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Did you see the subject line for this post? Well, if that isn’t a dream come true, I don’t know what is.
It’s the annual event of events: The Summer Reading Trek. If you are looking for the perfect excuse to spend the entire month of July reading (and maybe you don’t even need an excuse, but I do), here it is! This one’s for you!
I’ll probably be posting more about this soon!
I’m so excited about this. My friend CJ Anaya and I are heading to the hot, hot desert (okay, we already live in one, but this one is even hotter) for a workshop in Phoenix to learn from one of the greats–Dave Wolverton, the mind behind mystorydoctor.com. I’ve read his books, watched his vlogs, taken lots of his advice over the years, followed him on social media, and now I get to meet him in person and possibly even ask him some questions about my own work. How awesome is that?
A huge shout out of thanks to CJ for being willing to drop everything at the last minute to go with me. And another huge thank you to my family for being willing to say see ya later to me for a couple of days. THANK YOU! It’s great to have a family that supports my little dream of being a writer.
I’ll let you all know how it goes. And here’s hoping my writing improves VASTLY by paying close attention to the tips Mr. Wolverton teaches us. I’m always hoping and working to improve my skills, even if the result is just making that Cotton Candy for the Soul a little more flavorful.
I have always thought it was odd when people have asked me about my writing process. I guess in my head the answer is along the lines of, “Well, I sit down in a comfy spot with my laptop, minimize distractions, and then type whatever comes into my head, which is (I always hope) a story. Then I edit it a lot.”
That’s been the deep dark secret of my writing process for years–at least as far as I’d ever analyzed it.
But then as I started the next installment (Book 4) of the Legally in Love series, I realized I had jumped the gun and wasn’t doing something right so I couldn’t get the story to work. Yet.
This made me think, hey. There actually IS a method here–at least for this particular series.
So, here’s what I realized it is.
1) Title of the Series
Knowing the title of the series has been the anchor for all the themes of the books. Yeah, the first two are about two competing lawyers who happen to have chemistry, and the third is more about two students skirting the law for personal gain (and love!), but the LAW is the theme that ties them together. That’s in place for the fourth book, as well.
2) Title of the Book
Not everyone can start with a title. It’s not really a tried and true method. With one of my books I started with a setting (BIG IN JAPAN). With another I started with a character (A LITTLE SISTERLY ADVICE). In another book, I knew the plot because I was doing an Austen adaptation (CHOCOLATE AND CONVERSATION.) With another, I had a really cool concept (for a book I’m not ready to release yet, but someday!) But with all the books in this legal series, the titles have been the catalyst for the plot. They’re all legal phrases, and that’s the same for Book 4, 5, and 6. (And 7, if I get that far.)
3) Cover Photo
With all these books, I’ve found it impossible to even start the storytelling until I found just the right cover. I couldn’t even get names or character types until I saw the faces of the characters. This was what tripped me up with writing Book 4–I didn’t have a cover photo picked. Well, I did, but it wasn’t working. So now that I spent nearly the whole writing day on Wednesday trolling for the right cover models, I’m feeling ready to proceed! Yay!
4) Characters’ Backgrounds
Knowing who the people ARE is more important than knowing what is going to happen to them. Because it doesn’t matter what happens to them so much as exploring how they’ll react to any given circumstance. I kind of have the setup for Book 4, but until I know who the characters are, I won’t have any idea for the plot. Consider: the story of a nuclear meltdown would play out much differently for Anne of Green Gables than for Oscar the Grouch.
5) The Setting
Figuring out where the story can take place has been a huge hurdle. Once I had the cover photo in place, I could tell where the book could happen. Sometimes in a story, the setting is almost as much a character in the book as the characters themselves. The setting can shape the action greatly, including some of the conflict involved in the story. You can’t have a hurricane be one of the challenges if you set the story in Arizona. But you can have a dust storm. So…yeah. I’m excited to have my cover photo, as it gave me a sense of where my story could happen, and now I’ve nearly nailed it down and am doing research on the location so I can get all the culture and history and sense of place correct. (I *so* hope to do it justice. It’s a beautiful place!)
