Archive for February, 2014

Reasons To Write: The Truth

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Recently while taking a creativity coaching course I read Anne Lamott’s wonderful book Bird by Bird. I recommend writers read this book because of the inspiration within it. Truth, too. Here are but a few of the quotes I felt spoke the truth about writing. I simply love this book.

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“Doctorow once said that “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

“Just get it all down on paper, because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means.”

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”

“I talked earlier about the artist who is trying to capture something in one corner of his canvas but keeps discovering that what he has painted is not what he had in mind. He keeps covering his work over with white paint each time that he discovers what isn’t, an each time this brings him closer to what it is.”

“If you find you start a number of stories or pieces you don’t ever bother finishing, that you lose interest or faith in them along the way, it may be there is nothing at their center about which you care passionately. You nee to put yourself at their center, you and what you believe to be true or right. The core, ethical concepts in which you most passionately believe are the language in which you are writing…Telling you these truths is your job.”

“The great writers keep writing about the cold dark place within, the water under a frozen lake or the secluded, camouflaged hole.”

“We write to expose the unexposed. If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. Otherwise, you’ll just be rearranging furniture in rooms  you’ve already been in.”

“You cannot write out of someone else’s big dark place; you can only write out of your own.”

If you’re a writer, aspiring or published, I recommend you pick up a copy of Bird by Bird.

 

 

 

PTSD & The Romance Novel. Before There Was You.

Friday, February 21st, 2014

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Sometimes you don’t know where an idea will hit you. Last July I got the idea for a novel featuring a retired marine who had PTSD but had no real understanding of why. The next thought that flew into my head was why not write a novel featuring a hero and heroine who BOTH have PTSD and are in group therapy together. I was pretty sure that idea hadn’t hit the romance world before. But it wasn’t because I was trying to create  story that I thought no one had written before, it was because I liked the entire idea of the story. Usually the stories that hit me like that are easier and faster to write if they’re contemporary (not so with my historicals).  From July to September I wrote the first draft and it was so easy to create. I couldn’t believe it. Before There Was You comes out March 10 from Liquid Silver books and you can preorder it here!  In the meantime, here’s a snippet to get you started…when the heroine first sees the hero. Beware, this excerpt has some salty language. 🙂

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Kidnapped in a foreign country, Lana Burns’ faith in herself and the world has been shaken to the core. Once home, she finds her world mangled into nightmares and depression. Refusing to give in to fear and torment, she searches for answers. Now she must escape a dark mental place before it swallows her whole.

Former Force Recon Marine Aaron MacPherson made it through war without a scratch, but he doesn’t count thick scars carved into his mind, threatening to unhinge his happiness forever. His equilibrium teeters on the edge, his battle moving from combat to everyday life. One wrong word from a total stranger sends him on a path to destruction.

Both Lana and Aaron have seen hell, and group therapy might show them the way out. Forging a link between them could prove perilous to their hearts. When danger strikes without warning, Aaron and Lana must use their bond to create a way to survive the night.

* *

June

Manetti Therapy Associates

Colorado Springs, Colorado

As the big guy in the plain brown T-shirt, jeans, and athletic shoes walked into the group therapy room, Lana Burns went on alert. Her skin prickled and her breath shortened. She hated the reaction, automatic, like the flip of a switch. The man swaggered into the room with an air of total self-confidence and competence, and maybe a small order of arrogance on the side. His military-short, light brown hair was shot with red highlights as the overhead lighting glinted on his head.

One part of her reacted to his virility like most other healthy young women would. His clothes betrayed a lean, muscular body built for action. He was over six feet tall and moved with an animal male grace that screamed power and purpose. And more than all that, his face had a brutal sort of masculine beauty. No one would call him handsome. Scary, maybe. Intimidating, most certainly.

Before she could spend much time admiring him, she noted the way his watchful gaze scanned the room, as if he expected an attack from all quarters. Fear returned with laser intensity inside her.

She was alone in here with him. The soothing baby-blue room with six hard plastic chairs formed in a circle didn’t comfort her. She’d thought she was safe with other people at one time, a busload of people to be exact. She’d been wrong. Dead wrong.

Though she couldn’t prove it by his actions, she literally felt the jumpiness inside the man coming toward her, the ugly need for violence. He could be lethal, unwavering in his need to capture and conquer. He didn’t smile. He was all hardness.

