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Writing to Deadline

Writing novels is all fun and games, right up to the time you get a contract and are on deadline for a novel that isn’t complete.

This past August, I was contracted by Boroughs Publishing Group for three novels and a short story in the StarTide series. Only one of these four books was complete. The second in the series was 20% done, and the third is two paragraphs. The short story was about 50% complete.

The short story is the one I’m going to focus on here. I had plenty of time to finish it, but suddenly every second I wasn’t writing felt like I was slipping farther behind. (I wasn’t, at all.) My deadline was mid-September. I wrote like a madwoman, had betas read it, rewrote, and turned it in at the end of August, relieved. I turned to work on book 2, while in the back of my mind expecting edits to stop my work on book 2.

Time passed, the work on book 2 slowed, and I began to obsess and second guess myself. Then I began to worry that perhaps I had been given a wrong publish date for the short story (October 17). I tapped on my editor’s virtual shoulder about covers and ARCs and what not.

Soon I had a cover, which thrilled me. Then I had edits, which also thrilled me. TheChristmasStar_tempExcept they involved some re-conceptualizing on my part (which I totally agreed with, by the way), and that added a layer of OMG WTF TGIF and all sorts of other acronyms that fit the situation.

Again, wrote like a madwoman, completely changing the tone of the piece. Sent it to my trusty beta reader, who frowned mightily and said, “This Is Not Good.” She was right; and so I went and re-read the editor’s letter on what needed to be changed, realized I has Mis-Read Important Stuff, and went back to the drawing board.

Time was racing past me, but I finally restored the original ending, added in some backbone for my heroine, jerked up the jerk in the piece, and sent it off once again. We were now down to two weeks prior to release date. The skeptic in me was certain it would never go live on time; my editor assured me that it would.

I got the final pass from him on the Tuesday before release day (because he had his own special week of Unexpected Things and Irritating Interruptions the week previous). I told him, all cocky, that I’d turn it in within 12 hours.

Um, yeah – that didn’t happen. Tuesday night I got about 30 pages edited, including the all important dedication and acknowledgement sections. I fell into bed at ten, woke up at three in the morning, revisited the entire document, added an extra ten pages of edits, fell back into bed at 5:15 in the morning. Slept until 8:15, woke up and saw the time. OH SHIT! Late for the Day Job.

Wednesday morning. Downed coffee and waffles with tons of syrup (hubby trying to get as much sugar in me as possible so I’d wake up), tossed on clothes and a hat (no time for a shower) and got to work only 30 minutes late. No, I can’t explain it – must have been a time warp or something, or perhaps the Traffic Gods of Los Angeles were looking kindly down upon me that morning.

Whatever. Luckily, at the Day Job, all the big bosses were out (in my office of seven, there are 3 big bosses. Sigh.). I worked from 9:45 to 1:30 on the edits, stopping only for coffee and lunch. Did one last read through, and got the story back to the editor around 2-ish, trembling in relief.

He assured me it would be live on Friday.

One of the things I came away with from this adventure? Digital publishing has more fluid timelines than paper publishing. Okay, stop laughing. Even though I’ve been published before, this was really my first informed and aware experience. (The last time, in March of 2011, I was three months post-brain surgery. I have almost no memory of that time.)

Another thing I learned is that my brain is almost too flexible. When asked to change a certain aspect of the story, not only can I change THAT aspect, but several others as well. Which can mess up the whole flow of the story. So in the future, I’ll need to keep watch on myself and really hew to the changes I’ve been asked to make.

Third? I’m REALLY glad this was a short story. 15k. If I had to revise a 60k manuscript in less than a week, I’m not sure I could do it and still have a life. By which I mean, still go to the Day Job, still feed my family, and still take time to exercise.

It’s an experience on the horizon, the editing of a 60k manuscript. And oh, I’m so looking forward to it.

So that’s a long introduction to my brand new, freshly pressed holiday short story, Christmas Star. Here’s just a taste…

After a whirlwind courtship and surprise proposal, makeup artist Elle Houston is in a fairytale setting, awaiting her Christmas Eve wedding to a movie star. But when the resort’s chef starts cooking, Elle finds that more than her appetite is being tempted, and she realizes just how wrong fairytales can be…


ChristineAshworth1-150x150Christine Ashworth is a romantic from way back, having first picked up Harlequin romances at the age of twelve, then falling in love with bigger books when she swiped her mother’s copy of Rosemary Rogers’ Sweet Savage Love.

She’s happily married to an actor/dancer/guitarist/hippy man, has two tall sons, and tends to her garden and her family in southern California. You can read about her cooking, gardening, and wine picks at her website.

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