Inspiration, Upended Plans, & Third Thoughts: Confessions of an Anxious Writer

White feather on blue inkwell and old book

Hi all,

Here at the middle of 2017, I thought I’d give you an update on my publishing plans through the balance of the year, and a sketch of my plans beyond that. In order to do so, I have to tell you a little story, one that’s pretty embarrassing in some respects. I hope you’ll bear with me for a few minutes.

The story starts back in the spring of 2016. It was a typical California spring day, by which I mean postcard pretty—cloudless blue sky, light breeze, the works. I was driving to work, the windows open in my car and a Pandora station playing on the stereo. Lovely. A song came on I’d never heard before; the tune caught my attention, and so did the words. About two stanzas in, my muse (that would be Lola, if you didn’t know) hit me on the back of the head with the inspiration stick. I suddenly had this image in my head, full color and Dolby sound: a young woman behind the wheel, her arm resting on the door through the open window, her hair blowing in the breeze. She was driving away from her life, no looking back.

Just that, like a flash, and not such an unusual image in itself. But it hit me hard. So hard that it knocked the song that had inspired it straight out of my head—I have no recollection whatsoever of the title, the singer, the tune, or any of the words.

I couldn’t get that single image out of my head for the whole day. That night, I dreamt about the young woman. I saw why she was leaving her life, and it became an idea for a story. I got up and opened a new file, meaning only to take a few notes and get it out of my head, because I had other writing plans on deck, and this idea didn’t fit my plans. I was just finishing the first draft of Miracle at the time, and I intended to start the third Northwomen book next (I hadn’t had the idea for the Brazen Bulls series yet).

But those “notes” became a first chapter. And then I couldn’t stop. I wrote the whole book in a flurry of inspiration more intense than I’d felt since Signal Bend. More than 100,000 words in less than four weeks. I write fast, but I’d never written that fast, especially not during the semester.

Then I had this story, and I liked it a lot. I shared it with my betas, and they all liked it, too. But they also agreed that it wasn’t much like anything else I’d written.

It was, for one thing, a lot less violent than most of my work, and it didn’t have the potential for violence that all my other work contains. There are some pretty dark events—I mean, come on, it’s still me—but that stuff is more backgroundy than usual for me, and the focus is very much on the couple.

I’m not good at picking labels, but it is possibly my only traditional contemporary romance.

By the time I was done, other characters had “popped,” catching my interest, and I thought that it could be a series—in fact, I already knew the couple of the second book—and for the first time I felt like I could guarantee an ironclad HEA for every couple throughout a series—a guarantee I never make. The world of this out-of-the-blue book is just safer than my bikers, or my Vikings, or even the Paganos, with their Mafia connections.

Also, it’s a western, which is not my usual bag—although, honestly, that “western” angle isn’t all that different from Signal Bend. It’s a small-town story in which the small town pops as a character itself, and the townspeople are vivid secondary characters. But it is a sweeter, safer story, and a calmer, safer world, than is my tendency.

I didn’t know what to do with it. Would my readers like this kind of story from me? I had no idea.

So I stuck it in a folder and put it aside. I picked up my plans where I’d dropped them, and wrote the books I’d had in the queue. But my little town in Idaho kept waving at me, wondering when I was coming back.

Finally, I decided I would put it out under a pen name. Hey, I thought, this will be a good time to try to do things “right.” I still didn’t do the hiring of PR thing, but within the bounds of DIY, I at least did things in the right order this time.

I picked a name from my own family history, several generations back—a colorful great-great aunt who is family legend—and opened all the right social media accounts in that name. I started posting in them. Under that name, I sent out some queries to bloggers asking if they’d like an ARC (something I never do).

I published it last September.

