Take the Lead is here!

take the lead alexis daria

This is a big day for me—the debut of my first book! If you’ve been watching this space, you’ll know this has been something I’ve been working toward for a while. I recently wrote about my evolution as a writer over on the RWchat blog, and I talked about my publishing journey over at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood. Still, it’s weird to think that a year ago, I had three chapters of a story I was excited about, and now, finally, Take the Lead is out in the world! More info below!

 

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TAKE THE LEAD, the debut contemporary romance from 2017 Golden Heart finalist Alexis Daria, is out now! The first in a sizzling new series about finding love on and off the dance floor.

 

Gina Morales wants to win. It’s her fifth season on The Dance Off, a top-rated network TV celebrity dance competition, and she’s never even made it to the finals. When she meets her latest partner, she sees her chance. He’s handsome, rippling with muscles, and he stars on the popular Alaskan wilderness reality show Living Wild. With his sexy physique and name recognition, she thinks he’s her ticket to the finals—until she realizes they’re being set up.

 

Stone Nielson hates Los Angeles, he hates reality TV, and he hates that fact that he had to join the cast of the The Dance Off because of family obligations. He can’t wait to get back to Alaska, but he also can’t deny his growing attraction to his bubbly Puerto Rican dance partner. Neither of them are looking for romantic entanglements, and Stone can’t risk revealing his secrets, but as they heat up the dance floor, it’s only a matter of time until he feels an overwhelming urge to take the lead.

 

When the tabloids catch on to their developing romance, the spotlight threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their careers and their shot at the trophy. Gina and Stone will have to decide if their priorities lie with fame, fortune, or the chance at a future together.

Using a Bullet Journal for Revisions

(Originally posted in the RWA-NYC Keynotes April newsletter. Reposting here by popular demand.)

IMG_7175In mid-December, I decided to enter the Golden Heart® contest. The deadline was January 11th. On December 14th, I had a 100,000-word first draft and the holidays were approaching. If I was going to do this, I needed a plan.

One friend had recently shown me her bullet journal, and I knew of another author, C.L. Polk (author of Witchmark, coming 2018 from Tor.com), who uses journaling to develop new story ideas. My background is in art, so there’s always something appealing to me about working on paper. I wanted to try using a bullet journal to help me revise and edit my novel in four weeks. Inspired, I grabbed one of my many spare notebooks, a 24-pack of Paper Mate Flair felt-tip pens, and a ruler, and got to work.

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11 Ways For Writers to Prepare for Publication

Fourteen months passed from the moment I decided my manuscript was ready to go out on query to when I signed with my agent and accepted an offer of publication (on a different manuscript). I don’t even want to speculate on how often I checked my email during that time, but it was a lot. Common wisdom suggests writing the next book while you wait, and I did. In fact, I completed a full-length novel, a novella, and a short story. (Not to mention all the other projects I outlined, plus two failed revisions.) But there’s more you can do.

If you’re seeking a traditional publishing path and lit agent representation, it can sometimes feel like everything is out of your control. You’re sending queries out into the void, hoping they’ll boomerang back with an offer attached. And in the meantime…you wait. But while you wait, there are a few things you can do to prep for representation and publication, and make yourself stand out as an ideal client.

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1. Learn to write to deadline.

It’s invaluable to know how you write before you publish. Know what works for you and what doesn’t. Know how much you can comfortably write in a day, a week, a month. This will help you know which deadlines are feasible and which aren’t. (For example, before I signed, I said I didn’t want crazy deadlines. But then I took on some tight deadlines because the release date payoff would lead to great promo, and because I knew how quickly I could write a full first draft.) Know your output stats, and learn to write to a deadline. I offer some tips for writing fast and writing a lot in my previous post

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Writing Tips & Tricks for Crushing Word Count Goals

For the first time ever, I’m on deadline, so I’m putting everything I’ve learned about writing fast and writing a lot to the test. In June 2017, I wrote 22 days out of the month and added 62,298 words to the Project Roommates manuscript before hitting “The End” on June 30th. Since a few people have commented on my word counts, rather than blaming it on “desperation” and discounting all the research and work I’ve put into learning how to increase my output, I made a list of tools, suggestions, and resources to share.

