The Long View (A Reason Why Passion is Never Wasted in a Book: A Post for Writers)

Nothing in this life lasts forever. Books that are huge sellers today won’t stay up on those charts forever. Sooner or later, the books will lose momentum and come back down. Yes, there are books that have survived over the centuries, but the fame and money made on those books don’t directly benefit the author anymore because the author is longer here.

I don’t say all of this to be depressing. I say it to put things in perspective.

Life is short. Some people live longer than others, but sooner or later, we leave this life and go to the next one. We don’t get to take our books with us. As I once heard Denzel Washington say in a speech, “There is no U-haul following a hearse.”

So, this poses an important question: “What do you want to do with your life?”

None of us get to repeat anything we’ll ever say and do. So, the question is, what do you want to see when you look back on your life?

A good exercise, if you’re inspired to do this, is to sit down and review your life up to this point. Is there anything you wish you had done? Is there anything you wish you hadn’t wasted time on? What would you change if you could? I do this exercise once in a while to evaluate my priorities because my goal is to end up with as little regrets as possible.

The downside to writing to market is that you’re writing what other people want you to write. Maybe your goal is to make a six-figure income, or you’re seeking the praise and acclaim of other people. All of these are external goals, and they depend on someone else to make you happy. If you don’t reach these goals, you feel like a failure. This path doesn’t lead to lasting contentment with life. I know because I was once in that situation. If you aren’t already happy within yourself, you won’t be happy no matter how much you make or how many awards you have. It might seem like these authors making a six-figure income and winning awards are living the best life ever, but how happy are they when no one is looking?

The day I walked away from writing to market was the day I found real happiness, and that happiness doesn’t go away.

When you write what’s in your heart, you get a sense of satisfaction when you reread your books. I have yet to write a book from passion where I judged its merit on how much money it earned me. Long after the books have reached their peak in sales, the thing that matters most is how much enjoyment the books bring me on an internal level. The value lies in the content of the story.

I don’t see how a book can truly satisfy an author in the long run if the the author wrote a story tailored to someone else’s preferences. In the back of the author’s mind, they would know this wasn’t really “their” story; it was someone else’s story. In the back of the author’s mind would be the thought, “This story could have been better if I had written it my way.”

Years ago, I remember reading about an author who said he only read his book one time, and that was when he wrote it. After he wrote it, he never read it again. He didn’t say why he never read it again, but I bet I know the answer. He didn’t love the story. An author who loves their story will read it after it’s published. They’ll want to because it came from a place of passion. But if an author doesn’t give a crap about the book because they only wrote it for money or some kind of fame, there’s no emotional attachment to it. It’s just a widget on an assembly line to get out there as fast as possible. To me, that’s sad. What’s the point of writing something you don’t develop an attachment to? These are your characters. This is your world. You, of all people, should enjoy all of it.

So, how do you want to spend your time? Even 100+ years is short. I have yet to hear someone in their 80s or 90s tell me that they lived way too long. They tell me that life isn’t long enough. They all want more time. Deep down, we all want more time. It’s how we’re wired.

But what do we want to do with that time? While we are in today and can do something, what is it that will give our lives meaning? What will give us a sense of purpose so we don’t end up feeling like we wasted our years away? Your answer(s) will guide you in the direction that will allow you to go to your deathbed without a long list of regrets.

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Omaha Series Trivia

Today, I’m discussing one of the few series I’ve ever done featuring characters in a contemporary setting. Once I discovered how much fun Regencies were, I stopped writing contemporaries, though I did originally have more contemporaries in mind.

with this ring i thee dread ebook cover with black border  what nathan wants  Just Good Friends new ebook   

With This Ring I Thee Dread

1. I wrote this after I wrote Falling In Love With Her Husband, An Inconvenient Marriage, and Eye of the Beholder in 2008. I thought I’d take a break from historicals and try something contemporary.

2. One of the bases my husband and I were stationed at while in the military was in Alaska, and I really enjoyed the three years we spent there. Since I wanted to go back (and physically couldn’t due to us being stationed in Nebraska at the time), I decided to make Alaska the focal point of this book. That was my way of revisiting the state.

3. In my head, the song that Ryan and Jacob used for their Intensity cologne commercial was “That’s the Way” by the Spin Doctors.

4. I decided Elizabeth would be an occupational psychologist because I found out about that division in Psychology while getting my degree. Had I pursued Psychology, though, I would have done Counseling. My real dream was to write books and be a stay-at-home mom. I went to college because, at the time, I didn’t know anyone who was going to give me the MRS degree. 😉

5. The idea for the bear was based on the many nightmares my husband had while in Alaska that a bear would find its way into our bathroom.

