Author Lessons Learned by Jules Dixon #MondayMessages with @JulesofTripleR #amwriting #LitChat

Author Lessons Learned

I haven’t been in this industry for decades like some, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned lessons. In just three years of being published, I’ve garnered some thoughts and here are three I’d like to share.

giphy (55)1. The choice between indie publishing and traditional publishing should be one you consider extremely carefully. With Indie publishing the author retains control, you are the decision maker, you don’t answer to anyone but you, but you also lay out the funds to make covers, buy ISBN’s, editing, formatting, and 100% of the marketing. Whereas with traditional publishing the costs of everything but marketing are assumed by the publisher and they should be. If a publisher makes you buy a cover or editing or almost anything…just say no and run!
So consider not only how much control you want, but your time, your available funds (noting that it takes upwards of $2000 to properly and effectively self-publish a book), and the amount of effort you want to put forth. And yes, $2K, so budget appropriately. But when you give up control to a publisher you are taking the chance that a cover won’t be your “exact” vision, the editing might not be exactly what you’d pay for, or the marketing might be far less than you ultimately want. Actually, the marketing probably will be less, and you’ll want to put forth some extra effort for your book. Your baby deserves it.

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2. Writing is only 50% of a successful book. The other parts are everything that comes after you write that “The End”. Including revision, getting critiques, beta reads for quality, then everything from cover and editing through marketing. And those things take time because they are important.

Don’t get me wrong, the story is extremely important and ultimately is a writer’s signature on paper. But the rest is the polish on the story and the way to get readers interested in reading. And that other 50% takes a lot of time. So much time that an author can find themselves…not writing! Which is…gasp…what we should be doing!

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3. Something is going to go bad or worse. I don’t care if you’re an NYT or USA Today best-selling author or sell two wonderful copies, at some point or another, the $hit is going to hit the fan in some way. And no matter what, you have to be an adult and suck it up. Maybe you’re not going to like something your publisher does or doesn’t do. Or you not going to get the reaction from readers on your book that you were hoping for. Or your series might crap out, leaving you with stories in your mind, but readers are moving on to other genres, books, series’. Things that are out of your control will happen. But it’s not what happens that matters, it’s how you react that matters. AND that’s what you can control. 

So you…let it go. I’m fully aware that it’s hard to, but for your sanity and your future, you let whatever it is slide off…and you keep writing. You reexamine whatever your plan was and adjust. And you move forward.

Forward.

Not backward.

And you definitely don’t stop.

If writing is in your soul, you just let it go. 

There are about 100 other…okay a 1000 other…thoughts/ideas/tips I could touch on, but those stood out to me this week. I’m sure next week another 3-1000 will stand out sometime soon and I’ll revisit.

Have a great week!

❤ Jules

MONDAY MESSAGES

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Two Great Words: The End by Jules Dixon @JulesofTripleR #MondayMessages #WriterTips

Two Great Words: The End

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So for the last two weeks I’ve been talking about the Three Act Structure. We’ve visited the beginning of a story (aka Act 1 or the excitement of meeting characters and finding out their goals, motivations, and conflicts) and the middle (aka Act 2 where we take those conflicts and we make them even worse).

So now, we’re at the end.

The End.

Those are two words authors dream of typing and when it comes down to it, nothing ever feels better.

So once a writer has taken their characters to rock bottom and had the worst of the worst happen, they’ve broken up, shit has hit the fan, everything looks like it can’t ever be fixed, and the readers are wondering: How in the world are they going to get back together? This is Act III. 

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The resolution to the story.

In the conclusion, readers must find closure. The main characters in romance will always end up together, either in a happily-ever-after or happily-for-now. And while we do this, an author must still maintain the same emotion that they have built throughout the story. Pulling those heart strings of the reader.  

For instance, in one of my stories, Rest, My Love, the black moment comes when Rahl, the leading man’s PTSD comes to a head and when he finds the leading lady, Sage, in the arms of another man comforting her. He punches the man and Sage has to make the hard decision to end their relationship for his sake as he needs to concentrate on getting better.

Rest, My Love Excerpt: 

“Sage…” Rahl stepped toward me and reached out.

I stepped back and the rain dribbled down my cheek, like tears but colder. “No. I just came out here to tell you that we need to take a break, Rahl. I need a break from us.”

“You don’t mean that. You’re my angel. We were brought together to save—”

“Each other? It seems like I’m trying to save someone who doesn’t want to be saved. I’m getting sucked into your vortex of guilt and anger and I can’t handle it. I just started to love life again.” I stared into those eyes that melted a part of my heart. “Because of you.” My bottom lip tingled with the want to kiss him, but I fought giving in. “But you’re taking that away from me.”

“I love you, Sage.”

My body shuddered, some from the cold rain and some from struggling not to give in, but I needed to be strong. “I know you love me. From the moment you said it, I never doubted that fact.”

“Then can we just forget what happened?”

I didn’t want to forget, I wanted him to remember, to remember that his actions hurt people, and I couldn’t stand by and watch him crumble and take me down with him.

“No. I can’t forget. Just like you can’t forget the things that have happened to you and the things you know about Easton, and the darkness that is eating you from the inside out and the memories and fears that cloud your judgment.” I hiccupped a sob. “I forgive you for everything, but there are other people you need to atone to, including yourself. I don’t want to be another person to get caught in one of your explosions of impulsive emotion.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hit you, but he had his hands on you.”