6) The Plot
Yes! Now that I have all the other elements in place, I can figure out what is going to happen to these people in this place when they’re placed in these circumstances. It’s much easier to imagine alllll the things that can go wrong with their love–before their ultimate happy ending. That is NOT a plot spoiler. I only write happy endings; it’s my life view that we are all going to end happily, if we just latch onto goodness and put the most important things first in our lives. And I try to have my characters do that, even if they make mistakes along the way.
7) Writing, Editing, Publishing
Yeah, that’s all a ton of work. And some of it is pretty tough! But the end product is almost always something I can feel happy about. There’s a sense of accomplishment in creating something, even if it’s just the literary equivalent of a spun sugar dessert.
So, there you have it. Secrets revealed! I hope now to be able to find time in among the crazy demands of life to get Book 4 cranked out–soon!
I am in love. SO in love. Yes, with my husband (who is the very best man I could imagine and the prototype for pretty much every hero I’ve ever written into a book), but also with another. This other love is dangerous, and comforting, and helps me sleep better at night. I’m telling you, this newfound love has changed my life.
It’s my Kindle Paperwhite.
My husband surprised me for my birthday with the original Kindle a few years ago, and I liked it, mostly, other than I couldn’t read it at night without the light on, and my husband needed the light off to sleep, yada, yada– until I made the mistake of letting my kids borrow it, and they set it conveniently on the floor underneath one of the wheels of the rolling office chair. Crack. Gone.
This was sad. Very sad.
So my husband surprised me a few months later (also for my birthday) with a Nexus 7, which is a tablet made by Google, in case you don’t know. It had a Kindle app, which was all fine and good, but I’ll admit, I was a little like that “Oh, look! A squirrel!” stereotype, and every time I’d turn on my device to read a book, the Nexus would make a little bell go off to tell me something interesting was happening on Facebook or that someone had sent me an email or liked my tweet, and boom, I’d forget about the book I was reading. (No, I’m not proud of my attention span, in case you’re wondering.)
Eventually I just stopped trying to read on that thing since, frankly, it was guilt-inducing.
Around this time, I developed some insomnia. Anyone who has dealt with it knows what I mean. Let’s just say it’s not awesome to awaken in an already too-short night only to be bombarded with thoughts of worries and not be able to shut off the brain and to lie there obsessing hour after hour, night after night, until you think you might die of tired.
So my first love (Gary) birthday surprised me yet again–this time with the Kindle Paperwhite. VOILA! Suddenly, the world started to look rosy. For one thing, I could turn it onto airplane mode and never have the internet distracting me. (In fact, I’ve never used it for anything online other than synching new books I’ve added to it.) Guiltless! For another, it has an adjustable backlighting. I can read it in full daylight, and I can crank down the backlight and read it on a super-dim setting at bedtime so it doesn’t distract my One True Love from his sleep. And best of all, I can load it with THE MOST MIND-NUMBING BOOKS OF ALL TIME (in addition to some exciting books) to help me fall asleep again when that little nudge of wakefulness used to turn into full-blown anxiety for the remainder of the night. Now, thanks to the Kindle Paperwhite, all I have to do is slide my little love out from under my pillow, run my finger across the page to load Anthony Trollope’s “Golden Lion of Grandpere,” and boom! Six pages later, I’m snoozing again.
Magic! Magical magic. Magically magical magic that has turned me from a woman with dark circles under the bags under my eyes and a gaunt, scared animal look about me most of the time into a rested, refreshed mother with much more normal and pleasant interactions with my kids.
I’m telling you, I love this thing.