Struggling with a desire to jump from her chair and run, she closed her eyes, and for a second she sat on a cold, damp dirt floor, the smell of filth in her nostrils and hunger growling in her stomach. Her body tightened, muscles betraying her. She cursed in her head, her mind filled with obscenities. A man’s cruel words cutting her like a knife.

Bitch. Whore.

Leetle girl, what kind of cunt do you have? I’ll bet it’s real tight. Come here.

“Stop.” The word was out of her mouth like a gunshot as she opened her eyes.

Halfway across the room, the big guy halted and stared at her with curiosity. “What’s wrong? You all right?” he asked.

His voice rumbled deep. One of those incredible voices that mixed a soothing quality with sexual undertones. Against her will, her body betrayed her, tingling with an odd, disturbing attraction that shot through her like lightning. Oh, now I know I’m screwed up. Terrified and aroused? All at once? She’d heard it was possible, but she’d never believed the two reactions could occur at the same time. The harsh look on his face disappeared as he stared at her, and even though her face burned, she couldn’t look away from him.

Surprised by the concern in his voice, she couldn’t speak. Before she could find a response, Addy Linden, counseling therapist, strode into the room from the opposite direction. Middle-aged and short, she wore frumpy formless tops with long sleeves even in summer and long pants too big for her. Her make-up free face and long gray hair put her around fifty-five perhaps, but Lana couldn’t judge age worth a damn.

“Hello, Lana. Welcome, Aaron. Good to see you again. Come in,” Addy said, her huge smile a ray of sunshine.

Relief flooded Lana. She’d met with the therapist once last week before she was placed into the group therapy session. It was nice to see a friendly face. Mrs. Linden seemed genuine and competent.

Lana smiled. “Hi, Mrs. Linden.”

“Addy please. Don’t stand there, Mr. MacPherson. Have a seat.”

MacPherson didn’t smile, but he lowered himself into the chair across from Lana. Good. She didn’t want him anywhere near her. He sat with his legs spread wide and his arms crossed. She caught a glance at a tattoo on his left bicep, but from this distance she couldn’t read the insignia and lettering beneath it. It looked military. Her father had been in the Army for four years way before she was born and her parents had moved to Montana. She hadn’t had much contact with the military until she’d moved to Colorado Springs. This city had military out the wazoo. The Air Force Academy, Fort Carson, Schriever Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain, and Peterson Air Force Base. The city bristled with testosterone.

The guy cleared his throat, and Lana realized he’d caught her staring at his tattoo. When her attention shot up to his face, she didn’t see one hint of softness or welcome in his eyes. Green eyes of startling emerald stared right back. Had she imagined the softening earlier when he’d asked if she was okay?

What type of post-traumatic stress could he possibly suffer? A big, intimidating man like him? She reminded herself that anyone, no matter who they were, could find Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on their doorstep in the right situation.

She tore her gaze away as Addy pulled another chair into their circle and sat.

Addy smiled. “You’re both early.”

“I’m always early,” the man called MacPherson said quietly. “Almost always.”

“Good.” Addy held a large notebook, and she opened it and started making notes. “What about you, Lana?”

Lana didn’t know why the therapist asked. “Usually I’m early. Too early, really.”

“Sometimes it makes sense to be arrive ahead of the pack. Scope out the enemy ahead of time,” the man said.

Lana’s mouth dropped open. “Enemy?”

A hint of a smile, a tiny quirk of his mouth, came before he said, “Sorry. Bad joke.”

“Lana Burns, this is Aaron MacPherson,” Addy said with a wry smile. “Aaron was in the marines twenty years. Military speak is in his bones, right, Aaron?”

Aaron stretched his legs out and crossed them at the ankles. He slouched and folded his hands over his flat stomach. “Yes, ma’am.”

Addy snorted. “Oh, Lord, please don’t call me ma’am. I feel like an old woman.”

Aaron nodded. “Yes, ma…I mean Addy.”

He stood and walked across the few feet between Lana and him. He held out his hand as he towered over her.

“Pleased to meet you, Ms. Burns,” he said.

She didn’t get the chance to rise to her feet before he was there. As he towered over her, that little spike of fear roared to life. She shook his hand, and as his palm and fingers encircled hers, a tingle raced up her arm. His expression was neutral, but curiosity burned in his eyes. The tingle also danced in her lower stomach, and she recognized it immediately as purely primal.

