Friday, September 20, 2013

The Influence of Music

Yesterday, I finished another Jasinda Wilder story, Stripped, and like the other two books I've read by her, she included a playlist at the back. I, too, am highly influenced by music when I write. I prefer to listen to music while I write (though in mom mode, it's not always easy) and I also find that songs can shape my stories.

For instance, when I wrote Back to December, I had a pretty extensive playlist that was mostly from my own music files. Then I turned to YouTube videos. And finally, I found Spotify once my sister introduced me to it. I've since created both YouTube video and Spotify music playlists for each story. If you're interested, become my friend and I'll share them with you. I considered posting the titles to each song, but there are some really long lists, so it's just easier to let people see the playlists.

Originally, I had a different title for the book. It doesn't matter what it was now, but the first, working title for the book was not Back to December. Then, one day, I was listening to the radio - probably in the car, since that's usually where I listen to radio - and Taylor Swift's song, Back to December came on. I've always liked the song, both for the melody and the orchestral sections, but I really heard the lyrics that day. And I thought, This is my story. This is how Emily feels about the mistake she's made. And it spoke to the story on several levels. If you've read the book, listen to that song and maybe you'll hear something new in it. Maybe you'll also see things in the story that you didn't before.

Music moves me. It always has. It's always been a huge part of my life, of who I am. I'm not a musician, though I always wanted to learn to play something, anything. And while I still could, well, I've got other things I want to do right now, so I think I'll leave making music to people who are far more talented than I'd ever be. But so much of my life has its own soundtrack. I hear a song and it brings me back to the time in my life when it meant something specific. And now that I'm creating these characters and their worlds, when I hear music, it often speaks to me about those people.

How about you? Does music shape your life that directly? If you're a creative person, do you listen to music while you work?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Creating Characters

Working on some character building. No, I don't mean enriching my own character, I mean giving a background to those in my stories. I know some people don't do that sort of thing and I don't sit down with a list of story characters and make up who they are ahead. Heck, I don't even know who all my characters are every time - even in this series, sometimes, they just walk onto the scene, and half the time my heroes in this series have done just that. With the exception of Rob Deacon, who was the genesis of this series, the other male leads have just wandered onto the canvas and become someone important somehow.

In other words, my writing is more organic than sitting down with a character list or doing any purposeful plotting. Not that there's anything wrong with such things, I just don't write that way.

But as I'm writing, details emerge about characters and settings and I find that I want to know more about those details. I ask myself if they're realistic and am always thrilled when I come up with something off the top of my head that just makes sense.

I'm sitting here, working on some of these details, because one character, Neil Murphy from Right Here Waiting, has a tattoo and I've debated it for a while. It's like I'm choosing my own tattoo - once I give him this ink, it's there forever! Gotta make sure it works. And Neil, he's a methodical sort of person - he's a sniper, so he's careful and thoughtful. He'd never be spontaneous about that sort of thing. When I wrote the scene where we first see his tattoo, it came out as a tribal armband. But then I realized, nope, that doesn't work for him; he has a job where it wouldn't be a smart decision to have something so visible. And Neil's not stupid, he's really smart. So, I let it lie for a bit, figured, I'll think about it some more.

Then I moved the ink to his pelvis - his girlfriend is the one who is seeing the tat in an intimate moment, so it makes sense and given that Neil would have his ink where it can't easily be seen, well, there you go. But what is it? He's a guy. A very manly man. It can't be a girly tattoo and the pelvic area is sort of iffy. Yeah, it was a challenge to make these decisions. Like I said, because of who he is, it was like choosing my own tattoo! (Not that I have one, but you know, if I did).