Now, for the danger. A Kindle Paperwhite combined with a Book Bub daily email can be a dangerous thing. Every day Book Bub tempts me with amazing, incredible deals on books they are *sure* I’ll like. (And they’re right, since I’m the one who signed up under the genres I’m most interested in.) Just 99-cents for a book about the life of Cary Grant? Yes, please. So many incredible, well-reviewed books for so little money! I’m in heaven, I tell you. (If you’re a reader who likes fluffy, happy romance such as Cotton Candy for the Soul and want to follow me on Book Bub, be my guest.) I’m loving it even more. It has deepened my love affair to a true commitment level. I’m at the point where I can barely relax at night if I can’t reach my hand underneath to the cool side of the pillow to find my insomnia cure there, waiting for me with its healing pages and adjustable font size.
Bless you, little Kindle Paperwhite. You’ve made my life so sweet.
And an even bigger dose of love to my sweet husband for surprising me with the perfect gift. So glad he doesn’t mind sharing his bed with this other love.
Last week I had an amazing opportunity! An English Lit class taught at Arizona State University had read Big in Japan as part of their curriculum, and the professor, Lynette Austin, invited me to come and give a little writing workshop and talk to the students. HOW AMAZING! Honestly, as a writer of Cotton Candy for the Soul, I never imagined a chance like this on a university level.
First, I gave a workshop on using archetypes to help readers connect with characters. The students were quite adept at pointing out archetypes in great fiction and movies, and that was fun to hear how quickly they warmed to the topic. They were great.
Then, the professor had them give responses to BIG IN JAPAN, what they’d written in their papers after having read the book. Some wrote about the archetypes present in the story. Others wrote about the culture. One girl talked about Buck Cooper as “Other” — first as “exotic other,” and then as “demonic other” for his counterparts in the book. Fascinating. Frankly, it’s been a long, long time since I was doing literary analysis, so it blew my mind. I was just nodding and going, “Whoa.” Probably looked like a dork. But in another way, it was so cool! Was all that really in a book I wrote? Yes, I did write some of it in there on purpose, and it’s definitely a book I put enormous effort into, but the responses were so amazing to me.
I want to thank the students for reading BIG IN JAPAN, and I want to thank Lynette for choosing it as her curriculum and for inviting me to be part of her class. It was one of the coolest days I’ve spent as a writer.
Domo arigato! (Now you’re filling in the blanks with “Mr. Roboto.” Sorry.)
After over a year of what I might term “relentless stress,” we took a family vacation. As a mom, I wouldn’t say I look forward to a family vacation most of the time because they usually entail doing all the stuff you have to do at home but without the conveniences of home–taking care of kids’ needs and meals and laundry and entertaining the kids, etc., but while living out of a suitcase. We haven’t really done much in the way of family vacations ever (other than visiting relatives. Does that count? Kinda not.) About seven years ago we took our kids to California, but while we were at Disneyland, some of the kids cried a little saying they wished they were at Grandma’s house with the baby kittens instead. So, yeah. Why bother with Space Mountain, right? (Even though I adore the Magic Kingdom.)
But this year our oldest graduates, and then he will leave for two years to be a missionary, and then he’ll start college, at which point the next one will leave for two years, and, so on and so forth, and some of them will (we hope!) get married, and then…well, our family dynamic and configuration might never be the same again. We needed to do something to create a family memory. We needed a vacation.
So we threw caution to the wind, figured out a frequent-flyer-miles scheme, took up a friend’s offer for a beach house, and went to Hawaii. HAWAII, people. Hawaii. I never in a million years thought we could take five children to Hawaii. But with God’s grace, we were able to make it happen: a visit to paradise on earth.
Normally, I’d be a stress case about this: what to do, where to go, when to go there, how to entertain five kids on an island…but after minimal looks at Volcanoes National Park, a general map of the area in my head, and certainly zero time to plan (due to aforementioned “relentless stress), we just got on the plane.
GLORIOUS. That’s the only word I can think of right now to describe the trip.