MacPherson’s sheer masculine presence sent those two sensations through her again. Avoidance and attraction. No, no, no. She couldn’t afford an entanglement. It would never work in this environment, and she couldn’t date or act on attraction when she didn’t have her act together.

His eyes were cool and still watchful as he released her hand and turned back to his seat. It was almost as if he waited for something, and that made her even more nervous than she’d been earlier when he’d walked in the door. She sensed danger around him, and that uncertainty meant she had to stay away from him. She shifted on her chair as the hard plastic seemed to dig into her muscles.

 

 

 

How Many Stories Out This Year? How Many Is Too Many?

Monday, February 17th, 2014

This year I’m a bit stunned. I’ve got a lot of stories coming out or that have already been released. Pretty much it was by accident because the universe lined up that way. But how many books is too many? Bear with me. I have a point to make eventually. Here’s what I have out this year:

Under Fire

One London Night

Before There Was You (March 10–Available for preorder now)

One Chance With You (release date TBA)

Cooper’s Haven (release date TBA)

Double Threat (release date TBA)

Meet Me At The Castle (May 12, 2014 release)

Body Language (July 7, 2014 release)

WHEW. That’s a lot. Eight stories. I must qualify by saying that Under Fire, Once Chance With You, Cooper’s Haven, Double Threat, Meet Me At The Castle and Body Language are either short stories or novellas. Only Before There Was You and One London Night are novel length.

That being said, there are authors who average writing twelve books/novellas a year. I couldn’t do it. Probably not even if I had to. Why? Because my creativity doesn’t work as well under the pressure of deadlines or “shoulds.” It shuts down and has a temper tantrum. Not only does my creativity demand I write what I want when I want, it won’t create series that goes on forever or allow me to stay in one genre of romance. That’s why I can’t say I have a “brand” because I refuse to be slotted into being one type of romance writer. I’m just not happy if I’m not writing whatever blows my skirt up and when it blows my skirt up. Man, did it take a long time for me to understand that.

Under Fire and Double Threat are in the erotic military romantic suspense arena. One London Night is World War Two romance, Body Language is erotic romantic suspense, Before There Was You qualifies as contemporary with a little romantic suspense, Cooper’s Haven and Once Chance With You aren’t erotic, but they do have suspense. Meet Me At The Castle is a historical paranormal romance. So I’m all over the map. And that’s the way my muse likes it. Body Language and Meet Me At The Castle (in their original form…they’ve been revised) were written several years ago. It took me two years to write Under Fire and Double Threat (and the first story in the trilogy, Sudden Heat) because I was writing other stuff and paused. One London Night, with research and writing, took about five or six months to write in first draft. Before There Was You took about two months, and it’s a good size novel, but it is unusual for me to crank out a first draft that fast. Cooper’s Haven and Once Chance With You took less than a month or two to write both, but again they are short.

What’s my point in telling anyone this? Because as a writer and creativity coach, I’ve seen many writers beating themselves up because a New York Times best seller they know writes ten or twelve books a year. The author lamenting that they don’t write that many books thinks they should. I mean, isn’t that what “real” success is? Nonsense. The only number of books an author should write is what keeps them sane. If that means one book a  year, so be it. Writing twelve books a year or publishing six a year means there’s all the promotion and other add on that goes with it. Writing sixteen hours a day, seven days a week isn’t generally healthy either, but some people do it.

Point is this…the number of books you write a year should be what is comfortable and feels just right. Not so many that your health suffers, your relationships suffer and you never leave the house. When you start to feel stress, it’s time to reassess.

Your public service announcement for the day. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Smokin’ Great Review for Sudden Heat

Friday, February 14th, 2014

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Wow, wow, wow! I was blown away by this amazing review I received from Fern at Long and Short Reviews for Sudden Heat, the first story in my Love Under Fire trilogy. Here’s a snippet!

“This is an excellent story. I loved how Ms. Agnew used the tension…Ms. Agnew is a master of pacing to my mind, it was fast enough that I didn’t get impatient or feel like the story dragged, but was slow enough to build up to a real need, a want to see Melanie and Matt come together. Ms. Agnew is certainly an author I plan to read more of, and I can strongly recommend this book for readers who enjoy adventure and tension mingled in with their smoking hot, explicit sex scenes. I found Melanie and Matt both really well drawn and interesting characters, and the pacing of the plot was amazing. Definitely a book I’d reread and an author I plan to experience again.”

You can find the full review here.

Many thanks again to Fern and Long and Short Reviews!

What is Sudden Heat about?