As with all writing advice, take what works for you and junk the rest.

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Know your best writing time

For me, that’s early mornings. It’s quiet. No emails. Noisy kids upstairs aren’t up yet. By hitting my word count first thing in the morning, I approach it fresh and rested, and it’s out of  the way so I’m not worried about it for the rest of the day. Know what works for you and stick to that time. If early mornings are your thing, check out #5amwritersclub on Twitter. Bonus tip: Make sure you’re getting enough sleep!

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Story Planning from a Reformed Pantser

Once upon a time, I used to sit down at a blank page and write whatever popped into my head. Other times, I toyed with an idea first, and once I had a loose premise, I started writing. I wrote about unexpected superheroes, teenage vampires, epic fantasy worlds, parallel dimensions, corrupt ghosts, possessed mermaids…and as fun as it was to play around with these stories, none of them went anywhere. Most of them were never even finished. And when I did get far enough to type “The End,” those manuscripts languished in Revision Purgatory, forever finessing, never finishing. Needless to say, this approach wasn’t going to get a manuscript polished, let alone published. I needed to change my pantser ways and embrace the art of planning.

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Me as a pantser trying to revise a finished first draft.

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Winter Solstice Short Story

Solstice Miracle cover by Alexis Daria

[Edit: You can read this story here, since the anthology is no longer available.]

This month I had the opportunity to submit a contemporary romance short story to the Wattpad anthology Winter’s Embrace. I chose to write a story that takes place on the Winter Solstice. Here’s the blurb for Solstice Miracle:

Two people who’ve written off love and magic find a little of both on the longest night.

After inheriting her grandmother’s house in suburban Connecticut, Rina Minkin revives her witchy improv character to help pay for necessary home repairs. When Miguel Alvarez shows up at her front door with two kids in need of a Winter Solstice miracle, even cynical Rina can’t turn them away. And the longer she spends with them, the more she wants them to stick around.

This was a fun piece to write, and I enjoyed designing the cover. I didn’t officially sign up for the anthology until I had some semblance of an idea, although my first idea is not the one I ended up writing. It’s been ages since I wrote something this short (it’s around 6500 words), and it was a challenge to include a strong character arc and a believable romance in such a short span. I plotted out three scene beats to get a solid beginning, middle, and end, and went for a sweet heat level.

Solstice Miracle is free to read, and you can find it here. Make sure to check out the other talented writers in the anthology, and Happy Winter Solstice!

The Ripped Bodice Grand Opening

12814343_10153417664793341_4690919157905779256_nWhile in Los Angeles earlier this month, I happened to be around Culver City for the grand opening of The Ripped Bodice, the first romance-only bookstore. After raising over $90,000 on Kickstarter, sisters Bea and Leah Koch opened the doors on March 4th, 2016.

The store is cute and highly photogenic, with a mix of art, carefully curated gift items, and of course, BOOKS! The books are displayed in a way that makes it easy for you to browse genres & tropes you enjoy. Looking for rock stars? Sports romance? M/M? There’s a shelf for each, & knowledgeable staff to answer your questions and give suggestions. Indie, traditional, and classics can be found easily, making for an impressive selection of print titles. Subtle, creative merchandising invites you to get lost while looking for your latest additions to the TBR pile. Displays seamlessly combine books & local crafts, making it a great gift resource for book lovers. And I can’t say enough about the antique furniture decorating the space & providing seating. If you’re in LA, definitely check out The Ripped Bodice, a haven for romance readers.

Lots of photos below! Continue reading

Writing Faster – Resources

IMG_1896Yesterday the topic of writing speed came up. This is something I focused on last year–well, not writing speed so much as streamlining my process to increase output and finish what I start. After twelve years of doing NaNoWriMo, I could knock out a first draft in a few weeks, but then I was at a loss when it came to revising it. I had a feeling that learning more about pre- and post-production techniques would help me, but I wanted methods that would specifically help me write even faster, and with less stress and drama. Continue reading