Today’s guest post is by the fabulous Lauren K. McKellar, who is one of my favourite contemporary authors. If you think that’s a big call, go read one of her books and see for yourself! — Cass
Like many authors, I love books. I was that kid who’d read in the car on long holiday trips – hell, I’d read at the bus stop when I was two minutes early on the trip to school! For as long as I can remember I’ve loved to read, read, read!
The same could be said for writing. I wrote my first novel at age ten, and I filled up three 520-page exercise books with my hand-written story about a group of teenagers who were bullying my protagonist – and then she found out they were witches!
Since then, I’ve definitely progressed. Obviously I type primarily on a keyboard now, because who has time for handwriting and then transcribing? I stopped writing fiction for approximately ten years, and then returned to it about three years ago. I did NaNoWriMo, and boy, did I learn so much. I learnt how no first draft, second draft, third draft, hell, often no fourth draft is ever going to be good enough – you need to work to be good at this craft.
I learnt all about beta reading, and things such as good story and character arc, and the importance of growth. I drafted a few stories, and one was even picked up by a publisher, which was fabulous, but I think my big light-bulb moment came after reading a lot of NA books – think Tamara Webber, Colleen Hoover, Abbi Glines … it was like I suddenly found direction. I wanted to make people feel things when I put pen to paper. And that’s when I wrote The Problem With Crazy.
It has certainly gotten easier as time has gone on, although I’ll admit, writing a series was a little tricky for me and I found it to be somewhat difficult, especially since Eleven Weeks takes place at the same time as The Problem With Crazy. There was a lot of fact checking going on!
Now, I wouldn’t go back for anything! While I took some time off writing last year (to get married and change jobs) this year I am back in action, and have written two books in the last three months. Here’s hoping to many more over the course of the next eleven!
About the Crazy in Love series
The Crazy in Love series consists of three titles: The Problem With Crazy, Eleven Weeks and The Problem With Heartache.
The Problem With Crazy
Lauren K. McKellar is an author and editor. Her debut novel, Finding Home, was released through Escape Publishing on October 1, 2013, and her second release, NA Contemporary Romance The Problem With Crazy, is self-published, and is available now. She loves books that evoke emotion, and hope hers make you feel.
Lauren lives by the beach in Australia with her husband and their two dogs. Most of the time, all three of them are well behaved.
I read and reviewed the first book in the Oxley College series, Shh!, here. If you’re too lazy to click (no judgement — I get it), the short version is I LOVED IT. So I’m super-excited to be sharing the cover for the sequel, Wait!, with you today.
Wait! by Stacey Nash
Jordan Hays knows just how precious life is; that’s why he has his own mapped out. He’ll work to pay his way through university while he studies hard, regardless of the constant distractions. Because when it comes to becoming a nurse, he’s deadly serious. He won’t fail to save someone again.
But Hex Penton is way too similar to the sister he lost, and even though the only thing more fun than stupid dares is the crazy girl who sets them, Jordan needs to make a choice. Hex believes every moment is important; every opportunity must be taken, because you never know when the world will be yanked out from underneath you. With the foundations he’s based his life on shaken, Jordan must discover what’s more important: making sure Hex’s life isn’t wasted, or remembering how to live his.
IT’S TIME TO PLAY TRUTH OR DARE.
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About the Author
Author of the Collective Series and the Oxley College Saga.
Sam Kinnison is a geek, and he’s totally fine with that. He has his horror movies, his nerdy friends, World of Warcraft – and until Princess Leia turns up in his bedroom, he doesn’t have to worry about girls.
Then Sam meets Camilla. She’s beautiful, friendly and completely irrelevant to his life. Sam is determined to ignore her, except that Camilla has a life of her own – and she’s decided that he’s going to be part of it.
Sam believes that everything he needs to know he can learn from the movies … but now it looks like he’s been watching the wrong ones
This book, you guys. I wish it had been around when I was at school, because I really could’ve used a story about Australian nerds suffering through high school and falling in love. It was so ADORABLE, and it spoke to me.