And promptly and wholeheartedly freaked the fuck out. Guess what? Somebody like me, who struggles so much with social anxiety that she agonizes for fifteen minutes about whether to use a fucking exclamation point on an FB post, DEFINITELY SHOULD NOT try to manage two different author personas.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I had a breakdown over the whole enterprise—before the book had even gotten noticed. I can’t imagine what my poor brain would have done if that book had had a Move the Sun-type release. After about two weeks, I unpublished the book, deleted all the social media accounts, deleted my private Pinterest inspiration board for that world (*sobs*), and vowed to forget the whole sorry experience.

Which I did, more or less. The memory poked at me occasionally, and I was sad about the swift demise of a book I’d loved writing and liked as a story, but I was all NOPE NOPE NOPE about jumping back into that mental morass.

Then, a couple of months ago, Lola began whispering in my ear about that second book idea, and she hasn’t stopped. The more I want to write that second book, the more my meltdown with the first torments me.

I feel deeply sheepish about this. I know lots of writers have multiple pen names and lots of those writers keep them unconnected from each other. It’s not putting a book out under a pseudonym that’s got me blushing. It’s my little private drama and spectacular wimping out that’s driving me up a wall.

But clearly, I’m not going to be able to maintain a pseudonym.

So okay. I’m going to put it out again this fall, this time in my own name. To limit confusion for the people who bought it the first time, I’m not planning to change the title or cover or anything except my name, and I’ll add an author’s note of explanation. That will be my October release. I won’t do a preorder for it; I’ll just drop it on the first Saturday of October.

I don’t know whether you’ll like it, but I do. In fact, I just did a fresh edit (I didn’t change much, except to cut way back on the use of a pet name that sort of got away from me the first time), and I was reminded how much I really do love this world and the family that anchors it—and I was strongly motivated to get up over myself and put it back out in the world.

This post is me jumping off the point of no return for that plan. And really hoping there aren’t jagged rocks down below.

The book is called Somewhere. The family name I used for a pseudonym is Jenny Gavin. The town I built is Jasper Ridge, Idaho, nestled in the shadow of the Sawtooth Mountains. The Cahill family is its heart. It’s a contemporary, western, small-town romance. If a series does develop, it will be the Sawtooth Mountains Stories.

And the female lead is a young woman who drives away from a life that has died.

So.

With that in mind, an update about my firm publishing plans for the balance of the year, and my tentative plans beyond that:

2017 releases (firm):

  • 5 August: Slam, the Brazen Bulls MC #3
  • (Early September: All four books of The Northwomen Sagas will no longer be exclusive to Amazon and will be available on multiple platforms.)
  • 7 October: Somewhere, A Sawtooth Mountains Story
  • 2 December: The Brazen Bulls MC #4 (I’ll announce the title and all that jazz later)

2018 plans (sketches):

First, re: the Bulls—Book 5 is my current work in progress, and I’m about 50K words in now. At this point, I’m planning to keep to the schedule I’ve got going, where I release a new Bulls book every 4 months. So Book 5 would come out next April, with Books 6 and 7 following later in the year. Based on the sketches of ideas I’ve got so far, I think this series will be 8 books long, with a 9th book on the tail end (a prequel story about Delaney and Mo, set during Vietnam). That all depends on countless factors, predictable and otherwise, but that’s the plan at this time.

As for other books and series, I love patterns and structure, and I like the pattern of a “different” book releasing between each Bulls book. Like the Northwomen, and Somewhere—books that go in different directions. I’ve got a whole pile of ideas outside the Bulls. I’ve got a post-apocalyptic story written now that isn’t a romance (there’s a love story, because I ship EVERYTHING, but it’s not the focus, and there’s no sex), and I have a range of ideas for romance stories and series, including a Pagano Brothers series (which would be a true mafia romance series), an MMA series, hopefully more Sawtooth stories, and several ideas that will be standalones. Like a Victorian romance with an English suffragette as the female lead. Really want to write that!

Anyway, the Brazen Bulls series is the spine of my plans for the next couple of years, and around that, I will chase whatever ideas catch my fancy.

Like when Lola hits me upside the head and upends all my plans.

