A lot of authors talk about the music that inspires their stories. Many have full on playlists. I never could identify, I just thought, “Oh, that’s nice,” and moved on to my own thing. Until I started writing my new novel. Songs are popping up all over the place that create scenes in my mind so strong, I have to stop whatever I’m doing and at least take some notes if rushing to my office for an hour is not an option.
My new title, Tackling Summer, takes me back home. I was raised on a cattle ranch in Idaho, and while I’ve never been the cowgirl my sisters are, I am a country girl at heart. I grew up on country music, genuine hard working people and gorgeous scenery. Cities make me nervous. Honestly, I believe Bear, Idaho is one of the most romantic places on earth. We spent our summers there playing in the woods, swimming horses in ponds, building forts out of retired outhouses, and helping Dad move cattle.
When we were in high school, we spent the school year about fifteen minutes from Weiser, Idaho, right in the middle of onion and sugar beet country. A busy train track ran right through the middle of everything. My boyfriend, AKA future husband, and I fell in love with the clacking and banging of those trains in the background. So, when Jason Aldean came out with the song Night Train, images began to tear through my brain. Glimpses of heated kisses, finding a place to be in the night where we could just see the sky and be together. Gradually, I started to see my characters in these scenes. This song took an idea I had floating around in my head and brought it to life.
I will share more songs from the Tackling Summer playlist in future posts. For now, I hope you’ll take a few minutes and listen to this passion filled song: Night Train.
Thank you, Taylor Eaton, for the writing prompt this morning. It made scrubbing Norm’s slobber goobs off the wall much more entertaining!
A human’s natural instinct is to take cover when danger appears. Solid walls and a ceiling are preferred. This is what they did the first time the ships descended and hovered over our city. The vast circular shadows triggered street lights and pandemonium.
People crushed each other in their haste to cover themselves in hopes of becoming invisible and thus safe from whatever may emerge from those flying plates. In under and hour the streets were silent. Humanity held its breath and waited.
All at once, beings with octopus legs and bodies bounced from the ships, dangling from bungee like ropes, or were they extra tentacles? Each blobby body had one bright green eye and seemingly no other features. They were silent as they swayed on their cords.
People pressed their faces to windows, surprised the things hadn’t attacked yet, then stumbled backward in terror when the first blasts struck the panes. Loud smacks filled the air as mucousy slime slapped the surfaces of each and every building. I remember catching a glimpse of cavernous maws gaping on the octopus bodies after a thick loogie slid down the sliding glass door of my duplex apartment.
The aliens’ barrage lasted no more than twenty minutes, then they bounced back into their ships and disappeared. By the time they left, every surface was coated with their goo. Horrified and disgusted, no one emerged from their safe hiding places. Power flickered on and off due to the weight of the slime on the lines. Calls were made, and soon crews in hazmat suits appeared to take samples.
I decided the best thing to do was to get comfy. I pulled out my ancient typewriter, grateful to my newspaperman grandfather for hanging onto the beast that didn’t require electricity. I clacked away, describing what I had just witnessed. This was unreal. I was freaked beyond measure, but the rhythmic beat of my words hitting paper was soothing and I was soon lost in my story. Until a chunk of ceiling crashed onto the dining table across from where I sat. Upon impact, the plaster disintegrated. First it was powder, then simply gone.
My eyes flew to the watermelon sized hole over my head just in time to see the cracks beginning to race along the surface of what was left of my ceiling. The place was coming down. I bolted. I slipped and fell in the slime that coated my small courtyard, and as I regained my balance, I watched as all the buildings around me crumbled and vanished.
The screaming was overwhelming. I covered my ears and slogged through the mess, not sure where I was going. I was exposed, and who knew if those bouncing beasts would return. Surely they would, I realized. Whatever secretion they used to plaster our shelters was meant to eat them away, thus exposing the people within. We were ants without a hill, just waiting to be stepped on.