“No, you didn’t mean to hit me, but if you hadn’t gone straight to violence and let me talk to you, you would have found out that Ollie and I are…” I swallowed as I stared into the eyes that melted my willpower. I looked away.

Maybe it would be easier for him to think the worst? If there is a time to be a good liar, it is now.

I stood straight. “You would’ve found out that Ollie and I are starting a relationship and you and I … we are finished.”

Rahl’s face paled. “You’re lying. You told me he was nothing.”

I mumbled, “I pray you get better, Rahl,” and tried to skirt past him.

He moved in front of me. “No, I don’t accept it. I don’t know why you’re lying to me but I’ll find out.” His hand ran down my arm to my wrist and he brought it to his mouth for a gentle kiss. “You’re killing me, Sage.”

Water droplets showered me as I shook my head. “No, Rahl. You’re killing yourself.”

Now, I could’ve done many things to bring them back together, but in the end, I had to torture them a little while longer while they were apart and give the reader more reasons for wanting them to come back together. I’m not going to tell you what I did, but it showed how much they were meant to be together, so when they actually ended up in the same room and Rahl was all better, the lightning bolts flew between them like they were two thunderstorms colliding, and when the storm was over, everything was good again, and then I had one more chapter to finish up all the tiny loose ends.

And their love is true, beautiful, and the real deal.

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When an author really comes to the end, the last sentences can make or break the novel. That final moment needs to remind the reader of something important, a repeated theme or a special element between the two characters. A final piece of the puzzle to make the reader go–YES!  

In Rest, My Love, I bring back something that Sage said to Rahl in the first chapter. So Sage says: 

I hadn’t forgotten my past, but I lived for the future and Rahl had decided to do the same.

And together we would create the sweet music of love for the rest of our lives.

Only you, Rahl. Only … you.

So the end can make or break a novel. Make sure yours gives the reader what they want, but not always exactly as they want. A surprise is always a good thing. 

Okay, until next Monday.

Hugs and ❤ Jules

GIFs from http://www.giphy.com. 

Conflict: Ramp up Drama by Jules Dixon #WritingTips #MondayMessages @JulesofTripleR

Conflict: Ramp up Drama

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Last week I talked about beginnings of stories and this week I’m taking on the dreaded…sagging middle of a story…aka Act II…and the part where all the drama and plot happens in a story. And as much as I want to believe authors celebrate and acknowledge this section of the story, the fact is a lack of true conflict in stories happens too frequently and too many plots are easily resolved with one question.

Act One, the beginning, is exciting to write because you’re inventing people, places, and problems. The end or Act III is easy because it’s a culmination of tension and the reveal of either love or death or a moment that changes everything—a black moment.

But it’s the stuff in the middle of those two that takes a lot of work.

Sometimes combining action, dialogue, setting, and so much more into words comes naturally–I’d say about 1.945% of the time for 1.982% of the writers. But the other 98.008% of us writers have to think about how to make a story sing and keep readers interested…and more. Because if we don’t, we can end up writing a story where no drama, no events, no problems, and no progress ever exists.

And it’s a fact…

giphy (46)Readers want drama.

Readers want problems. Readers want to see characters mixed up and torn down and drug through the mud before they figure their lives out. Readers do not want a blasé, so-so, emotionally bereft story with characters who never progress from the first chapter and remain exactly the same. But planning the drama can take energy and is always a hard examination of what your character’s goals, motivations, and conflicts really are.

So “sagging middles” happen when characters in a story are just living their ho-hum lives. Sagging middles of stories occur when characters aren’t faced with major hurdles to lead to changes in both their external lives and their internal emotions. And boring–ahem, I mean sagging–middles continue when characters don’t face problems head on in a timely manner.

Imagine reading a book where the author tells you the brand of toothpaste a character loves? Why does it matter? Normally that kind of information doesn’t. BUT…if he’s self-conscious about his teeth cause he stopped smoking three years ago after a long bout of lung cancer and the stains remind him of how close he came to mortality, knowing why he thinks about what kind of toothpaste he chooses could be the beginning of a conflict which could propel a reader forward.

It’s examining what conflict is needed to show the themes and will resonate toward a solution most effectively.

 

My writing friend, Cheryl St. John relays that in romance, the central conflict usually revolves around “Why can’t he love her?” and “Why can’t she love him?”. What is it keeping the two lovers apart?

This conflict usually involves two sides: an internal component (emotional/past event/himself) and an external component (man/nature/inanimate object).

For example:

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A cowboy/ rancher sets his sights on the mayor’s daughter who moved back to town after her husband died in an accident, but in the process of wooing her, he not only to find out the mayor is coming for his land to create a new state park but that the object of his affection remains loyal to her father.

So in the example, we have good conflict, but it’s always about ratcheting up the conflict that helps to make a story go from interesting to great. Hurdles for the character to overcome are those conflicts.

I’ve heard of an exercise when trying to figure out the conflicts of an Act II. Take your main conflict and write it on a 3×5 notecard. Then start dreaming up other conflicts that could happen. Fill out a new card for each, starting it with “but” or “but then”. And then other conflicts.

In our example, ratcheting and advancing might include:

But his brother wants to sell out to use the money to follow his own dream.

But then the house catches on fire on the property and our cowboy/rancher has to live in the barn.

But the property has been in his family for 200 years, he feels an obligation.

But he’s had a crush on this girl since high school when he was a geek and she was the shy girl who never spoke to anyone.

But back then he was a geek, but not anymore, he’s matured in all the right ways.