Finally, in the last day, I figured it out, something that would be meaningful to him and would work. And now he actually has two tattoos, because another character in a different story mentions his tattoo and I thought...okay, when I originally wrote that, he had a tribal one on his arm. She'd never, ever have seen the pelvic one (ahem). Does he actually have another tattoo? Yes, yes he does. Where is it? What is it? I found one I liked, that worked for both instances (a trifecta on his ribcage over his heart - he's Irish and religious), but I thought, Yeah. That's great, but while it's probably pretty sexy if you like tattoos, it's nowhere near as sexy as one you're sure is something many people have seen. That's still not his only tattoo. He has one Nina has never seen. I couldn't find any Celtic stuff that didn't seem too girly and he's not going to have a tribal tat there - I decided that a while ago. Words. It would be words. Ones that were meaningful to him, that would say something to him. Of course. They're upside down so he can read them. And in a Celtic script, but not Gaelic words. Nope. Latin. Because he's that kind of guy - scholarly, smart. And upside down Latin words in a Celtic script would be hard to read. Perfect!

Anyway, I shared all that detail because it reminded me of this project we did in English class, sophomore year in high school. We read Oliver Twist and our teacher made us write dossiers for the characters. At the time, I probably didn't get the significance of what we did, not really. But what she was doing was getting us to build the characters. Who are they? What motivates them? What scraps of evidence can we gather to illustrate this background, this definition of these people? I loved that project. I didn't like much of anything else that teacher taught, but loved creating those dossiers. Given my penchant for making up stories in my head and my love of inventing those dossiers, I guess it should be no surprise that I'm a writer.

So thanks, Mrs. Lane, for assigning that project. It has helped me be a better writer. And thanks, internet, for making it easier to get the job done!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Writing Update

I'm still writing like a fiend. I've pretty much been doing that since last fall. No joke. I said to a fellow writer on Twitter earlier today that I think my word count since last fall is probably around 1,000,000. I'm not kidding. I wrote about 280k just with my Hunger Games fanfic. Then the original, first, complete draft of Back to December was 237k (or something) - the final version was 137k, I think, and that included some bits I wrote later that didn't appear in the first draft. Then there are some of the other side projects I've written here and there. Plus, the other stories in the Ward Sisters Series. I guess this is where I'll update you on those.

I've been editing Only One (Book 2), which has included some new additions as well as some restructuring and some tweaking/cleanup stuff. It's getting there. Even without editing the story to within an inch of its life, we're still close to the same word count as the final version of Back to December, which makes me happy. I'm sure it will get cut back, but at least it doesn't have nearly so far to go as Book 1 did.

For Book 3, Right Here Waiting, I've been writing some significant sections and also have restructured the story, based on what I found with Only One (and also what I learned from editing Back to December). We're at 82k with some big chunks to go. I've been picking the brain of an amazing source (who I happen to also call family) and I've got high hopes for this particular story. Honestly, I firmly expect that Only One will be a polarizing story for several reasons. But I would be shocked if people don't adore Neil and root for a HEA with Meg, across the board.

Book 3.5 is a novella and I hadn't written too much on it before this week. It's called Why Buy The Cow? Or maybe Buying the Cow, I haven't decided yet. It's funny that the metaphor has layers I hadn't realized until I delved into the meat of the story. A scene in Only One had me asking a question in my mind and I answered it by writing a huge chunk of this story, which is always very cool. And things just go from there. In some ways, I'll write a better story for Only One because I'll have thought about some things later in the series already. That one is barely started at 16k

Book 4 is Annie and Josh's story, This Year's Love. I've been ignoring that one lately for other parts of the series, but I need to get back to it soon. I know the direction it will take, but there is a lot left to write there. That one is further along than I thought, at 61k.

Book 5, Just Realized, has been mostly done for a while. I've got a few scenes left and then I think it's done. Although, I think I may end up adding some things that will set up a later story better, things I hadn't even contemplated until that other story was significantly written. We're at 82k there.

Book 6, Think of Me, is in my head but has a long, long way to go on paper. Once book 2 is published, this story will become one of my central foci. That's around 54k right now.

Book 6.5, Tell Me What It Takes, is another novella. I haven't done much with that lately. Like book 6, it will become more prominent as the next two books are published. That's also at 16k

Book 7, Better Be Home Soon, which was barely a thought when I started this blog 3 months ago, is now nearly 96k words. I wrote some big scenes for that today. It's not done, but I'm really astonished at how quickly it came together.