I wondered if buses could be used to transport people away from the site, but then became aware that all the vehicles were gone too. Curiosity overrode fear bringing me to a halt. I looked down at my bare feet. The crowd continued to churn around me, individuals knocking into me as I studied my toes. There was no pain. In fact, the slime was solidifying. I was standing on it, rather than in it now. It was tacky like a booger, and I grinned as the light bulb came on in my brain. This stuff was not toxic to human flesh.
I raced over to the closest hazmat suit, waving my arms and yelling frantically. “It’s not toxic!”
The giant yellow figure turned to me, holding me at arms length with a covered hand. “Stop right there,” the muffled voice commanded.
I looked around to see the other suits avoiding being touched by the hysterical masses. They thought they were the only safe ones and feared being stripped of their protective barriers.
Something wet splatted on my face. My stomach clenched and my heart raced. Certain I would see dangling octopus aliens when I looked up, I was surprised only to see raindrops and clouds. The drops grew larger and fell faster, soaking us all. The dousing slowed the crowd, and the noise died down. The coating under my feet began to feel wet again, and soon the mess was viscous again. I wasn’t the only one who was noticing. Others were staring at the sidewalk. Within minutes, the mucous began to dissolve and the concrete of the sidewalk dug into my skin. I laughed because there was no other response that fit.
Walking a slow circle, I observed those around me making the same conclusion. If water could dissolve the goo, could it also defeat the aliens? Hope and determination replaced the terror in the people’s eyes. Those ships would return, but we would be ready.
I have self-diagnosed myself with a very serious condition. It’s called Night Brain. I fall to sleep easily when I crawl into bed, but I wake up anywhere between two and four hours later to a busy brain. There are times when I can pinpoint stress, but more often than not, it happens when I’m developing a story and the ideas seem to come in the still of the night. Often, I can make a couple of notes in Index Card on my phone and go back to sleep, but some nights, like last night, that’s not enough. The scene begs to be written.
I roll around telling myself I might be too groggy to write well. That’s a lie. I’m wide awake.
I tell myself if I get up I will be extra tired the next day. Really? Like tossing and turning while characters run around in all the nooks and crannies of my head is going to help me be better rested? I am also curious if thirty minutes to and hour of writing might settle everybody down enough to get back to sleep versus being awake the rest of the night.
So, I pose this question to you: What do you do when you come down with Night Brain?
I am so excited to have J. Elizabeth Hill write the first guest post ever on Kayla Dawn Writes! She is releasing her new book, The Nine, TODAY!!! This title is her third indie-published novel, and since I’m on the cusp of release my first, I thought it would be fun to have a veteran talk about how the process feels once that pesky first is out of the way. Thanks, for stopping by, Liz!
Hi, my name’s J Elizabeth Hill. Most people call me Liz. I’m the author of the Fantasy trilogy The Mirrors of Bershan. Kayla has been kind enough to let me celebrate the release of my third book, The Nine on her blog with a guest post. Thank you Kayla!
It’s been an interesting journey, publishing a complete trilogy, one that has come with a lot of lessons. When Kayla invited me to talk about how releasing the first book and the third differed, I realized how much I’ve learned in the process, but also how some things haven’t changed at all.
Releasing a book is a wonderful, fun, nerve-wracking experience. Enthusiasm is a big part of the event and the way others share theirs for my book is always a kick. Putting this book out there I’ve worked on for a while is both a high and frightening. On the one hand, I want others to read the story and love it the way you do. On the other, this little voice in the back of my head always whispers, “What if they don’t?” It doesn’t seem to matter how hard I worked on the story, because I know no story is great to absolutely everyone.
With my first novel, Bound, there were other things involved in the release, other feelings. One of them was hoping that I’d set the stage for the trilogy well enough. I’d already written the first drafts of the other two books by the time Bound was ready for publication, and I knew it was a good story as a whole. But I was also aware that the first book had to draw people in enough to want to read all three. More than that, I wanted to give the readers a sense of who these people were before the story started, because characters are transformed by the journey they take. This, of course, had to be balanced against the need to keep the pacing up, to not info dump. No one likes an info dump, after all.