6. I decided to do a “man and woman switching roles” setup because one of my favorite I Love Lucy episodes was when Lucy and Ethel switched roles with Ricky and Fred.

What Nathan Wants Trivia

1. The cover was done by Bonnie Steffens, a very lovely person I’ve had the fortune of meeting.

2. At the time I wrote this book, I was living just south of Omaha. I used to go by a large building when I drove to downtown Omaha. I don’t remember what this business was, but I liked the look of the building so much that I decided to make it the building where Nathan worked.

3. I picked a travel agent for Amy’s occupation because of the kind travel agents who helped me find reasonably priced tickets when I used to fly twice a year from North Dakota to Florida to visit my family.

4. I picked the Florida panhandle as the location for Amy’s family because I lived there for a few years (high school and college) and was familiar with the area. I went to the Emerald Coast beaches quite a bit in the past. While Florida is beautiful, I don’t miss the hurricanes at all. I’ve been through two, and that’s enough. I’d rather deal with snow.

5. Amy’s car is named after my favorite cartoon dog of all time: Snoopy.

6. Danielle is named after a good friend I had in high school. She and Amy share the kind of friendship we did, which brings me good memories even to this day.

Just Good Friends

1. I wrote this a few years after finishing up With This Ring I Thee Dread and What Nathan Wants. One day while I was going over What Nathan Wants, I thought that I needed to just sit down and write Tyler’s romance.

2. One of my readers at the time wanted to see Tyler in a scene at a pool where it turned out he had a lot of muscles, thereby shocking everyone since he came off as a nerd with his clothes on. So that’s why I added the pool scene.

3. I opted for the plot where Tyler and Tiffany pretended to be married because of a book I had read years earlier. While portions of the book were cute, the author kept going on and on about how wrong lying was, and this got to be annoying by the ¾ point where I stopped reading it. I liked the plot and decided to run with it, but I wrote it from the angle I wished the other book had gone. (Quite a few stories I write are inspired by the “I wish a book or movie had gone this way instead” idea.)

4. The dynamics within Tiffany’s family were partly inspired by real life on my husband’s side.

5.  I opted for the elopement because my husband and I had debated whether to run off to Las Vegas to elope or have a courthouse wedding. In the end, we went with the courthouse, but, looking back, I wish we had just eloped since it would have been a lot more fun.

6. I decided to set this book around Christmas since I hadn’t done a Christmas romance up to that point. I thought it’d be fun to do something different.

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Figuring Out The Cursed Earl

I’m 26,000 words into this now, which puts me at Chapter 9. (My books typically end around Chapter 20, give or take a couple of chapters.) So that gives you an idea of how far along I am. Pacing is nice and steady, and things are finally rolling along after my dry spell.

I went into this book not knowing if Algernon, the hero, was merely being superstitious about bad luck or if there was a rational reason for the curse that makes him believe he’ll die on his 25th birthday. At first, I suspected that a certain character was behind the “curse”. I thought perhaps a character was intentionally scaring Algernon. By now, I know this character isn’t the culprit. This character is Algernon’s friend. But this leaves me with a piece of the puzzle I have yet to figure out. Someone is behind all of this. I don’t know who it is. I need to keep writing to find out.

What I do know is that Charles Duff (the hero in A Perilous Marriage who was also the overreacting brother in Kidnapping the Viscount) will pin the blame on the wrong person. Charles’ instincts about people tend to be wrong. He’s well meaning, but he doesn’t know what to look for. He tends to act first and think later. This hasn’t changed after A Perilous Marriage, though one might think so since he was so wrong about Eris being a killer AND he was wrong about Gill (Lord Powell) being forced to be Heather’s captive. But he hasn’t learned his lesson. When I think of how often Charles is wrong, it actually makes me laugh. (I have a weird sense of humor.) But Charles means well. He’s just not was good as figuring things out as he thinks he is.

Fortunately, there is a character I introduced in A Perilous Marriage who is good at piecing things together. That is Eris’ brother, Byron, who is a Runner. I’m going to end up needing Byron to get to the bottom of what is going on with Algernon.

This is what makes writing by the seat of my pants so much fun. I don’t know certain things until I’m able to work through a particular character. I’m sure the plotters out there don’t get why I don’t know what is going to happen or how I need a certain character to put the pieces together, but it’s how my brain works. I’ve been working this way ever since I was a teenager, and so far, it’s worked out every time. If I were to tell the characters what to do, it wouldn’t work. I need them to tell me what to do. (Yeah, I realize I’m actually the one writing, but some things are done on a subconscious level which is why I can’t plot this stuff out.)

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