Laura Drake Nothing SweeterI am thrilled to welcome back award-winning author Laura Drake with her novel, Nothing Sweeter, the second book in the Sweet on a Cowboy series.

Laura writes “emotional stories at the heart of the west.” You can visit her at Lauradrakebooks.com. Like her on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter at @PBRWriter. And find her blogging at Writers in the Storm

 

The Sweet Spot, Laura's debut novel, won KT Romance Reviews Best Romance of 2013. You can find The Sweet Spot blog here

 

Check out Publisher's Weekly Review for Nothing Sweeter

Laura Drake and Motorcycle

“The second entry in Drake’s Sweet on a Cowboy series (after The Sweet Spot) is another character-driven contemporary western with more heart than heat. Rancher Max Jameson, stunned by the unexpected death of his father, is determined to keep the family spread in Steamboat Springs, Colo., despite pressure to sell to a greedy neighbor. His brother, Wyatt, tries to help out, though the sibling relationship is strained due to Max’s discomfort with the fact that Wyatt is gay.

Bree Tanner is scarred physically and mentally after being wrongfully convicted of and imprisoned for her ex-boss’s shady financial dealings; now exonerated and free, she decides to start over by helping to raise rodeo bulls on the Jameson ranch.

Max’s tough exterior masks relatable fear, his relationship with Wyatt is handled gracefully, and Bree’s genuine shame about her past makes her sympathetic. While Max and Bree’s romantic relationship is secondary to their internal and interpersonal struggles, complex characters and some fun bull-riding scenes balance out the seriousness.”

 

 

I’m so proud of Laura and her talent! Laura is a multi-Margie grad and an immersion grad as well. She’s worked hard for her well-deserved success.

Jory and BookMargie asks Laura: You recently returned from a book signing at the PBR event in Las Vegas. How exciting! Can you tell us what we missed? 

Laura Responds: Signing at a bull riding event had been a dream of mine for quite some time. The finals in Las Vegas are accompanied by a "Fan Zone," a marketplace for fans for everything Western, and bull-riding themed. What better place for me and my books than that?  

But it was a big commitment. Five days. 9-5. And then I had to rush off to the event at night! It was a whirlwind, and I was exhausted by the end. But I sold quite a few books, and almost better, met probably 400-500 people that might buy my books down the road. 

They say nowadays, with all the distractions that consumers have, it takes 5-7 times to hear a name and recognize it. I went a long way toward that in a week! 

Laura with Jory Markiss

Both pictures above are of Jory Markiss, one of the top 20 bull riders on the circuit. Jory won "The Longest Ride" competition for PBR's Sexiest Cowboy and his photo will be on the special edition of Nicholas Sparks' book, The Longest Ride

 

Margie asks Laura: You are busy. Crazy-busy. Out-of-this galaxy busy. How do you manage your multiple deadlines? 

Laura Responds: I work hard. Seriously. I'm working more hours now than I ever did when I had a regular job. Between plotting, writing, editing, corresponding, social media, website maintenance, promo, newsletter, etc., I put in about 60-80 hours a week.

And I love almost every minute of it. After all, this is what I worked 15 years to attain! It's the prize I had my eye on all that time, so I still sometimes stop and marvel that I'm getting paid to do what I'd do (and have done) for free!  I'm so incredibly blessed. And lucky!

It helps that I'm compulsively organized (comes with the CFO side of me). I get up at 3 am and after I fire up the Keurig, I check emails, run the social media gauntlet, check stats, etc. Then I jump right into writing. I find if I leave it until later, life intercedes. It's really quiet in the early am, and I have the inspiration of classical music an the sunrise. How long I write depends on the day. I have a daily word goal, and on a good day, it may take two hours to complete. On a bad day, it's taken me 10 hours to achieve. Yeah, no one said it was easy.  But I can promise, it IS worth it!

The crunch time comes when I have deadlines from both publishers, and believe me, neither of them care about the other's! I just keep my head down, and repeat my mantra, "One piece of paper at a time."

Margie responds to Laura: You are incredibly blessed, but luck has nothing to do with your success. You’ve worked for years to learn your craft and it shows in your work. You’ve taken a lot of my classes and attended an immersion. You dig deep and deep edit to make your writing shine.

Margie asks Laura: I’m curious. Which online course of mine resonated with you the most and why?

Laura’s Response: Wow, it's a toss-up, between Deep Edits and Empowering Characters’ Emotions. When people ask me where to start, I recommend Deep Editing first. That class was such an epiphany for me. It allowed me to step back and analyze my writing objectively—something I really struggled with. If you can't do that, you're at the mercy of any feedback you get. And all feedback is not created equal. Deep Edits put the power back in my hands. 

Empowering Characters’ Emotions was just as important. I always knew the emotions I wanted to convey in a scene, but I didn't how to do that, except to use the sledgehammer of a character's tears. In class, you gave me finer tools, brushes and picks and small chisels, to show shades of emotions. Now I may use tears once a book while trying to go for none.

Yay Laura!

One of the reasons Laura’s books are so good are because she writes fresh. Fresh dialogue cues. Fresh visceral reactions. Fresh descriptions. Her word choices show shades of emotion. Check out the excerpts below.

Ugh. My first “Ma’am.” Aubrey smoothed her hands over her waist to be sure middle-age spread hadn’t begun since she’d gotten dressed that morning.  Everybody looks old to a baby like that.