The first thing to mention about Life in Outer Space is the voice. It’s told from Sam’s perspective, and he has a distinctive narrative style. He’s always making “objective” observations about his world, and doing things like noticing exactly how many seconds it takes for something to happen. But at the same time he was so awkward and oblivious to social cues. (Seriously, I knew people exactly like this when I was at school.) I’m not a movie buff, so some of his references were lost on me, but he definitely could’ve been a young version of some of my nerdy, adult male friends.
The other characters are just memorable. The dearest to my heart is Camilla. She’s moved around a lot (and has the benefit of having a famous dad), so she’s a veteran at making friends and fitting in. But she’s not a sheep — her philosophy on high school can be summed up by this quote: “You can rock the boat, but you better make sure you have a very safe seat first.” Despite being instantly popular, she’s a music nerd and likes World of Warcraft. She’s the sort of girl every geeky female wants to be: quirky without being weird, and able to tame the bullies — not just for herself but for the other nerdy kids too. (Or maybe it’s just me who wished I was like that?)
I also loved Sam’s other friends. There’s Allison; I would devour a book about her if one were to become available (hint hint!). I couldn’t shake the mental image of her looking like a young Willow from Buffy, only in anime t-shirts rather than daggy clothes picked out by her mother. She had that same awkward earnestness. Mike, Sam’s best friend, is a taciturn and increasingly aloof black belt in karate who is partially out-of-the-closet. And Adrian is a scruffy nerd who is utterly tactless and enthusiastic about life.
I won’t talk too much about the plot, except to say that it was so wonderful to see a relationship built on friendship, hardship and mutual understanding rather than the typical “love at first sight” fare. The pacing was quick enough to keep me interested, and though there weren’t any surprising plot twists or anything, the story had a lot of heart and kept me entranced to the last page.
As you can see, Anne McCaffrey featured prominently. I couldn’t choose just one of her books. And in every instance bar one (The Stone Cage, which is a Rapunzel retelling), the book I’ve listed is the first in the series. So this isn’t a list of ten so much as a list of sixty or seventy. There are forty-odd books in the Discworld series alone.
And if you don’t think I cried when Terry Pratchett, Anne McCaffrey and Douglas Adams died, you’re crazy. Those three writers — as well as Stephen King and Mercedes Lackey — got me through the hell that was high school. I hope they’re all dining at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, having bubbly pies and something dodgy from an Ankh-Morpork pie seller.
* If you’re not dairy intolerant and allergic to peanuts.
I’m halfway through drafting a historical fantasy inspired by Ancient Greece. I’ve had this idea in my head for two years — since before I wrote either Lucid Dreaming or Melpomene’s Daughter — and I’d dedicated a lot of daydreaming hours to it. I mean a lot. So I knew the story pretty well.
Or at least, I thought I did until this week, when I had a bit of a crisis.
I’ve done all the setup. My plot notes got me to where I’m at, and they just sort of … stopped. It was basically:
- the characters do something cool
- there’s a big battle with the bad guy
- the end
IT WAS A PLOTTER’S NIGHTMARE.
I lamented this to a friend of mine. Peter is my alpha reader. He doesn’t provide advice on the “girly bits”. (I think they make him roll his eyes.) But what he does do is tell me when he thinks the villains aren’t being villainous enough, or when they don’t seem to have considered an obvious flaw in their bad guy plan.
When I was struggling with the length of Lucid Dreaming — it was on track to being around twenty thousand words too short — Peter was the one who said, “Well, if I were that bad guy in that situation, this is what I would do.” (So when that book comes out later this year, you know who to blame for one of the plot twists. Just btw.)
So if I’d have thought about it, I’d have realised what his answer would be to my whinge: take it back to the bad guy. What’s his story? What is he trying to do while the characters are trying to foil him? I hadn’t really considered it, because the bad guy in this story is a bound demon. He’s sort of … static. It’s not like he can wander around. But, even bound, he is driving some of the plot. I just had to figure out how. And what.
I sat down on Friday and wrote out the backstory from the demon’s point of view. I brainstormed what the implications were as a result of that, and then detailed what he wanted to happen next. Of course, I already knew a lot of this, but writing seven pages of notes really clarified things for me.
As a result of all this villainous brainstorming, I came up with a new and exciting plot twist, and figured out what the “something cool” is that the characters need to do. I’ve got a road map. Of course, I still have to write it out and, characters being characters, we’ll no doubt take some detours. But at least I know roughly what the journey will be.