And for the first time in over a year, I didn’t have any stress. I just absolutely decompressed. Now that we have three teens and two tweens, no one needed much in the way of mom attention. All I did was cook meals, which is…whatever. No problem. We walked to the beach, watched the dolphins jumping in the bay, listened to the waves day and night, drove to the volcano and saw the glow of the caldera, drove up another volcano to 13,000 feet and watched the sun set through the blanket of clouds, sat on another beach, went to church, went to a historical site, ate macadamia nuts, and did nothing.
I’m telling you, it was incredible. And while I was there, I realized that a lot of the things I’d been overstressing about were, frankly, unnecessary. I had been doing everything I possibly could. For everyone. For everything. But that isn’t always the right thing. Sometimes I just need to do what’s necessary, and not everything that’s possible. Does that make sense?
Coming home, I was immediately bombarded with the usual stuff, but instead of letting it take over again, I just pulled back. I had a friend remind me that I need to evaluate “where am I irreplaceable” and then do *those* things. Not EVERYTHING. And it’s okay. Other people can take those responsibilities for now, or the duties can wait.
Since I’ve been back, I’ve done things at my house that were waiting for a long time. Filing that hadn’t been done since 2014. Mopping my floor for the first time since Christmas. Writing letters to my family members far away. Cooking normal meals for my family and standing in the kitchen to listen to my kids. Helping my husband with a major project he’s involved in where he needs my support. I even took one nap.
What I haven’t done? Write a single word in a manuscript. Promote my novels other than a tweet or two. Spend any time on social media or even answer emails (sorry, email friends!). Start up a single fundraiser for a good cause (unlike several I spearheaded earlier this year.) Stuff like that. Stuff that felt like if I didn’t do it I’d be a terrible person. Yes, I still have people to visit, friends to try to lift and support, but I’ve had to do most of that remotely instead of traveling to them for now.
A couple of months ago, my husband said the most romantic thing he’s maybe ever said to me: “Jen, your mental health is important to me.” Ha, ha, ha. But it was so touching. And true!
So, for a bit, I’m concentrating on the now, on the moment, on the family, on the sanity.
I’ll let myself go insanely obsessed over writing again, most likely. But it’s good to have seasons for things in our lives. Sometimes it takes a trip to an island to get our minds redirected to what’s really important, and I’m incredibly grateful for the blessing going on that trip gave me. I hope everyone who is as snowed under and stressed out as I am/was can find their island to get their bearings. Because all we have are moments. All we have is now. It won’t, actually, ever be the same again.
I can’t get enough of these Goodreads giveaways! They are so awesome! And with the great response LEGALLY WEDDED has received, I’m just thrilled. It’s been at #2 on Amazon’s hot new releases (legal) since its release. Can you believe it? Neither can I. SOooooOOoo, anyway, it’s time to win your free copy! Sign up, share with your friends!
This past few weeks has been one continuous round of wild rides. Everything from family surgery to being in charge of fundraisers (that’s plural, fundraiserz) to politics to a book releasing to meetings-a-go-go to missionary discussions to two extremely exciting new opportunities to a busted pipe in a field to mission papers to an Eagle project and its accompanying papers (believe me, those are plural) to … you name it, it’s been on our calendar.
Except pulling weeds. That hasn’t been on our calendar. (Hey, this is Arizona, we have weeds year-round.)
Some seasons are just like that.
And to top it all off, I’m on a diet. WHY must we diet? Why can’t we just burn calories by experiencing stress? Shouldn’t worrying be a form of physical exercise? I mean, I know it wears me out. Why do I also have to subsist on Wheat Thins (not a bad thing, since they’re DELICIOUS, as long as they are the name brand, not the store brand) and whatever “they” define as a “handful” of almonds. Believe me, it’s possible to get a lot of almonds in my hand when I’m feeling like I’m starving.
However, I was thinking about something my father-in-law said the other night about signing up for this life. “I didn’t sign up for ease. I signed up for experience. And believe you me, I am getting it. In spades.”