Cheers,
s—

COVER REVEAL & TEASER! Slam: The Brazen Bulls MC #3

Slam cover

Hi! It’s time to announce my next release and give you some details! Those of you who’ve been waiting for another Brazen Bulls book can mark your calendars for Saturday, 5 August, the day Slam, the third book in the series, goes live!

Slam is Maverick’s story. Mav has been in prison since before the series began, but in Twist, Gunner and Leah’s story, we got to meet him and learn a little about him. He did some hard work for the club during Twist, and he paid hard for it, but he’s finally being released.

His prison sentence, and the reason for it, tore apart more than his own life. He and his old lady were expecting a baby when he went in, and Jenny hasn’t forgiven him for leaving her and their daughter on their own, with heavier burdens than Jenny can bear alone.

Theirs is a deep and true love, though, and Slam is the story of them finding their way back together. Without his family, Maverick is lost. Without her love, Jenny is brittle.

Each chapter also ends in a flashback, about the early days of their relationship as well as even earlier days in each of their lives. As they remember how and why they loved each other, we can see it happen.

I’ll be uploading it for preorder on my usual schedule, two-three weeks ahead of the release, and I’ll provide live links when they’re available. Like all the Brazen Bulls books, it will be available on several platforms.

If you haven’t read the Brazen Bulls yet, you can find links to the Crash and Twist, the first two books of the series, here.

The Goodreads page is up now, if you’d like to add it to your TBR.

The synopsis and a preview below. Enjoy!

xoxo
s–

SLAM BB3 paperback cover

THE SYNOPSIS:

Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1997

When Richard “Maverick” Helm walks out the gate of the state penitentiary, after four hard years inside, he doesn’t know what life he has left waiting for him. Abandoned by the love of his life, a stranger to his only child, Maverick turns to his club, the Brazen Bulls MC, and holds on.

But he’s not sure of the club any longer, either. The Bulls have changed since he went inside, and they’d all but forgotten him.

Before Maverick can find a life worth living, he must heal the family he’d had—his woman and his child—and he must find his fit with his brothers. To do either, he must remember the man he was, and decide who he wants to be.

The love of Jenny Wagner’s life promised her a beautiful future. He swore he’d be there for her and their daughter forever. He wanted to be her hero, and she believed that he would be. Then he left her alone before their baby was born—and what he did left Jenny’s life in ruins. She’ll never forgive him.

But she’s never stopped loving him. Her anger arises from that deep, abiding love, and the pain of its betrayal.

Before Jenny can open herself and her daughter to a new life with Maverick, she must learn to trust again, and to be with him the strong woman she’s become without him.

It takes only a moment of reunion for Jenny to remember their love—a love Maverick’s never forgotten. It takes much longer to overcome the obstacles of the past and find a way to make a future together.

Note: explicit sex and violence.

And a PREVIEW (a scene from Chapter Two):

“Ready for another, Russ?”

Russ, sitting in his usual seat at the head of the bar, nodded. “Sure am.” Jenny pulled the tap and refilled his beer. As she pushed it across the bar, he put his hand around hers on the glass. “Someday, you’re gonna say yes.”

Jenny laughed and gently but firmly freed her hand. Russ was well into his sixties, a sweet old retired guy who spent his weekday afternoons sitting right where he was, on the first stool at the bar in The Wayside Inn. He flirted with her every day. While the come-ons were gentle, and she was slightly more than half sure they weren’t intended seriously, she worked to maintain a balance between being playfully friendly with him and leading him on.

“I guess we’ll have to see if you live long enough to see that day,” she retorted now.

He flattened his hand against his chest as if she’d wounded him there. “We used to call beauties like you femme fatales. You know that?”

Before she could counter that remark, the door opened and let in a blast of sultry air and dusty white light. The storms of the day before hadn’t broken the heat at all, and, once the clouds had cleared, the humidity had been even worse. The Wayside’s loud, rickety air conditioning unit was working as well as it could, but it wasn’t up to the challenge of this summer.