But she won’t call him back and when he sees her in town she ignores him.

But the mayor has a heart attack and his love is upset.

But she has never rebelled against her father.

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After a writer has 15-20 cards with conflicts, then they can decide which ones seem most likely and write the meat of the story off of those conflicts. When determining conflict take a look at each card trying to see if there is dilemma, denial or decision to be written out…and how much drama is there to be explored. Which ones lead to great dialogue? Which conflicts can’t be handled quickly? Do any of these hinder his ability to get his goal?

What we need to keep in mind is that drama is between two people—not one sided. If the hero and heroine aren’t actually clashing or coming to heads about something important to both of them, it’s a lost battle from the beginning and the reader won’t care. In every scene, one character wants something from another character.

There you have it–Conflict–ratchet up the drama writers! Bring on the emotional issues, the people who want to keep them apart, and the storms to drown readers on an excitement roller coaster.

Next week I’ll be talking about the end of a story.

Until then–have a great week!

❤ Jules

MONDAY MESSAGES

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Starting Again–Writing and Blogging by Jules Dixon @JulesofTripleR #MondayMessages

Starting Again–Writing and Blogging

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So the Naughty Quills is now reorganized and we have new posting days for most or all of us. So I get to kick the weeks off from now on and I’m excited about this!

Today I’d like to talk about starting again as the topic relates to writing…and blogging.

As writers, we start again… a lot. Obviously, every story begins somewhere. And that place holds importance.

Beginnings are scary. If they don’t hold enough power, then readers aren’t interested. If they hold too much power and the story doesn’t hold up to the grandiosity of the beginning, then readers are upset the story wasn’t as epic as promised.

Act I, as the beginning of a three act structure is referred to, is the setup of the story. This portion is usually about 25% of the book. This time not only shows the hero/heroine in their normal environment but also sets the mood, characterizations, setting, and details the reader will want to know going forward.

The beginning of the book has to have a hook, a goal for the hero/heroine to achieve or a problem for the hero/heroine to overcome. This portion also presents the main conflict, both internal and external, by jumping into the action and getting the hero or heroine to go in a different direction or to question what they thought. Along with these conflicts, we will often learn their motivation–why is this goal important to them?

Lots of writers, editors, agents, etc will say there are ways that you should NEVER start a story. And although they mean well, I say start the story and then fix it from there. Don’t worry about the rules and standards and dos and don’ts.

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We all have different styles. What works for me as a beginning won’t always work for another writer, but that’s great! Beginnings are like sunglasses–what works on my face, doesn’t work on my daughter’s, but we share a DNA like writers share a passion. So we search for the right pair, the right look for us, the right color or shape.

And the same goes for beginnings. It’s a search. It’s trying things out. It’s making the mistake of wearing Audrey Hepburn sized glasses but finding out John Lennon circle glasses work the best.

giphy (44)Same with blogging. We all have different topics, strengths, weaknesses, issues that we face, so no two blogs–even if they’re on the same topic–will ever be the same.

A few other articles you might want to take a look at:

10 Ways to Start Your Story Better by Jacob M. Appel

Why Stories Should Never Start at the Beginning by Chuck Wendig

Plotting a Novel in Three Acts Opening Scene by Janalyn Voigt

My rules that I set up in my first post on Naughty Quills still stand and can be found here, Hump Day Hangout A New Girl on the Naughty Block.

So go try on different styles and colors of sunglasses because the right beginning can be blinding!

Next week I’ll look at Act II–the middle of a story.

Until then, have a great week everyone!

Jules

All Gifs from Giphy.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

50 Wild and Crazy Romance Writing Prompts by Jules Dixon @JulesofTripleR

50 Wild and Crazy Romance Writing Prompts by Jules Dixon

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Something I love to do is write from writing prompts. For me they are short little snippets of wonderful to get my brain working before I try to write in something more important. They’re the appetizer of the writing world for a writer’s brain instead of their stomach.

And occasionally I like to make up writing prompts…and sometimes those prompts turn a little wild and crazy…and romancey…and strange.

I thought today I’d share the ones I’ve concocted over the last year. These are purely just ideas for authors to take and run with. If anyone decides to use one, I’d love to hear where you went with but no credit need to be given. At the bottom I wrote a 200 word take on one of them!

  1. Raincoats and Condoms
  2. Where she left off and he began
  3. A dress to be removed
  4. Making love in Madison, Wisconsin
  5. The two left shoes she found in the morning
  6. Hearts and Headaches
  7. Flirting his way into her pants
  8. Around the corner fate and a hotdog cart were waiting
  9. The storm grate ate her patent black Mary-Jane shoe
  10. Love is love is hard, but so is a dildo
  11. Night and the morning after
  12. A glimpse into his future wife
  13. Reflections of hate in a Starbucks window
  14. Birdseed and the woman in a pink hat
  15. Her cat didn’t like him
  16. Cherry was her name and her favorite fruit
  17. He forked and served her
  18. Alex Trebek turned her on
  19. Alex Trebek turned her off
  20. Forgotten love and ballet slippers
  21. How toothpicks got me laid
  22. Where there’s a will there’s Ms. Jade
  23. Hot flashes and fireflies
  24. I don’t bite. Oh, yeah, I do.
  25. Flowing down the river to Sexyville
  26. My last boyfriend did that, too
  27. He wore his tie like a cape
  28. She owned every color of Sharpie, but only used black
  29. The milk container, like my heart, was empty
  30. He thought the playground was a good place to meet women
  31. The yesterday before today’s tomorrow
  32. Quarters for the dryer
  33. She asked for water in a martini glass
  34. He loved her raspberry-colored shoes
  35. Making love to nothing
  36. Stretching her mind, body and soul
  37. Flip-flops and mimosas
  38. He’d always called her “Kate,” but her name was Kelly.
  39. Sushi doesn’t love you back
  40. She never made it to the post office
  41. Sea glass and seagull poop on her head, she had her mother’s luck.
  42. The neighbor mowed his lawn topless in January
  43. Her boob fell out while she bought tequila
  44. The maid of honor strangled the bride with a pink feather boa
  45. They agreed that Earth, Wind, and Fire had that “it” factor
  46. Never drive through South Dakota alone
  47. The elevator never came
  48. 48 spices and she only used pepper
  49. Love will find a way to muck up your life
  50. His sheets were like sandpaper