There aren’t any of these experiences hitting us this past month or so I’d trade. I want them all. Even the less-pleasant ones, I can look back on with fondness, eventually, and with gratitude–either for what I learned, or simply that with God’s help we survived.
Right now I’m looking at this particular week with a boatload of gratitude. A whole heckuva lot of friends and family and kind people came to my support for the release of my most recent book, and I just felt showered with all the kindness and encouragement. I know I’m not some magically wonderful writer, and that maybe only one or two of my books out of a dozen may be worth reading. I hope I’m improving–and I just feel thankful to everyone who has encouraged me to keep trying along the way. I wish I could share my box of Wheat Thins with all of you.
On February 2nd, launch day for LEGALLY WEDDED, I’m excited to give you a fantastic deal!
For just two days, I’ll be offering Legally Wedded for 99-cents. That’s the lowest price I’ve ever offered a full-length novel. But wait, there’s MORE! If you order Legally Wedded, will send you a kindle file of this amazing, hilarious new novel by CJ Anaya, MARRY YOUR BILLIONAIRE. Yay!
Marry Your Billionaire won’t release until March 2nd, so this is an exclusive sneak-peek. Awesome! I’ve read it, and I’m telling you, you don’t want to miss this romantic romp into reality TV.
2. Copy and paste your confirmation/order# into an email with the subject line “Legally Wedded Purchased” and send it to email@example.com.
3. Check your email! You’ll receive a Kindle (or epub) copy of Marry Your Billionaire. Easy peasy lemon cheesy! Free book!
Morgan Clark is desperate. With just her senior year to go at Clarendon College and her scholarship up in smoke, she suddenly finds she can’t qualify for financial aid. Until Morgan finishes and can work full time to pay their rent, her sister can’t even start school.
Josh Hyatt is desperate. Without his degree from Clarendon he won’t be able to join his girlfriend in their dream career which she’s already begun, and he can’t qualify for government grants thanks to his estranged father’s interference.
Morgan, meet Josh. Josh, meet Morgan. Are they desperate enough to get legally wedded?
Get wrapped up in the knots Morgan and Josh create for themselves in this marriage of convenience story with legal and emotional consequences. Legally Wedded is the third installment in bestselling romantic comedy author Jennifer Griffith’s Legally in Love series, following Attractive Nuisance and Asked & Answered, all of which are standalone stories full of romance and comedy and legal attraction.
MARRY YOUR BILLIONAIRE
Six years ago, Midge Knightly walked away from her trust fund, her Hollywood producer father, and the expectation that she would join the family business. Avoiding handsome playboys with hidden agendas was just an added bonus. Now one semester shy of graduation, she is shocked to discover her scholarship has lost its funding.
Her estranged father is having problems of his own. A contestant on his latest reality TV series has cancelled two months before shooting. His solution? Midge gets her trust fund back if she stands in as a potential marriage candidate for the dating series Marry Your Billionaire. Twenty women competing for one arrogant guy. Not Midge’s cup of tea.
Agreeing to this proposition sucks her back into the world she happily broke ties from, but no trust fund equals no college degree. Brody Prescott, CEO and owner of an online dating company, has recently been pegged as a heartless playboy-among other things-by a disgruntled female after a disappointing date.
His solution? Become the first bachelor on Marry Your Billionaire and hope that one of the contestants holds some potential. So what is he supposed to do when the woman who intrigues him the most wants to be eliminated?
Marry Your Billionaire is a fun, romantic romp set against the backdrop of reality TV. Throw on your PJ’s, grab some chocolate and popcorn, and settle in for an entertaining love story.
To celebrate the release of LEGALLY WEDDED, there’s a massive giveaway going on. Enter to win ALL THREE books in the Legally in Love series, and be among the first to read LEGALLY WEDDED, a super fun romance that will keep you glued to your book. Enter! Tell your friends! Win!