Russ had been the only customer in the bar on this early afternoon, so Jenny focused on the newcomers. The sunlight streaming through the open door cast them in silhouette, and all she saw at first was three sizable blobs. The jukebox wasn’t playing, and the volume on the television above the bar was low, so she could hear the clomp of boots as they came in.

Then the door closed, and she blinked and saw that they were all wearing kuttes. They were Brazen Bulls. Gunner and Rad and one she didn’t know.

The last time any of these sons of bitches had blighted her bar had been the year before, when Gunner had shown up out of the blue and coerced her into giving him a recent photo of Kelsey. For Maverick, Kelsey’s father.

Who had ruined her fucking life and was therefore out of it. Forever.

Now there were three of them walking toward her. She crossed her arms and turned her attention on Gunner. Of all the Bulls besides Maverick, she knew Gunner best. She’d liked him, in a different life. “What the fuck do you want?”

Gunner opened his mouth to speak, but it was Rad who answered. With a chuckle in his voice, he said, “Dial it down, darlin’. We don’t mean trouble.” He nodded at Gunner, who reached into his kutte and pulled out a fat, business-size envelope. He held it out to her, and Jenny stared at it, leaving her arms crossed.

The Bulls gave her money every month, something she supposed Maverick had worked out from prison. It was for Kelsey, and Jenny took it, notwithstanding her intention for Kelsey and her father never to meet. She saved almost all of it, only hitting it in emergencies—like last year, when Kelsey had had meningitis and been in the hospital for eight days. She never wanted to come to rely on that money for her daily living, and she meant it all to be a way for Kelsey to go to college and get her life started.

She got money from the Bulls on a regular basis, but not like this. Normally one of their hangarounds brought it by. And the envelope was never this thick. From the look of it, it was several times the normal amount.

Russ had turned on his stool and was considering the Bulls. He was a senior citizen whose body had been devastated a couple of years back in a cancer fight. There was quite obviously nothing he could have done against three big, burly bikers, but he still asked, “Jenny? You need anything here?”

For that, she spared her regular customer a grateful smile. “Thanks, Russ, but I’m okay.”

Since she’d made it clear that she wasn’t taking that envelope from him, Gunner set it on the bar.

“That’s more than usual. This whole thing is more than usual. Why?”

This time, Gunner did speak. “He’s getting out at the end of the week.”

“What? Why?”

She’d kept track of Maverick’s sentence. She knew that he’d been scheduled for release the year before and had had time added, and she knew he was scheduled for release again right before Kelsey’s birthday. If he was getting out this week, it was early—almost a month early. She wasn’t ready. Sharped-edged wings of panic fluttered in Jenny’s belly—and something else, too, something fragile and long unnourished. Even after everything, after the wreck her life had become, her love for Maverick Helm made her quiver.

All three Bulls, even the big blond she didn’t know, took on the same angry expression, like a shared mask of offense. Rad answered with a snarl. “He did his time. All you need to know.” He turned his glare on Russ, who shrank a little but held his seat.

Beginning to understand what that envelope and this visit were about, Jenny didn’t want Russ to be privy to the conversation. “Can you give us a few minutes, Russ?”

He glanced sidelong at the Bulls and then studied her. “You sure?”

“Yeah. I’m safe.” She believed that, at any rate. They wouldn’t hurt her.

“Okay. I could go squeeze one out, anyway. I won’t be far.” He slid off his stool headed toward the bathrooms in back.

Jenny watched him go. When she turned back to the Bulls, she said, “You think you can pay me to let him in. That’s what that is.” She tipped her head toward the stuffed envelope.

“He’s her dad, Jen,” Gunner said. “He wants to be her dad.”

“Then he should have been out here, being her dad.”

“Jesus fuck,” Rad muttered. He slammed his palms on the bar and leaned close.

Radical Jessup was the club Sergeant at Arms. He was big, a scowl rested more easily on his face than a smile, and he was almost as quick to violence as Maverick. Jenny fought the need to step back, out of his reach. She made herself stand firm and meet his dark, angry eyes.