Her Cat Didn’t Like Him

The fact stood, Miss Wiggles judged men.

I’d invited Jason back to my place after a work function at Applebee’s. I hated Applebee’s, but since I liked Jason, I didn’t complain.

He seemed to have his shit together. Accountant. Good teeth and nice breath. Hair that looked like he went to a salon and not his sister’s house for a buzz cut. He’d paid for drinks so he had a few dollars in his bank account or at least room on his credit card. And a body that rivaled Michelangelo’s David, so I wasn’t complaining there either.

But Miss Wiggles hissed and caterwauled her way around the room, never taking her big blue eyes off of him.

We started making out hot and heavy on my couch when he screamed out, but not in pleasure, “Your cat just bit me!”

“Are you okay?” I shooed the thin white fluff ball away, but she made her way onto the back of the sofa.

He rubbed the spot. “I think so. Where were we?”

And with that question, Miss Wiggles answered him by jumping onto Jason’s head and clawing at his perfectly styled hair. Clumps of brown hair flew like confetti on New Year’s Eve.

Within seconds he was out the door and I was staring at a cat that looked smugger than an IRS agent.

In the morning, I found his phone pressed haphazardly in between two cushions.

Six messages from six girls.

I’d been saved by a rescued alley cat.

Miss Wiggles was a good judge of character.

The End.

So there you have it. Writing prompt gone wild.

Hope you have a great Wednesday! Happpyyy Humping! ❤ Jules

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So You Want To Be a Writer? by Jules Dixon @JulesOfTripleR #HumpDayHangout

So You Want to Be a Writer?

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There is no higher high than when a new author submits to a publisher and the story is accepted or the author decides to take the path of self-publishing and sees their baby on a variety of publishing platforms. It’s like climbing a mountain and standing at the peak in awe of the dirt on your boots and the lack of oxygen making your head spin. In a good way. Kind of.

But first, as with any journey, it begins with a single step. And yes, that is a take on a famous saying but it still fits.

I hear it a lot…

“I’d love to be an author!” or “I have a great idea for a story.” or “I started writing this story 9 years, 6 months, and 27 days ago. I haven’t picked it up since, but I really think it would be great. Will you take a look at it?”

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And that’s great!

But writing is not easy. Writing has rules. Writing has standards. Writing is hard. 

Like really hard.

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So when someone comes to me and says those words “I want to write a book.” I am all on board. Seriously. I am willing to listen and to encourage and to cheer them on. But…I won’t write it for them. And I won’t critique everything they write. And although I will listen when they start to feel the pressure, I will not give them permission to stop writing, because only they can give themselves that. I believe in finishing what you start, but I understand when someone can’t do that. Each journey is the writer’s only.

So where do you start? 

Of course, an idea is good. But that’s only a teeny-tiny piece of a story.

First, a writer has to figure out what point of view is right for the story.

Then there are characters and setting to consider.

Then plotting, conflicts and acts to figure out.

Then arcs of the characters to solidify.

Then what ending will wrap up all storylines.

And those are basics, it gets really deep…like complicated…like crazy complicated to write a good story. A really GREAT story.

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So…where to start is here…

READ! Read craft books that talk about developing stories and the basics and the middles and all the rest.

A few of the ones I have in my library are:

Building Fiction: How to Develop Plot and Structure by Jesse Lee Kercheval

Take Off Your Pants! Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing by Libbie Hawker

5 Secrets of Story Structure: How to Write a Novel that Stands Out by K.M. Weiland

There are plenty of others that can be of use, too and I’d love to know about more if you have a favorite . But the point is…read about how to write and how to write well. At least you have a foundation to build your story on. And then sit down and write. Because to get to “The End” you have to trudge through the beginning and the middle.

So if you want to write…do it! Prepare and do it!

And as always…HUMP DAY HAPPINESS to all! ❤ Jules

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It’s What You Say AND How You Say It: Power of Critiques by Jules Dixon @JulesofTripleR for @RavenMcAllan

It’s What you Say AND How You Say It: Power of Critiques

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Raven McAllan sends her best to everyone. She’s feeling under the weather, so I’m going to fill in for her today with a topic I’ll be presenting to my Romance Writers of America group, Romance Authors of the Heartland. We hope you feel better, Raven. Hugs.<3

So, critiquing for other authors can be an extremely daunting task. Often it’s hard to understand where to start, what to say, and how to be most helpful to the author’s work without changing the author’s voice. Plus, we have to believe that our opinion is worthy of being offered. That’s often as much of an accomplishment as the critiquing.