Where do you yearn to be in the face of danger? In the arms of a man bound to serve, to protect and to love…

Librarian Melanie Falconer knows too well the horrors of war. Military men, as far as she’s concerned, are off the marriage menu. As maid of honor at her best friend’s wedding, she makes a mall run and lands straight into the arms of seriously hot marine Matt Frasier, the best man. Matt has seen too much violence, and his heavy attraction to Melanie promises to soothe his soul and set his body on fire. Gunfire erupts, the game is on, and Melanie and Matt fight for their lives and the heat exploding between them.

You can find Sudden Heat at Ellora’s Cave, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.

 

 

Favorite Writing Quotes: Inspiration

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Happy Wednesday! I’ve paused from doing some edits because frankly my brain is a bit pickled right now. 🙂

Today I was thinking of what it takes to keep going when the writing isn’t happening the way you want. I look at this two ways. With creativity coaching, I help other writers to break out of the patterns and thoughts that can lead to writer’s block and other complications. As a writer, I’ve encountered those same problems myself. Sometimes all that’s needed is a good quote or two. Something to inspire.  Here are a few from Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird.

“Just get it all down on paper, because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means.”

“The great writers keep writing about the cold dark place within, the water under a frozen lake or the secluded, camouflaged hole.”

“We write to expose the unexposed. If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. Otherwise, you’ll just be rearranging furniture in rooms  you’ve already been in.”

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”

**

I hope these quotes inspire you to keep going. To keep writing when you want to give up.

 

 

 

 

Favorite Military Romance Novels

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

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Hey everyone. Hope you had a wonderful weekend. Trying to decide how to approach this topic took me a while. Military romance novels. I obviously love to write them because many of the heroes in my novels are either in the military or used to serve. I’m starting to lose track of how many of these heroes I’ve written. Yet in my own reading I have to admit that I want different. I like Navy SEALS, too, but I also like story lines that showcase the differences in each military character and not just the similarities. I don’t want to give the reader the feeling they’re seeing the same ole story any more than I want to read the same ole story. I feel like I’ve found some unique military stories over the years. I’m planning on resurrecting them in my mind and listing them a bit at a time for you.

I just finished one such novel that I feel deserves five stars. Jessica Scott’s military romance novels are all amazing, but I thought Back to You (A Coming Home Novel) was top notch, unique, and showcased how much understanding military officer Jessica Scott understand about how military life and the recent war has changed marriages and families. I highly recommend this story. And I can’t wait to read All for You (A Coming Home Novel) which just came out. These stories are definitely romances, and I think you’ll love them.

More military story recommendations soon!

DA_MaleCall

 

Creativity and Book Recommendations!

Friday, February 7th, 2014

Howdy all. I’m finished writing the last book in my trilogy. Time for a little chill out before I start a new historical novel. I’m glad I’m not writing a trilogy for a while. They can drain the brain. Time for a historical! Because I couldn’t find a great title yet, I’ve decided to refer to it as That Book About That Thang. 🙂

Training as a creativity coach and being an author myself, I know how difficult creativity can be. While I’ve got a lot of great books on creativity, there are some that come to mind immediately that I believe have a lot to offer the creative person. Be sure to click on these links and take a look.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

On Writing: 10th. Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Crafty by Stephen King

Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott 

I hope you’ll take time to check out these books. There are some other great books on the writing life, and I’ll be sharing them with you in other blogs.

Have a wonderful weekend!

 

A Perfectly Mental Month!

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

So January was mental…as my Brit friends would say without hesitation. Crazy busy. February is proving to be much the same. It’s sort of ironic considering I vowed to become more balanced between work, play, enjoying my writing, promotion of new books coming out and all the other things I do. I fell off that wagon very quickly.

I’m happy to say I’m back on the wagon and so even though I belong to a couple of organizations demanding some time, I’m doing yoga now, and I have books coming out…whew…I actually managed to get almost to the end of my current book in progress. I hope to finish this week. After that comes revising on three books in a trilogy, sending them to my beta reader and probably after that I’ll be shopping them around to publishers.

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In the meantime, I’d love help! One London Night is out at Liquid Silver Books and you can find more information on it here. Plus, Before There Was You is on pre order at Liquid Silver Books for a 20% discount. So run here and pre order!!!

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Thanks and have a great rest of your day. I plan on gorging on either the latest Thor movie or the gazillion House episodes I haven’t watched yet. Decisions, decisions!