For the next 13 weeks, I'm taking a marketing class and that, of course, will cut into my writing time. Or probably it will cut into my domestic engineering duties. Yeah, that's more likely. Once I have a more firm idea when Only One will be ready for publication, I'll post it here, on Twitter and on Facebook. Have a great night everyone!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Book Review: Delectable by Adrianne Lee

This is my first official book review on my blog. I've been a member of Goodreads for about 6 years now, and I've posted enough reviews there that I'm in like, the top 1% of reviewers. I do it for two reasons: so that I can remember what I've read and why I like an author or don't; and so other people can either discover great writers or steer clear of bad ones. I've very seldom read books I hated. There have been a few but not numerous. Fortunately, this particular book is one I can say I was glad to have been given a chance to read and review. I'm giving my reviews on my blog a rating out of 10 points because I can and because, well, I wish you could be more specific at Goodreads.

So, up front, this book was given to me via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Delectable by Adrianne Lee

Delectable is the story of Quint McCoy and his estranged wife, Callee. After the unexpected death of Quint's father, their marriage implodes and they're in the process of getting a divorce that neither of them, deep down, really wants. But Quint has hurt Callee terribly and she isn't convinced he'll ever change. Quint, meanwhile, ran off to fish in Alaska for a month to bury his pain, and when he comes home, life as he knew it has been turned upside down. It knocks some sense into him and he realizes that if he loves his wife as much as he says, he better get his butt in gear and win her back before the ink is dry on the divorce papers. Callee has one foot out the door already and an unexpected turn of events forces her to stay in town for a bit. It's the chance that Quint needs to prove himself.

This is the first book in a series and it does a decent job of introducing what are sure to be future main characters. None of the secondary characters or storylines dominate the book, but they do enrich it, which is always a bonus (and usually what you'd expect when you're reading a series). There's an excerpt from book #2 in the back and though I mostly skimmed that because I was finishing the book right before I had to go somewhere, I'm excited to read the next part of the series. That in itself should tell you that I liked the book.

Now, the specifics: I loved that it's set in Montana. There are a handful of places in the world I'd love to live and aside from a few locations in Europe, most of them are in the U.S. One of those places is Montana. Now I really want to set a story there. SIL lives near Bozeman. Might have to make a visit. Though our hero, Quint, was a fisherman (and ran away to fish when his dad died), that didn't overwhelm the story. I might actually have enjoyed it if Quint went fishing and we got a little bit of the lingo in there, but that's okay; the people who don't want to read stuff like that will be happy to hear that the book isn't about fishing. And if you want to read a book on fishing in Montana, read A River Runs Through It. Though I'm biased, I also liked that it made me want to go to Montana without feeling like a brochure. Plus, I still felt like I was there. Setting gets a 9/10.

I thought there was some good chemistry between Callee and Quint, but I was a little disappointed that we didn't see as much character growth from Callee as from Quint. She admits, at one point, that it wasn't just Quint's fault that their marriage fell apart, and while I liked the direction the story was going there, I wish we'd seen more of her growth after the fact. I guess it wasn't so much that she didn't grow as it was that it happened off the canvas to some degree and was summarized in the last page or so. Quint, on the other hand, was filleted like a fish and left himself open for all the people who he'd wronged. As anyone who has read my past book reviews knows, I'm a big fan of character driven stories and on that note, this story maybe gets a 7/10. Had we seen more from Callee rather than heard about it, I'd bump it up to at least an 8, maybe 8.5.