Before I start, I want to point out that critiquing is not really concerned with grammatical issues or punctuation problems, but if you catch a few of those and note them to the author, he or she will be all the more thankful for it.

Critiquing is usually a “higher level” look at the story, including characterization, plotline, continuity, dialogue, conflict, pacing, and more.

A few things to keep in mind when you’re reviewing another author’s work…

First, consider the author’s voice.

If possible, read another one of the writer’s finished works to understand what voice the author considers true to their writing. Do they have a consistent beat to their prose? Do they have a special way of involving a backstory? Do they take the time to point out details that might not seem important to you, but have importance to the character or story in the end so that you’re not pointing out something that might be cleared in conclusion?

Make all attempts not to change the writer’s voice. You don’t have to love their voice, but it is not yours to alter.

Second, know your strengths and communicate them to the author.

If you are wonderful at character development and elaborate plotlines, tell them beforehand, but if you struggle in developing conflict or finding authentic and differentiating dialogue for characters, then get that out on the table, too. We’re not going to be fantastic at everything, so if the author really struggles in the same areas as you do, it will be hard to be effective. So, you have to be as honest with yourself as you are with them.

Third, be constructive with your words and avoid vague platitudes or being overly critical. Be sensitive, but honest.

The point is to help the writer consider ways to improve the work. You may say something like, “I like the plotline and how you effectively close the main character’s relationship up. Please take a look at the side plot of XYZ, I think there might be a loose end there.” Maybe the writer has questioned the issue in their mind too, but he or she needed to hear it from you to validate the point.

Don’t be shy, but keep in mind that changing things like character names, plotlines, and such isn’t up to you. You work within what the author provides you pointing out issues and problems as you see them. It is their circus and their monkeys. You are in the bleachers watching and writing a report on the chaos and tricks of the monkeys.

Critiquing isn’t easy, but it can be very rewarding. I’ve learned so much about my own writing by helping others and finding issues or enjoying phenomenal writing that inspires me, which is an added benefit, too.

What else do you think is helpful in critiquing or receiving critiques from others?

Now get out there and help each other! 🙂

 

 

Alpha Heroes: Taking the A-hole out of Alpha-holes by Jules Dixon @JulesofTripleR #HumpDayHangout

Alpha Heroes: Taking the A-hole out of Alpha-holes

This past weekend I decided to check out the sample of a book, and after reading the first few offered chapters I was seeing red.

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Red Jules is not a good thing, I promise.

Why was I seeing red? Because what was probably meant to be an “Alpha male” was so extremely offensive that I couldn’t see past his criminally repulsive internal thoughts and behavior to imagine him as a believable person.

So today, I want to delve into what is an Alpha male character versus what is an Alpha-hole one. Doris O’Connor has already given us some interesting thoughts in her post, Write an Alpha, Not an A-hole.  

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First, I want to be clear–an Alpha male is not based on looks, not about being able to physically injure someone, and not defined by the ability to rip a tank top off his body. Sure, more attractive males might have an advantage with gaining the interest of an intended mate, but if their personality doesn’t hold up to the pretty package, then it’s a fail. He could be a Jensen Ackles or a Ryan Reynolds in looks, but if he’s rude and self-involved and believes he’s infallible, then he’s already failed the Alpha versus Alpha-hole test. He’s just a gigantic hole—and there’s no six-pack perfect enough in the world to overcome that failure.

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Second, definitions. An Alpha male is a character who exhibits self-control and integrity when it comes to his body, his thoughts, his dialogue, and his actions. A character who does three out of the four might be an Alpha as long as the instances of disregard are rare and not flagrant, but one who only does one or two out of four on a consistent basis is an Alpha-hole. From an examination of many books, an Alpha-hole will often have excessive internal dialogue, as in he only thinks of himself. He stinks like an actual asshole and there is not a body spray on the market that will make him smell good enough to be worthy of the leading love interest.

For instance, this example (and these are all fabricated from my mind and in no way taken verbatim from any book):

A pressure built in his groin. Gotta fuck her tonight. “Can’t stop thinking about you.” He grabbed his crotch and adjusted himself, making sure she viewed his growing cock, the one that would be her present tonight. What I wouldn’t do to bend her over and take her from behind, hearing her yell for mercy.

Okay, the pressure building in his groin—totally male, bodily reactions happen. We realize biology and attraction have effects, believable and common. His dialogue relatively sexy, in my mind, at least. Could he do better to engage the other main character? Sure. The grabbing of the crotch and over-acting his attraction, not Alpha, just a massive hole in humanity. And then the internal dialogue—O.M.G. no! That’s about as non-consensual as it comes, and not attractive in a man. And possibly, quite criminal if he acts on those thoughts.

Now what if this happened:

“My mind hasn’t stopped wandering back to last night. I’d really enjoy refreshing my memory tonight.” His body pulsed blood to his crotch. His cock really did have a mind of its own, but he’d appreciated her self-control with him last night. Patience would be rewarded. “Wanna meet up for a drink tonight? Say, seven at the Blue Point on Jackson Street?”

Do you see a difference? He’s talking, acting, thinking, and speaking with authority, restraint, and intention. He’s giving her kudos. He’s asking her for another chance. He’s making an effort. But we also know what it’s doing to him inside, instigating his natural impulses. That push and pull in a character is so much sexier than the character who beats his chest in the first example and practically yells, “Me, Tarzan. You, Jane … we do stuff!”