“I don’t know what story you worked out in your head to make him a bad guy in this, but he did what he did to protect you—”

She scoffed, unable to hold it back, and Rad slammed his hands on the bar again, even more forcefully. She was also unable to hold back her flinch.

“If your life is shit now, that’s on you. You could shove that bastard in a state home and be done with it, but you like playin’ Little Miss Martyr, don’t ya?”

He was making a lot of assumptions about things he had no knowledge of. “Fuck you, Rad. Get the fuck out of here, all of you.”

Nobody moved. Then Rad reached out and grabbed her arm. He didn’t hurt her, but he used force to drag her close, until the bar cut across her ribcage, and he put his face right in hers. Jenny wondered whether she’d been right—would he hurt her?

“It goes like this, Jenny. Maverick is that girl’s father. He wants to be in her life. He’s a Bull. The Bulls got his back. So he will be in his little girl’s life. Whatever we have to do to make that happen. That envelope right there is one way. But there are other ways. You think about that.”

He glared into her eyes for another few seconds. His eyes were dark, dark brown, so dark his pupils were barely discernible. It was like looking into him and seeing nothing but abyss.

The words he’d said had been full of threat, but his eyes scared her most of all.

He let her go with a little shove, and she took a quick couple of steps to keep her feet.

Rad spun on his heel without another word and stalked to the door. The blond one followed.

Gunner held back. When Jenny made eye contact with him, he pushed the envelope closer to her. “Jenny, come on. Last year, I told you how bad he needed you and Kelsey. This year has been a fuck ton worse, but he’s finally getting out. You know he’ll be a good dad.”

She knew no such thing. He was a violent hothead who always had to have his way and never thought about the consequences before letting his fists fly. She’d been raised by exactly such a man, and he had not been a good dad at all. Now, because of Maverick and his flying fists, she was saddled with her father for the rest of his life.

Jenny didn’t answer Gunner, and she didn’t touch the envelope. Finally, he sighed.

“Friday. He gets out Friday.” He turned and headed for the door.

When she was alone in the bar, she picked up the envelope and pulled the flap free. It was stuffed with loose bills. Hundred-dollar bills, all of them. Riffling through it, she estimated that there was twenty thousand dollars in that basic white envelope. Several times more than usual.

Twenty thousand dollars.

That was what the Brazen Bulls thought her daughter was worth.

© 2017 Susan Fanetti

 

Father’s Sun is LIVE

Father's Sun cover gold

Father’s Sun, the conclusion of The Northwomen Sagas, is live and available on Amazon. It’s in Kindle Unlimited and exclusive to Amazon through the summer.

I’m working on removing the series from KU so that I can publish it on other platforms in the fall, so the earlier titles in the series will be coming off KU, one by one, throughout the summer.

You can find buy links to all the books in the series here.

As I’ve said before, The Northwomen Sagas has been a labor of love. I’ve adored researching and writing this world, and I am really proud of these stories. Though it has consistently ranked well in its specific category of Viking romance, it’s actually not a widely read series (apparently, not many readers read Vikings, period), but that hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm for this endeavor. I write to write much more than I write to be read, and this writing has been a joy.

I’d have written the Northwomen if no one but me had read it, but this series has some devoted readers, and I want to thank you for sailing this sea with me. xoxo

Information about future writing/publishing plans is coming soon. Stayed tuned to this channel.

Cheers,
s–

 

SALE! The Pagano Family, .99 each!

Pagano price drop IG

Happy May, everyone!

In celebration of Carlo Sr.’s favorite month, I’ve reduced all six volumes of the Pagano Family series to 99 cents each. This price will be in effect for the month of May.

The Pagano Family is a complete series, but now seems like an appropriate time to let you know that there are more Paganos on the (distant) horizon. I plan a new, spin-off series, focusing on the Pagano Brothers organization. The first book of that series has a planned release in 2018. More about that at a later date, when there’s more about it to say. 🙂

Anyway, if you haven’t read the Pagano Family, now’s your chance to get the series at a crazy-good price.

Cheers!
s–