Love scenes were a mixed bag. The build up and the sexual tension were good, but these two are married! They're not even divorced! I'd have liked to see more...well, action. The bits we saw were hot - scorching. But then, again, it happened off-camera. Maybe I'm a little too graphic when I write sex scenes sometimes (I like that sort of thing and you often write what you like, I think), but I'd rather see it all or have it implied, I guess. To go from hot, hot, hot to 'well, then they, you know,' was disconcerting. Choose a direction and go with it: either you're bringing the heat or you're glossing over it. The one place you should always be able to get away with descriptive sex scenes is between two people who are married. And I think the worst part was that Callee and Quint both talked about how intense the passion had been between them, from the very beginning, but we didn't see enough of it. Sex scenes get a 6/10.

Those are the three big items for me: setting, character and the interaction between said characters (romance if it's a romance, etc). I can live with cheesy plots as long as they're believable, but I generally prefer a good plot. This one, my only gripe was that the whole 21-day divorce thing sounds far-fetched. Maybe if she'd delved into the details, I could have bought it more, but according to dissolution of marriage details from the Montana State Bar, well, it seems a seriously big stretch. But I'll suspend my disbelief because it's minor. The subplot with Quint's mother, thankfully, did not go any of the myriad of directions it could have, which was a relief. And there were a few little surprises from the subplots that I think worked really well and did a good job setting up the hero/heroine for book #2. Plot, then, gets a 7.5/10 - nothing earth shattering, but pretty decent except for the timeline of the divorce. I'd maybe have stretched things a little longer - had Quint fish for two months, made Callee leave for a longer period of time later. Something.

Overall score is 7.4. Since I can't leave 10-star reviews at Goodreads and Amazon, when I leave those reviews, they will reflect my opinion based on their scales.

I am excited to read book #2 - it will feature Nick, Quint's photographer friend, and Jane, the pastry chef girl at Big Sky Pie. Did I mention that their parents used to be married to each other? Or that they share a super steamy kiss before they realize they used to be stepbrother/sister? Ha! I can't wait. It should be good.

September 11

Photo added on 9/11/2014

I know, today is the thirteenth. I'm a (couple) day(s) late and a dollar short. But see, the thing is, everyone deals with the stuff that life throws at you in a different way. And for me, I hate to dwell on 9/11 as a rule. There are reasons for it. Good reasons. The primary of which is that I was a wreck in the immediate aftermath. My husband worked for a defense contractor at the time (he was also only my boyfriend then) and I was worried for him. Not to mention all the general fears that come with an event like that. I spent hours of every day obsessively looking at websites, watching Peter Jennings (RIP) and generally just freaking out a little at a time. I know I'm not unique and I didn't lose anyone that day. Well, I did, but not to terrorists. My dad's stepmom died on 9/11. Cirrhosis finally killed her after years of being an alcoholic. Yeah, it was awkward to tell people that I had to take bereavement that week. Sure, it was sad that she died, but compared to how other people suffered that same day, well, it felt sort of pathetic.

9/11 is one of those days, like Pearl Harbor for our grandparents or the day JFK was shot for our parents, that people of our generation will forever remember. And this is the first year I've had a blog, so I've never really posted my story before. This will probably be the one and only time I do it because, like I said, I don't like to dwell on it too much. Similar to my last post, about the hope that lives inside The Hunger Games Trilogy, I like to live my life in a glass half full sort of way. And thinking about that awful day over and over again isn't what makes me remember. It's the people who survived, the people who endured, the people who stood up and didn't just take it.

But I have a story, so here it is.

It was my first official year out of college. Yes, if you know my life story or part of it, you know I was in college for a while, that I got two degrees. But 2001 was the year I started my first real job that used my degree. I was a peon, and I worked in Portland, so I had to deal with traffic on my way to work. I realized pretty quickly that if I went in for 8am, I always sat in traffic. Since I didn't have enough work to warrant early days, I usually pushed my schedule to 9am instead and skirted the worst of the rush hour.