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Two, an Alpha male respects others and does not denigrate anyone. Let me repeat … Anyone! An Alpha male will not tear someone down to make himself look or feel better. And an Alpha male does not impress women with racism, misogyny, egoism, narcissism, homophobia, or sexism. Or any other -ism that makes his beliefs more important than hers or his depending on the genre of book.

For example:

“Hey, baby, why don’t we get out of here?” He leaned casually against the counter.

Jane’s eyes narrowed. “Again, I’m not interested.” She turned her back.

She’d brushed him off for the last time. He’d have her tonight.

“Are you a lesbian? Cause any girl in this room would give her left tit to be with me.” He made sure to speak his mind so the whole room heard.

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Breathe…just breathe.

This example makes me see red. Crimson covered in maroon and dipped in ruby red then splattered with blood red, with steam coming from my ears! I want to reach into the book and shake the character and the author—and that author was me right there. I’m sick just having written it. Honestly, nauseated. And yes, this is similar–but not nearly as bad–to a book I read lately … and no, it’s not Alpha, not even close. Not within a mile. Universe!

If the love interest has made it clear he/she doesn’t want attention, then sure, the hero needs to find another tact, but attempting to insult him/her at the expense of LGBT people is not that tact. That’s tactless. This isn’t what an Alpha male will do. He’ll examine his love interest closer, find a commonality to build a connection, explore similarities and differences, and he’ll revel in those differences, not dismiss them.

If she/he’s spunky, he’ll find that sexy. If she/he makes him wait for sex, he’ll find her/his self-control attractive. If she/he turns him down, he won’t quit, but he won’t resort to insults or intimidation tactics to make her submit!

Without those basic common-sense and generally well-behaved attributes, the guy is alpha-hole material, writers. And it’s not attractive in a real man either. So keep the belittling and put downs out of male heroes. Persistence and determination, yes, those qualities are attractive, but not if someone has to be treated like shit to demonstrate them.

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Lastly, being an Alpha is not about control. It’s about demonstrating restraint to explore his own insecurities and growth. An Alpha-hole refuses to relinquish control because he believes that would show weakness. Thus, there cannot be growth in the character, if the character assumes he’s perfect from the beginning. And even if the character attempts redemption and self-improvement, the reader will never believe him because there wasn’t any humility to start with. It’s a crash and burn. Our characters must have discretion to be believable and plausible and to have what is called an ARC, which is a transformation, a journey of the inner and outer self.

Men who only exhibit self-indulgent behaviors make readers uncomfortable and not in the good ways. If internal thoughts are continually juvenile and disrespectful and self-centered, then the reader might find it exhausting to experiencing a male who constantly thinks of nothing but “tapping that ass” or “going balls-deep” or how impressive he is—none of which in repetition tells us anything about him, except that he’s an Alpha-hole.

If the male hero is only an egotistical, self-involved man, then he’d also believe he couldn’t fail. He’s invincible! That’s not realistic. We have to show he has some self-awareness to make him know he’s not perfect and capable of change. And failure can be sexy, too.

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Writers, I want us to expand our skills and make our characters more interesting for the good and advancement of the romance genre. So consider this litmus test with your main male character(s–in male/male romance)—

  1. Does my Alpha hero talk with respect and interest? Is his dialogue constructive to conversations? Does he uphold not only his self-esteem but also that of those around him?
  2. Does my Alpha show restraint when it comes to his natural urges? How does he “put in check” his libido to get to know the other leading character? Can I show his control and need without making him seem petulant or juvenile?
  3. Are my Alpha’s actions in keeping with his thoughts, speech, and bodily cravings? Does he touch the other hero/heroine with reverence, making their needs as important as his own? Is he/she treated in a way that portrays his true inner Alpha? Does the Alpha find the hero/heroine attractive in other ways, other than just a fantastic ass or beautiful eyes?
  4. Are his internal thoughts lending growth or just making him seem self-important? Do those thoughts demonstrate some measure of humility or understanding that he’s capable of failing or he has to try harder for this one person he wants the most out of all the people out there?

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Like Doris O’Connor, I’m passionate about this subject. Have I written a male character who bordered (but still wasn’t) on Alpha-hole? Yes, but not as the main character, and those characters are used as obstruction and conflict with the Alpha hero and heroine/hero. So I’m not saying don’t ever write an Alpha-hole, I’m saying use restraint and be purposeful.

Think about your favorite books. What about the character made you think, “Yes, I’d love to be his?”

Until next week, more tequila for all, big hugs, and as always—stay humpy!

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All GIFs from Giphy.com. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ole WB Came for Me: How I Survived Writer’s Block with @JulesofTripleR #HumpDayHangout

The Ole WB Came for Me: How I Survived Writer’s Block

There are two words I won’t say out loud together.

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Writer’s.

Ahem–Block.

 

Heck, I hate even writing them! I’ll say WB over the real words any day.

But I’m gonna come out and raise a white flag. Yes. I had the condition and I’m not afraid to admit it. And I’m here to tell of my tale.

From July of 2016 until two days ago, I fought for words. There were days when a few/dozen/two dozen was good enough. Some of my writing friends would point out that I still completed manuscripts, and yes, I did start and finish two novels and three short stories since then, but I did it in a fugue that I’d never experienced.

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Since August of 2013, I’d been on a writing frenzy. Words clamoring to get out of me. I’d liken the writing deluge of words to beginner’s luck if I believed in that, but still, the words came and the words stayed for tea and cookies…and tequila. Lots of tequila over the years.