This time, I’m saying goodbye. Mostly to the characters, as I plan to write a prequel to the trilogy, but it’s still a parting. I’m a little sad about it, as I’ll miss these characters. They’ve all been fun to write, and I love who they’ve all developed into. I hope people like the place where I leave the characters at the end of the book, especially after everything I’ve put them through. I wanted it to be a fitting close to the trilogy, just as I wanted to set the stage properly with the first book. The characters have been through so much. They deserve an ending that fulfills the promise of everything that led up to it. So do my readers. And this is the BIG ending, the end of the whole trilogy. So no pressure, right?
Each book is unique in some ways, and the release is different for each one. But it’s always fun, and there’s always hope that people will love what you’ve done. There’s a lot of work involved in releasing a new book, every time. It doesn’t seem to get any easier either, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m getting to do the thing I love the most: tell stories and share them with others.
About J. Elizabeth Hill:
Born in Toronto, Ontario, Julie Elizabeth Hill exported herself to Vancouver, British Columbia after many years of staring longingly at the map following every snowfall. For as long as she can remember, she’s been making up stories, but it wasn’t until high school that someone suggested writing them down. Since then, she’s been hopelessly in love with story crafting, often forgetting about everything else in the process. She is the author of The Mirrors of Bershan trilogy (Bound, Possession and The Nine).
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/16gGjW3
When I started planning this post the other night, it was just a book review. Then something happened. Jason Gurley, my cover artist, sent me an email saying he just couldn’t help himself and started working on my cover a couple weeks early. EEEEEE!!!! Attached were five images for possible covers, each breathtaking. It’s been kind of surreal as I have shared them with my family and some friends. We are looking at the cover of my book! Each step forward in the process has made my dream just that much closer to being a reality, but something about seeing cover options just pushed me over the edge…which oddly enough was appropriate to go along with my review of Charlotte Rains Dixon’s debut novel Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior.
Dixon created a character that is reminiscent of Scarlett O’Hara. Self centered, compulsive, and just plain over the top. Where Scarlett made me angry (I haven’t read Gone With the Wind since high school, so I wonder how I’d react to her now), Emma Jean simply made me shake my head and sometimes laugh out loud. I just cannot fathom thinking about myself that much.
The thing I love about Emma Jean is that after she commits the ultimate crime in her book—adultery—she realizes she is lost in life. She begins an earnest search for some sort of spiritual truth to bring her atonement for her sin. The thing is, she just can’t quite get the hang of being nice and her theatrics go from bad to worse once she realizes she is pregnant with her lover’s baby. Emma Jean is 48 and always thought to be sterile.
From here the story goes into a tailspin of hilarity. Dixon keeps the pace clipping with one surprise or disaster coming right after the other. It was one of those books that had me saying, “Just one more chapter,” every time I sat down to read.
Dixon is a Northwest writer, and I love that I have been to almost every setting in the book, with the exception of L.A. There is something about being familiar with what the characters are seeing and interacting with in their environment, just pulls me in even more. I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior. Without a doubt, it will brighten your day.
Swept Up is done-I think. There’s the awkward right there: I think it’s done. The beta readers have spoken. They love it, there were just a couple parts that needed some fleshing out. I’ve fleshed, reworked, and smoothed the rough spots. Now it’s just sitting in my computer waiting to make it’s way into my editor’s hands. Meanwhile I should move on…
I started drafting my second novel in early December. I love this project, I think about it all the time, but for some reason I’m unable to really dig in. You see, I’m a finisher. I don’t start a new book until the last page has been turned in the one I’m currently reading. This seems to be carrying over into my writing. Swept Up is as done as it can be right now, but it’s not OUT THERE yet. I worry I should be doing something with it, checking it one more time to make sure it’s the absolute best it can be before Angi sees it. However, I’m in that dicey place where too much tinkering will wreck it. I stress about if I get involved in my new manuscript, I will overlook something in my first one. So, I will just sit here and be awkward for a couple more weeks, putting words in my journal, reading, praying that Swept Up is as awesome as I think it is.
I hadn’t planned to write another end of the year flavored post, but Charlotte Dixon, AKA the Word Strumpet, inspired me to take some time to review my writing journey over the past year. She listed out thirty questions covering three different areas: writing, motivation, and marketing. Not all of the questions fit my writing life, so I combined some and selected the ones that really stood out to me.