But on 9/11/01, I went to work early. I was on a team that worked with a developer who planned to make a golf course out of a former landfill. This property happened to be across the river from Manhattan. We had a team on site doing soil testing. There were two staff people from our company's New Jersey office on site. One was on the drill rig, the other was at the office for our conference call. My co-worker, Gina and I, were sitting in the conference room with Jeff, discussing the project, when he said that Jennifer had just called from the rig and said a plane crashed into the World Trade Center. She'd actually been able to see it from where she sat. We were shocked, but it's NYC. If you've ever flown through that airspace, you know how crowded it is. We'd all flown through there, had all experienced the annoyance that came with sitting on the tarmac at Newark or had flight delays at JFK, LaGuardia or Philly. We thought, okay, a small plane hit the tower. Sucks, but it's bound to happen one of these days in that airspace. Gina was freaking a little, but only because she was due to leave on 9/13 for a trip to Italy. She'd be flying through New York to get there and you couldn't blame her for thinking, "Crap! I've got to get on a plane in a couple days in that area!" But we went on with our meeting and that was that.

In the time it took for us to finish that call and then have our discussion about the project, the second plane hit. I worked with a bunch of NPR junkies and they were actually listening on the radio, loud enough for everyone to hear, in the office around the cube wall from my desk. When I asked what they were discussing, everyone said that a plane had hit the WTC. I replied, "Yeah, Jennifer saw it hit. Freaky accident, huh?" No, people said, there was a second plane. "That wasn't an accident," I said. No, it was not.

From that moment on, I spent hours combing sites, trying desperately to learn what was happening. Everything was bogged down with internet traffic. The one place I could go? My soap opera message board. They were the only ones who could still post. People on the ground were relaying information, were helping the rest of us stuck at work, those of us who didn't have a radio or access to a TV.

I couldn't get in touch with my boyfriend. He worked, as I said, at a defense contractor and they were on lockdown. At the time, we didn't have cell phones. I didn't call him at work; if we talked, it was in the evening. It was the longest day of my life, at that point, as I waited for him to call me. Know what else I didn't have? Cable. Thank God for ABC News and the amazing Peter Jennings, because I couldn't have asked for a better way to hear the news. I still get tears in my eyes when I think about the emotion he conveyed while remaining calm. He felt it, the tragedy, along with all of us. And yet, like a loving parent, he helped soothe our fears while he gave us the truth.

That's what I remember about that day. It's what I always recall, the shock, the fear, the relief when I finally spoke to my beloved. That day changed our lives, changed the life of everyone we know. And it's important not to forget, to do our best to avoid the mistakes we made that led to that day and to work hard to teach our children how to make the world a better place, a place where things like 9/11 don't happen.

The biggest reason why I don't dwell on it? Because I'm a mother. And in order to function in this world, in order to be a parent, I can't sit around and be the girl who wallowed for days about the tragedy. Instead, I have to be the strong person who rises above it and lives my life. The girl who wallowed, that's what those people wanted. They wanted to tear us down. And I don't want to let them. So I don't dwell. I respect the rights of other people to observe the day however they wish. That's what we do in this country, we respect the rights of others. We promote freedom.

And I'm exercising my freedom to tell you all that this is probably the only thing you'll ever hear from me about 9/11. If I'm not re-tweeting your sentiments or sharing your images, it's not that I don't respect it or that I don't think it's important to remember. Like Valentine's Day, it's important to think about what the day means every day, not just the one day each year.

And so if you want to truly appreciate the magnitude of the event, visit the 9/11 Memorial. We did last year, with our children, before it was even complete, on a gorgeous, spring day. When you see the holes in the ground, when you contemplate the size of the buildings that went down that day and the number of lives taken from us, you'll get a real sense of the loss. It was humbling and powerful and I'd highly recommend going. I think you'll be glad you did. I know I am.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire...Are you ready?

Okay, first, I have to say that I'm probably going to post several blogs in a row, despite not having posted recently. It happens that way sometimes. And since this is my blog, I get to do it however I wish. We'll have a book review, because NetGalley provided me a book to read and then review. I've got a second one of those, but I'm not done with it yet, so that will come later. Also, I'll post a 9/11 bit. I know, that was a couple days ago. Sorry, I didn't want to write it then. When you read what I write, then you'll maybe understand why. And then here's this particular blog, which is about one of my favorite book series of all times, The Hunger Games Trilogy. So, without further ado...