But then three years almost to the date of when I started really writing fiction and romance, I crashed. There were days I stared at the screen for hours. My mind became a white board of desolation. And there was no marker to even scribble a hangman or sunshine to be found. Anywhere.

I thought maybe it was Seasonal Affective Disorder taking me over a little early. Sneaky thing seasonal depression is, hitting a person in a different way every year. Sometimes I go down in January when the holiday’s high is over. Sometimes at the holidays I find myself tumbling when I’m overwhelmed or emotional watching my kids open presents. They’re 22 and 20, so really it’s them opening their banking apps and seeing I transferred money, but there are stockings.

And there have been a few years where I just become a pile of human goo for three months out of the year—November, December, January. Thankfully those really bad years been few and far in between, but they have happened.

But I didn’t know what I know now.

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Not only was I experiencing my regular depression, but I was fatigued, exhausted, collapsing mentally because I didn’t give myself breaks. Three years of writing almost every day. YES, every, damned, day. If I didn’t, I imagined I was behind. I fought to “catch up” and I am here to tell you…there is NO catching up. There is only moving forward, taking each day as it comes, and rolling with the muses fucking punches.

I traveled to Canada for a retreat that my publisher, Evernight Publishing, held for their authors. The event was fantastic. I met some of the nicest people on the earth, including Kacey Hammell of Naughty-Quills. Lovely woman. But I returned to Omaha, Nebraska more out of sorts and more overwhelmed than before. I dragged myself out of bed each day because I had other commitments. I’d planned a 25 author signing event. I had to do the right thing cause I don’t quit—obviously.

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I was elected Prez of my local romance writer’s chapter. I slid farther down the rabbit hole of self-doubt and anxiety. Full on distress.

Wasn’t easy to keep up the appearance of having my shit together, but I did it.

I thought maybe I needed more sunlight. So I got a sunlamp and basically stayed up for two days in a row after using it. Apparently, I was too sensitive. My doctor said, “Stop using it, you have a real chance of having a psychotic episode”. That didn’t sound like fun. So I put it away.

Then came the holidays and I kept busy with shopping and events, but I’d open my computer and… nothing. So few synapses in my brain putting out good thoughts or hell even any thoughts. I would have taken bad, too.

I took the last half of December off and went to Denver, Colorado for New Year’s. My hubby and our friend did their best to keep me going and getting out with the peoples of the world, but I was über miserable.

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But I had commitments, so I kept up. I showed up. I made up. I faced up. I tied up. Put up. Shut up. And fixed up. What I could.

My mentor, Corrissa James, did what she could to encourage me and help me through the rough days, and I thank her and the other writing friends who stuck it out with me and encouraged me. And then there are others who will probably read this and say—WTF? I never would have guessed in a million years.

And that’s one of my points. We can never know what’s going on inside another person. Don’t guess. Don’t assume. And please, for the love of god, don’t judge.

February came around. The month of love. One of my favorite times of the year. I experienced a little improvement early in the month and I put a few words to the page. More than January, but less than December because I pushed myself to just get shit done in December, but that backfired, too. In January, my holiday short stories received a couple bad reviews. I only know the number (1’s and 2’s ain’t good, my friends) but not the words of the review cause I don’t read them, but it’s enough to know my readers weren’t happy. And I wasn’t happy.

And then the plague came on last week. Nothing like the f’ing upper respiratory flu to knock you down until you think death would be the sweeter passageway. I fought through and by the weekend I was doing better. And I actually had some hope. My muse was calling out and strutting…

giphy-21And this week, that vixen demanded I write a new story in the same series as a story accepted by my publisher for their newest male/male alpha anthology. Shifter wolves with special abilities.

So I wrote. And over the last thirty-six hours, 9100+ words have poured from me. This isn’t a record for me, and certainly many authors consider that a light day, but it’s a good thing for me. A good omen. She’s baaaaack! I have some of my spring back. My brain cloud is lifted and I’m ready to face writing again without wondering what the day will bring.

So, if you’re in you’re struggling out there, a little of the old WB got you down. Keep the hope. Muses are fickle beings. And then again, sometimes you need to realize when you need a break and take breaks. And don’t push yourself. Be good to you, and that muse will be good to you, too.

**And note: I know I’ve made this semi-amusing but depression is nothing to laugh about. I know this cause I live and have lived it. So, if you’re experiencing any thoughts of suicide, hopelessness, or hurting yourself or others, please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the US.

To celebrate my return to good writing days, here’s an excerpt (unedited) from what’s spilled from my muse in the last two days.

Mooncrest: Saving Honor

Her eyes widened. “No. I … you … we … not possible.” She inhaled small gasping breaths. “We’re … friends.”

He searched her pooling gray eyes to see if on any level she instinctually comprehended the truth, but she’d lost the ability to feel and trust. Only confusion and fear hazed her dilated pupils.

It was time to lay his feelings on the line, and even if she still rejected him, he’d keep trying. She was his. There was no turning back.

“Honor Creed, I’ve loved you for five long years, watching while another man put his hands on you, feeling in my soul your unhappiness, but there was nothing I could do about our torture … until now. Now, you’re free from him. I don’t want to stop being your friend. I want to be more to you. Mother Wolf told me when I was eighteen you were going to be the greatest love I’d ever know. You’ve been hurt. You need time. I understand. But—you and me—it’s gonna happen.”

Love, Jules AND Happy HUMP day, peeeeeeples!

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All Gifs from Giphy.com. 