1. What was the best thing that happened with my writing?
I was able to open up, settle down and write my first complete novel. Once the words started pouring from me and I knew how it was going to end, it almost took my breath away. I knew in that moment this was really going to happen.
2. What did I learn about my writing?
I have to do it every day. Even if it’s just a few random sentences in my journal. Writing heals and energizes me. It keeps me sane and moving forward.
3. What experiences inspired me this year?
4. What books inspired me?
5. What blogs inspired me?
Tammy Stroebel’s Rowdy Kittens. Her photos, writing, and way of life emulate how I would like to live. She finds so much beauty in simple things and has a lifestyle I long to embrace (and am able to to a certain extent).
For some reason this year end post is not coming together. This is the third time I’ve written it. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m exhausted from Christmas fun or I’m just in a different state of mind. Since my writing plan for 2014 is to return to the basics, really dive into working on my craft and not getting overwhelmed by the rules of self-publishing and all of that, I am posting a list of things I’m going to do and some resources that inspired this list.
1. Re-read Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.
2. Remember even if I never get paid for my work, it’s still worth doing. Writing is my passion. I’ve been telling stories my entire life. I can’t stop now. Thanks for the reminder, Hugh Howey.
3. Words on a page, any page, count as writing. It’s okay to leave the laptop at home and spend vacation time simply journaling. There is something about a pen on real paper that restores my creativity.
4. Work on my stress management. I’m starting my year out by taking Sandra Pawula’s Living With Ease: 21 Days to Less Stress e-course.
My hope for this time next year is to be celebrating two published novels, or be very close to that goal. I have finally been able to embrace my writing career and I cannot wait to see what it holds! I realized in the latter part of 2013 that staying calm, managing my stress, and being true to myself allows my creativity and productivity to soar. I look forward to applying those principles in the upcoming year.
I am so honored to have the privilege of showing off my new writer friend, Chanel Cleeton’s, hot new book cover! I’ve already pre-ordered my copy.
I See London by Chanel Cleeton
February 3, 2014
Harlequin HQN (Digital First)
New Adult Contemporary Romance
Maggie Carpenter is ready for a change— and to leave her ordinary life in South Carolina behind. But when she accepts a scholarship to the International School in London, a university attended by the privileged offspring of diplomats and world leaders, Maggie might get more than she bargained for.
When Maggie meets Hugh, a twentysomething British guy, she finds herself living the life she always wanted. Suddenly she’s riding around the city in a Ferrari, wearing borrowed designer clothes and going to the hottest clubs. The only problem? Another guy, the one she can’t seem to keep her hands off of.
Half French, half Lebanese, and ridiculously wealthy, Samir Khouri has made it clear he doesn’t do relationships. He’s the opposite of everything Maggie thought she wanted…and he’s everything she can’t resist. Torn between her dream guy and the boy haunting her dreams, Maggie has to fight for her own happy ending. In a city like London, you never know where you stand, and everything can change in the blink of an eye.
This is a New Adult romance recommended for readers 17 and up.
Add it to your list on Goodreads.
Book Order Links:
About Chanel Cleeton
Originally a Florida girl, at seventeen Chanel moved to London to attend an international university. In the four years that followed, she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, learned how to dance, travelled through Europe, and made lifelong friendships. Chanel fell in love with London and planned to stay there forever. But fate intervened on a Caribbean cruise, when an American fighter pilot with smooth dance moves, swept her off her feet.
Now, a happily ever after later, Chanel is living her next adventure in South Korea. An avid reader and hopeless romantic, she is happiest curled up with a book. She has a weakness for handbags, puppy cuddles, and her fighter pilot husband. Chanel writes New Adult contemporary romances and Young Adult thrillers. Her New Adult debut, I SEE LONDON, will be released by Harlequin (HQN) on February 3, 2014, followed by a sequel, LONDON FALLING, later in the year.
Be sure to check out Chanel’s Rafflecopter giveaway. There is a $25 Amazon Gift Card up for grabs!