She hadn’t shared because she didn’t know how people would treat her. I don’t want to be part of that societal silence.

So thank you to my co-workers and family for the care you showed. And thank you, everyone else, for allowing me to be human.

If you need to talk about health or pain or how it changes you I’m here to listen.

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About 2018…. Sat, 15 Dec 2018 15:37:49 +0000 2018 is the first year I didn’t publish a new book.

It’s been a hard year. I had to make choices. Sometimes I made the wrong ones.

I invested a lot of time and money into things that didn’t turn out. Story lines that fizzled. Inspirational workshops that weren’t.  Critique partners who never called.

As the year comes to a close my biggest accomplishment is my 100 days of writing, and the amazing manuscript it produced.

I love that story. There are dragons and wizards, a romance filled with tension and a maniacal ghost.

I’m also completely lost on how to polish it and market it for sale.

Editing takes more from me than drafting. Writing a new idea grips me with a passion that pulls me out of bed when I can barely keep my eyes open. It whispers in the back of my head when I should be concentrating on other things. Editing is just work. One word after another, cutting scenes I love. Editing makes me doubt what I can do. Writing makes me feel like I can do anything.

That story, the 100-days-dragon-story, was written in hospital rooms, on flights across the country, and on early mornings when I wanted to stay in bed. Editing feels harder.

This year I’ve taken ten flights, had four rounds of blood work and twenty-four medical injections (because there’s a hole in my head), house hunted in three states, put two offers in on two different homes, and walked away from both of them. I’ve struggled with a series of seemingly endless, hopeless, emergency situations at my day job. I moved. Again. (Move #11 was not kind.)

I did a lot of things that weren’t writing.

I gave up on quilting. I resigned my board position and practically abandoned my quilt guild. I dropped to weekly runs, and then skipped running for a few weeks. I tried essential oils to manage the stress and walked away from things to manage my time. I made mistakes.

But I also finished the dragon manuscript. Made some good connections at a writing conference. Met my nephew. Showed off Key West. Went to Disney World dressed like the Haunted Mansion Bride. Had tea in Las Vegas. Redefined what I want in life. Succeeded despite the odds.

I weathered the storm.

Which storm? All of them. At least, so far. Who knows what’s coming next?

Some days I feel broken. Some days I feel bliss. For 100 days, I wrote. I finished something amazing. The rest of the time I edited, struggled to put words on the page, and didn’t finish.

And that was 2018.

I wonder if it’s time to walk away, from writing, my life, or maybe my bad habits but I keep moving forward. Despite criticism and unkindness, knowing that moments of happiness are just as likely as moments of sadness. Keep moving forward, in 2019 and always.

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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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