 

How to Write a Book: A Cynical Report of a Writer’s Day #HumpdayHangout with @JulesofTripleR

How to Write a Book: A Cynical Report a Writer’s Day

  1. Come down stairs from a glorious 9 hours of sleep, wearing your fuzzy socks and a favorite sweatshirt that’s so time loved that it has holes, but you don’t care, you love it cause it says comfy and artistic. Kind of Flashdance in a sexy writerly way. Kind of… giphy-12
  2. Pick out your choice of morning pick-me-up drink. What’s your poison? Coffee? Tea? Soda?
  3. Stand staring at the choice of brewing mechanism for at least ten minutes thinking about what drink your leading lady in your story might be drinking.
  4. Grab cup to head to office, step in cat vomit on hallway rug on way to office landing.
  5. Hop around to keep the disgusting cat food hummus from spreading. Imagine writing this into a book and if it would be humorous. But it’s NOT funny.giphy-5
  6. Spill morning drink on the rug, decide to wash rug.
  7. Take outside and shake off the chunks of vomit, small piece flies back at you and you do a move from the Matrix to avoid the flying debris.giphy-13
  8. Start washing machine and throw in extra pod of washing liquid and sock just cause…vomit.
  9. Remember it’s Monday when you hear the garbage truck somewhere in the neighborhood.
  10. Run to the front windows in your PJ’s to see if other half set out garbage cans.
  11. Curse name of other half when you see it hasn’t been done.
  12. Like a hurricane, get the garbage from every room while hearing the truck 5…4…3…2…1 houses away.
  13. Run to garage in one sock, open garage door, run back inside to grab the six garbage bags you forgot.
  14. Stuff all into the small container that the city allows and run to the curb while the truck shows up with two very cute young men who watch your boobs flop in circular motions and possibly get view of a nip slip through the holey sweatshirt.
  15. Pull the recycling out of the garage, slip on the pile of sand you swept up and fall to your ass as the guy on the back of the garbage truck waves to you. Think of writing the scene into a book.
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  16. Regain your composure and dignity, whatever is left of it, place recycling on corner and return empty trash receptacle to the garage.
  17. Sweep the sand into another pile, vowing to remember to bring the dustpan out to get rid of the pile.
  18. Return inside, wash hands, realize the dishwasher needs to be unloaded.
  19. Open dishwasher, hear the washing machine ding—rug is finished.
  20. Abandon dishwasher to throw rug into dryer.
  21. See your cup of coffee/tea/soda in the entryway, pick it up, take drink. It’s now undrinkable cause it’s cold or hot depending on what it was to start with.giphy-14
  22. Start new cup of whatever you wish…maybe even breakfast by this time.
  23. Unload dishwasher, wipe down counters, and sweep floor while thinking about what you want to write that day.
  24. Grab drink or food, hear the doorbell ring. Set it back down.
  25. It’s your neighbor with your recycling container that has now blown paper and plastic products all over the block.
  26. Apologize and vow to go clean it up.
  27. Decide to get dressed for the day.
  28. Go to bedroom, remember you haven’t showered in three days.
  29. Take shower and get all dolled up. For what you don’t have a clue, but better to look hot while you’re picking up trash, right? giphy-7
  30. Grab recycling bin from front porch.
  31. Head outside and instantly get burst of wind that lifts your skirt and you do a Marilyn Monroe impression in front of the new neighbor and his dog. The dog seems amused, the neighbor not so much.
  32. Pick up your scattered recycling, stopping to talk to every neighbor that comes out of their house to say “Good that someone’s picking it up.” But never offer to join you.
  33. Return home, place recycling back in the garage cause the recycling truck drove by you when you were a block and a half away, with a wicked smile on the driver’s face. Sucker.
  34. Wash hands. Again.
  35. Walk into the office, see plant needs to be watered.
  36. Get glass of water and nourish the plant.
  37. Phone rings. Daughter’s car has broken down and she has to be to work in 30 minutes.
  38. Frantically drive halfway across the city for her to text you. “False alarm, I just didn’t have the car in park.”                             giphy-8
  39. Wonder how the hell she didn’t have it in “park” and think about writing it into a story.
  40. Stop off for Starbucks cause by now whatever you made at home has been licked by a cat.
  41. Decide to grab a little something to eat. Wait in drive-thru line for 30 minutes.
  42. Head home, eating the Runza fries all the way.
  43. Take a deep breath when you open the garage door and see that your husband’s car is there. He’s working from home. Never a good thing.
  44. Head inside, he’s on the sofa and all he says is “flu.”
  45. You get him settled into bed and then reheat your runza (if you don’t know what this gift from the Gods is…here…RUNZA! )
  46. Head into office. Put on headphones. Realize you forgot your drink.
  47. Get back up, head into kitchen, grab drink.
  48. Sit down at desk again. Hear hubby call. Needs more meds.
  49. Take meds and wonder if you’d get more writing done in prison and what offense wouldn’t be that hard to commit and you wouldn’t feel that bad about. Realize there isn’t one–think about writing it into your story, but write it into a blog post instead.
  50. Sit down at the computer, open Word and…sigh.
  51. Return to bedroom, slip into the outfit you were wearing at the beginning of the day to be comfortable.
  52. Start back at #1 and begin writing.
  53. Yeah…right.
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So there you have it. Only 53 steps to finally get to writing.

I know what you’re saying. Well, that’s just not a typical day. You know you’re right. Not every day is like this…there are ones that are worse. Much. Much. Worse. 😉

Love to all! ❤ Jules

But…happy HUMP day all the same!

 

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