It's starting! I'm getting #CatchingFire Fever! Keep seeing tweets on my feed and now they've announced that Julianne Moore is going to play President Coin in Mockingjay. After my subsequent reads, I grew to love the third book. But on first pass? Book #2 was my favorite. And there are SO many things that I can't wait to see how they (Francis Lawrence, Suzanne Collins, et al), handle them!

So, fellow Hunger Games fans, how about you? Did you watch the first movie? Will you see the second one in the theater? Is there anything you're eagerly anticipating?

Personally, I'm anxious to see how they handle the train scenes, the forcefield, the roof and, of course, the beach scene. And yes, I know that implies that all I care about is the romance. Hello, I'm a romance writer, it speaks to me. But the thing is, that when I read this series, what stood out most to me was the idea of hope. And I think that the movie makers saw that too - in the preview, Katniss has a non-book conversation with Prim where the youngest Everdeen says that she sees hope in people that didn't exist before the last games. This idea is the main thrust of the final paragraphs of the story as well as some of the most vivid scenes throughout the series: when all else is lost, if you have hope, you can overcome any obstacle.

And for Katniss, Peeta represents that idea of hope. He tosses her the bread and then she sees that dandelion and realizes her family doesn't have to starve because she can feed them. During training, he shows her that it's possible to maintain your true self, no matter what. In the arena, he saves her from Cato and then later tells her he's willing to sacrifice himself so that she can live, prompting her to choose to save them both. All of these things made it into the first movie and they were some of the pivotal scenes in the book, too.

So when I'm mentioning scenes that allude to the romance between Katniss and Peeta in the book, I'm also talking about scenes that directly address that need Katniss has, that we all have, to hold on to hope. And for her, Peeta has always represented it. First the bread, then the sacrifices in the arena, then the warnings in Mockingjay and finally, the bombing at the mansion (see how I mentioned this stuff without saying what happened? If you've read the books, you know but that doesn't really spoil anything). The very last thing is planting the bushes next to the house. Hope springs eternal, as it were, and Peeta IS that hope.

For anyone who doubts, because of the prominence of Liam Hemsworth in the previews and press, I can't see how they'd downplay the importance of Peeta in Katniss' life. There was never a love triangle in this series - sorry, Gale fans, he was always a red herring. From the moment Peeta tossed her that bread, she made her choice. It just takes the incident at the forcefield for her to see it herself. But I suspect that they'll show how torn she is, with wanting to believe that what happened in the arena and what happens on the tour are more than just the show and being afraid to have that hope. It's only once they announce the Quell that she makes a firm decision. I'm interested to see how much of what I read and saw in all of it is the same as what they'll portray. I have confidence in Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson. I know they can do this if the material is there. And why wouldn't it be?

Oh well, as I've told you all, I wrote a HUGE fanfic (no, I'm not planning to publish it. Ever.) and I'll always have Paris, er, my fanfic and my imagination. I'll still watch the films and I'm sure I'll still enjoy them. But this will be the real tipping point for me. If they can capture what I felt when I read Catching Fire, then I'll be sold. I'll have faith that they can do a stellar job with Mockingjay. And with Danny Strong writing for that, well, I think we're in for a wild ride!

But first, Catching Fire hits theaters on Novemeber 22, and I, for one, cannot wait! I'll have to give in and reread the trilogy soon enough. But I'm waiting. Because I remember. It consumed me for days last time. It will again. And then I'll have to read my fanfic. And maybe I'll write more ('cause it ain't done yet, baby!) and that will take away from the Ward Sisters Series. And yada, yada, yada. But oh, I can't wait for the night of November 22! Can't. Wait!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Print Version of Back to December, etc!