There’s nothing more frustrating to me as a reader than a book where the main characters have no agency, where they spend all their time being reactive. Maybe as a result of that, I’d gone too far the other way with this story; I knew I wanted my characters to be driving the plot, but I’d forgotten about the inevitable pushback that should come from the bad guy driving his own plot in the other direction.
Because although my good guys might not agree, it’s no fun when the bad guys are a total pushover. Amirite?
I haven’t done Top Ten Tuesday for a while, mostly due to my epic lack of forward planning. As it is, it’s almost 8.30pm on Tuesday here and I’m just sitting down to draft this post. Go, team me!
This week’s theme is: “Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR List”. But it’s autumn here. So autumn.
These books are in no particular order, because I’m fickle like that. I’ve got a selection of young adult, new adult and adult, and contemporary, mystery, urban fantasy, and dystopian. (They are all by women though. Interesting.)
I’m looking forward to all of these, although I have heard mixed things about Allegiant. But I really should find out for myself — and besides, a friend loaned me the book and I reeeeeeallly have to read and return it. She’s holding two of my Harry Potter books hostage for its safe return! :O
The problem with heartache is that there’s no one-size-fits-all relief package. You can go to classes; you can try to embrace change. But when you wake up at two in the morning, a smile on your face because you’ve dreamt about the could have—the should have—nothing will console you.
Because seconds later, you remember.
And remembering can rip you apart.
Kate will do anything for her family. It’s why she took the job with Lee. It’s why she’s attempting to forget her pain. But it’s hard to forget, when you’re desperate to hold on. Even if Lee Collins is the perfect package.
Lee will do anything for the ones he cares about. It’s why he hired Kate.
It’s why he keeps his secrets; and it’s why he cannot, will not fall in love. Not with Kate—not with anyone.
Note that this review by default contains some spoilers for The Problem With Crazy. If you haven’t read that heartbreaking story yet, go. Buy it and a box of tissues, and come back to me later.
I’ve been hanging out for this book since I read the first in the Crazy in Love series, The Problem With Crazy, which was one of my favourite 2014 reads. (You can read my review of that here.) The second book in the series, Eleven Weeks, covers the same period of time as the first, but looks at what Stacey, one of the supporting characters from the first book, is going through.
In Heartache, we finally get back to Kate, our leading lady from the first book. It’s six months after the tragic events in the first book, and Kate is still overwhelmed by the pain of Lachlan’s death. When Lee-freaking-Collins, lead singer of Coal, offers her a job in a clear attempt to bypass her “no charity” rule and help her ill father, she finds she grows increasingly attracted to him. But she doesn’t want to be, because she feels like she’s being unfaithful to Lachlan, or that she’ll lose him all over again if she lets his memory go. Poor girl. I wanted to make her a hot chocolate and give her the biggest hug.
Then there’s Lee, whose story is the main focus of Heartache. Ah, Lee. I liked him, I wanted to punch him in the nose, I wanted to throw him down on the bed and — um, never mind. He’s got a whopper of a dark secret in his past, and his own fair share of tragedy, and he’s decided as a result that he doesn’t deserve love and can’t have a relationship. I alternated between feeling bad for him and wanting him to stop being so damn melodramatic about everything. I’m so mean! :p
But still, Lee isn’t a typical bad boy. He’s actually a genuinely nice person who, when he’s not feeling guilty about his past, is a caring employer and family man. He’s also protective, which can result in some bad rockstar behaviour, but I forgave him for that.
My favourite thing about Heartache, far and away, is the storytelling. It’s dual point-of-view, and the voice was so clear for Kate (Aussie female) and Lee (American male) that it was easy to tell whose chapter we were in at any given time. Lee’s chapters often contained a flashback as well as some present-day narration, which slowly let us see the events in his past. Also, McKellar makes very cute use of letter-writing; Kate and Lee write to each other throughout the story, and are often able to tell each other things on paper that they never would be able to face to face.
One supporting character I was very ambivalent about was Lottie, Coal‘s stylist and mother of super-cute preschooler Jay. There was something off about her for me. But I’m pleased to say that it all made sense by the end.
I stayed up way past my bedtime, bingeing on the second half of Heartache; it’s definitely worth your time and the lack of sleep to do the same!