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This Book Will Be the Death of Me

via Unsplash

I’ve scrapped and restarted Cruising with the Blues, the fourth and final book in the South of Forever series, more times than I can count now. I don’t even want to think about how many thousands of words I’ve thrown out and how many outlines I’ve crumpled up because this damned book just isn’t working.

Sometimes that happens.

It’s super frustrating, especially when you can’t figure out why. It was driving me absolutely bonkers, and I was thinking about it so hard that I swear smoke was coming out of my ears. Being a chronic over-thinker is simultaneously one of my worst and best traits. I can get in so deep that I think myself all the way into a state of woe, or I can think my way out of a complex problem in seconds.

This time things started to go the woe way—until I started talking things out with my friends J.C. Hannigan and Molli Moran. I’ve noticed that I’m much more productive if I start thinking out loud with someone who will listen and let me bounce ideas off them. Both of these ladies are super good at that, and it didn’t take long until it dawned on me.

The reason I’ve been having so much trouble with SOF4 is because I’d strayed from my brand.

I write stories starring strong belles who chose a different path.

That’s my brand whether I’m writing YA or NA, romance or suspense—women who do things they aren’t supposed to, who are strong in many different ways. In each draft so far, Krista wasn’t conflicted about her path. When I compared it to the other books I’ve published, each of my heroines did something she wasn’t supposed to. I couldn’t find any place where Krista railed against her expectations of herself or someone else’s expectations of her. So I grabbed my book of writing ideas and scribbled down some questions.

What does Krista think she should do or is supposed to do? Which path does she take instead?

I’m still trying to find the answers to these questions—especially since I also “have to” wrap up the series with this book. In the meantime I’ve decided to put it aside and work on something else, rather than make myself crazy. I might realize that there might not even be a fourth book. At the end of What Happens on Tour, the band has defeated their rival and strengthened their bonds. They’re planning on organizing their own tour and continuing recording and playing. That’s a pretty good happy-for-now ending; I might need to let go of the idea that I “should” write a fourth book.

That’s the not so exciting part of the writing process. Sometimes you have to let things simmer on the back burner. Sometimes you think you know something, but then everything changes because art. The creative mind is a beautiful but mysterious thing. It can also be kind of a jerk.

Plus, let’s face it: I tend to put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself, rather than going with the flow or letting my instincts guide me. I tell myself I “should” do something, even when I don’t necessarily have to, and stubbornly cling to the idea until it dawns on me that I can let it go.

So, for now, I’ve decided to let the South of Forever series be. Things are stable enough that there’s no cliffhanger to resolve but I can also come back and write more books later if need be. In the meantime, I’m going to focus on some other projects.

Meet Amarie Locke

The first “vision” I ever had of Amarie was of her sitting by herself, chin in hands, tendrils of curly hair framing her face like a mane. In her eyes, though, danced pain and longing. I knew right away when I was writing Just One More Minute that Char and Amarie were going to get their own book, and that Amarie has Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD), like me.

Amarie, inspired by Angelic Zambrana

Age: 21

Occupation: Dunkin Donuts

High School: Kennedy High

College: Naugatuck Valley Community College

This is the college where I got my A.S. degree in web design. Amarie is in their Early Childhood Education (ECE) program. It’s convenient for her because NVCC has a childcare center for parents, meaning that she gets hands-on experience right on campus. She’s also been able to keep up with her classes… so far.

Car: blue 2015 Hyundai Accent hatchback

This car is freakin’ cute, and I feel like it fits Amarie perfectly. It’s royal blue and very compact, but quietly powerful. That thing can fly if you let it!

Wants: to be a pre-school teacher

Fears: her disease rending her completely bedridden

This book is #OwnVoices mostly because this is my fear. My UCTD can get pretty aggressive if untreated, and currently Amarie is still searching for a doctor who will listen to and treat her. Everything that I went through in the past decade was such a nightmare, and it’s important to me to share that experience. There are so many facets to being a chronic pain patient: living with the actual illness and its debilitating symptoms, trying to get a diagnosis and treatment from doctors who won’t listen, dealing with people’s looks when you’re using a cane but don’t “look” sick… I could go on but I plan on pouring all of that into this book.

It’s also #OwnVoices because Amarie is bisexual. In Just One More Minute, she’s dating Matt’s friend Lucas. Unlike me, she knows what her sexuality is but hasn’t had time to explore it; she’s been so sick that she hasn’t exactly had time for dating, never mind dealing with yet more looks and questions that she hasn’t really been able to answer for herself. It’s especially difficult being bisexual because society wants you to fit into a neat package and, well, you don’t when you’re bi—at least, according to their rules.

Despite the difficulties that Amarie and Char face, my goal is to keep the tone of Any Other Love just as light as Just One More Minute—with, of course, steamy sex. I’m so excited to write this book, I kind of want to drop my entire life in order to do it. These two have been chattering away in my head for over a year now, and I can’t wait to share their story with you.

What do you think of Amarie? Are you excited for Any Other Love? Let me know in the comments!

You can also go meet Char.

Meet Charlotte Butler

I’ll be starting my f/f contemporary romance Any Other Love pretty soon, and since I’m in the pre-writing stage, I thought I’d share some tidbits with you. You might remember teal-haired, bouncy Char from Just One More Minute. She and Rowan run into each other in the grocery store and it’s BFF love at first sight. Here are some fun facts about Char!

Char, inspired by Frances Bean Cobain

Age: 21

Occupation: short order cook at The 545

Fun fact, The 545 is based on a lounge in my own small town. It was creatively named The Lounge, and for years it was the place to go. I never actually set foot in there—mostly because my thing was karaoke—but my sister went a few times. It closed a couple years ago and it’s been empty ever since.

High School: Kaynor Tech

Since these books are set in the town I live in, I had to include my high school. It’s a technical school, meaning you get a dual education. When you graduate, you receive your high school diploma and usually certification in a trade. My trade—and Charlotte’s—was culinary arts. Out of high school, I could have worked at any restaurant or gone on to culinary school, but I decided it wasn’t for me. Charlotte, however, loves cooking and found her place at The 545… for now.

College: N/A

Car: green 1998 Pontiac Sunfire

Oh, how I miss my Sunfire. It bit the dust several years ago, suddenly and painfully. It lives on in these books. 😥

Wants: to open her own restaurant in NYC

Fears: being stuck in intolerant Greater Waterbury for the rest of her life

She also has a major crush on Amarie, who she met during a camping trip with Rowan and Matt in Just One More Minute. There’s just a teeny problem: Amarie is dating Matt’s friend Lucas, and doesn’t seem to be into girls.

Char is always dying her hair in “crazy” colors, and is usually pretty upbeat and bouncy. It’s interesting, because when I was in high school it wasn’t considered cool to dye your hair unnatural colors. You were automatically labeled goth or punk, and were considered weird. Now everyone dyes their hair all kinds of colors. Man, how things have changed!

What do you think of Char? Are you excited for Any Other Love? Let me know in the comments!