It's official! The print version of Back to December is available on Amazon. Now, just so you know, I don't make the big bucks on the list price. Really, that's mostly the printing costs. I'm just offering it because, well, it's cool to think I might be in print somewhere (and you know I'm buying one, right? Because I want to see ME on my bookshelf!) and there are still people out there who want to feel a book in their hands. Me, if I can save $ and a tree by purchasing the Kindle version of a book, then that's what I'll do.

Anyway, to celebrate the excitement of the print release, I'm offering the Kindle version for $0.99, a price that's now good through the end of Tuesday, September 3. I wasn't sure exactly when the print edition would be live, but since it made its debut sooner than I expected, you all benefit by getting an extension of the Labor Day weekend sale. Act now! The offer only lasts through tomorrow.

In related news, I'm working on several other parts of the series at once. I'm in-progress with edits for book 2, Only One. I've made a few changes that I think make the story flow better and that should improve other, less tangible things. I had an early reader indicate that they didn't much like Jenna, the heroine. Well, we can't have that. I'm not going to change her, just show a little more of her true character, which may not have been as evident before.

I'm also making some edits to book 3, Right Here Waiting. Some of what I'm doing is structural alterations that don't really affect the plot itself but transform how the plot unfolds for the reader. I can't wait for you to finally get a chance to read those stories! In due time.

As for writing, I've been a slave to the muse of Charlie Ward's story, Better Be Home Soon. For those of you who haven't already read Back to December (who are you people? Get on it! Just kidding. Sort of), Charlie is Emily's youngest sister. She gets married at the end of that story - not a spoiler, since, well it's not Charlie's journey. What, pray tell, could we have to learn about Charlie? She's married, right? She already had her epic romance off stage, already got her happy ending! I knew when I wrote Back to December that things would never be what they seemed. They aren't in real life, are they? But until I started writing her story, I had absolutely no clue what would really happen with Charlie and her husband Dan.

This story is the end of the series arc - if you're familiar with episodic TV, you know the concept. Each show has its own plot line and with serial programs, that story somehow fits inside a bigger concept for the season, then the season fits into the bigger story arc of the show itself. The Ward Sisters Series starts with Charlie's engagement, the moment that changed everything in Emily's life. Once I realized I had a series here, I knew that it would end with Charlie. Where it took me on the journey was an interesting surprise.

And I'm still learning new, unexpected things. I've said this before, I had an 'aha' moment when I read Stephen King's On Writing and he compared authoring a work of fiction to the role of an archaeologist. The writer chips away at the story, brushing the dust from their find, until eventually, the whole thing is exposed. Sometimes, you get what you expected. Other times, you make discoveries that you couldn't have imagined in a million years. Emily's story was pretty much exactly what I had expected it to be, aside from the fact that it spawned an entire series of stories in my mind. But so far, there have been some crazy (okay, maybe not crazy - unanticipated) plot threads exposed for the other characters. And when that happens, I'm often amazed and exceedingly pleased.

We've got a while before you'll get to hear Charlie's story. After all, there are currently 6 full-length novels and two novellas in progress (often nearly complete) in this series, plus Back to December. And Charlie's story is, as I said, the final chapter. I hope when all of this is said and done, you're all just as pleased with how it turns out as I am.

For now, here's an updated list of the stories, their order and the main characters in each:

Book 1, Back to December, Emily Ward and Rob Deacon (out now!)
Book 2, Only One, Liam Neely and Jenna Ackerman (coming this fall)
Book 3, Right Here Waiting, Meghan Miles and Neil Murphy (coming late 2013/early 2014)
Book 3.5 Why Buy the Cow? (or Buying the Cow), Eddie Besson, Reggie Reynolds and Jill Daigle
Book 4, This Year's Love, Annie Ward and Josh Ricker
Book 5, Just Realized, Nina Jacobs, Owen Nichols and Noah Adams
Book 6, Think of Me, Noah Adams and Catie Neely
Book 6.5, Tell Me What It Takes, Aaron Wallace and Ally Carmichael
Book 7, Better Be Home Soon, Charlie Ward, Dan Williams and Jack Armstrong