Middle-age spread. I love that. What female can’t relate?

A young man in a slouched jacket with spiky bleached hair and two diamond studs in one ear stood at the edge of their table. The jailbait draped on his arm wasn’t much better. The shiny, pink baby-doll dress hit her upper thigh, and her clunky heels made her feet look like canapés on the ends of toothpicks—tattooed toothpicks.

Canapés on the ends of toothpicks.  Fresh. Fresh. Fresh! I’ve never read anything like that description. Laura uses amazing imagery. Can’t you picture this couple?

The man stared across at Bree and said in a California-hip voice, “Well Aubrey Madison.”

Bree’s jaw dropped open as if someone had cut the muscles.

What a vivid picture of Bree’s reaction. I can see her face, slack-jawed, in shock. Laura showed shock without every using the word. Showing the reader, not telling. Fresh writing. Powerful writing!

 

Margie asks Laura: You have so many fresh dialogue cues. Now that you have a few books out, is it harder or easier to write that fresh?

Laura’s Response: Oddly enough, it's easier to write fresh. It's like working out at the gym. In the beginning it's brutal-hard, and you're sore all the time. Now my 'fresh-writing muscle' is strong, and the cues come faster and easier. I love making up new clever ones!

Read through Laura’s dialogue cues below.

“We don’t need your boyfriend’s charity.” His voice sounded like a peach pit in a garbage disposal.

His low voice sounded the way sex felt. Languid Sunday-morning sex, with light slanting over a rumpled bed, and a lazy day that stretched on forever.

Wow. Wow. Wow!

Laura uses specificity in both of the above examples. Not just a grinding sound, but a peach pit. Not just sex, but languid Sunday-morning sex. Each time she adds that specificity, it triples the power in the dialogue cue and we hear exactly what she means.

Read the cues below and then close your eyes. Can you hear those voices?

As if the words were emptying her, her voice diminished to a breathy whisper.

His interest caught on the frayed-wire undertone of desperation in her voice.

His voice rumbled softly from the dark, like the comforting sound of far-off thunder on a warm summer night.

“No really, he came right to me,” she said in a little-girl I-have-no-idea-where-the-cookies-went voice.

 Laura also uses visceral responses to invoke emotion in the reader. Visceral responses pull the reader right into the heart of the character. We feel how they feel. Enjoy the examples below.

“Well screw you both and your puffed-up male egos. I am so sick of caveman attitudes.” Her jaw locked so tight, the roots of her teeth ached. She was pissed that she had to fight tears. And even more pissed because she couldn’t stop them. Bolts of emotions cracked like lightning in her mind: anger, guilt, failure. Disappointment. Another lost opportunity.

She swallowed again, her queasy stomach churning like a washing machine.

Max’s stomach did a roller-coaster dive—without the thrill.

Laura amplified that last example. Read it again.

Max’s stomach did a roller-coaster dive—without the thrill.

She could’ve stopped at dive, but she took the sentence further and also added a snicker of a humor hit.

Brilliant!

Last question for Laura: Writing fresh is crucial to getting a contract in the competitive world of publishing. But there is such a thing as being too fresh. Laura, how do you know when you’ve hit that perfect balance?

Laura’s Response: Oh yes, I cross the too fresh line some days. When I'm working at playing with words and being clever, instead of using the tool to show the reader something, I've gone too far. I may not see it at the time, but when I go back the next day, and read over what I wrote, I see where I got carried away. If you can see the author intruding on the story, you've gone too far. 

Not only does Laura write fresh without going too far, but she is a master of compelling cadence. I’ll leave you with a few final examples of description, dialogue cues, and visceral reactions. Which are your favorites? I love them all.

He reread the note, holding it by one crumpled corner as if it were covered in anthrax.

“I suppose we could try that,” she said in a careful hostage-negotiator tone.

“What possessed you to put English tack on my horse?” Max said in the Donald Trump “you’re fired” voice that had scared off the last groom.

Her voice was quiet and slow, but hard as frozen concrete.

“Thanks, but I’ll be fine in the barn.” Her voice sounded harsh to her own ears, but nobody was going to dictate where she slept. Ever again.

“Oh yes. I’m so eager to spill my guts in such a warm and accepting environment!” Acid bit deep in her stomach.

She tried to ignore the tingle that spread from her palm up her arm, as if his touch had mainlined into her blood.

Thank you, Laura, for being on the blog today. I love sharing your incredibly strong writing!

Readers, it’s your turn to ask Laura some questions! Leave a comment and you’ll be entered in the drawing to win an online class ($50 value) from Margie and a copy of Nothing Sweeter from Laura. 

 

 

 

Comments  
# RE: Laura Drake Nothing SweeterLori Freeland 2014-02-07 04:55
Laura--So excited to see you on Margie's blog twice! You have great teaching examples. Can't wait to read the book. It's on my TBR list this week :)
# LoriLaura Drake 2014-02-07 23:13
Awww, thanks, Lori! As busy as you are, I'm honored! Thanks for making me look good!
# Inspiring!Christi McGuire 2014-02-07 14:34
Laura, this was really encouraging to me! It's a great example for us not-yet-publish ed (book) writers to keep working hard and endure. What would be a your biggest tip regarding social media? That's an area that still overwhelms me at times. You could spend 8 hours a day just on social media! So how do you get the most out of social media without letting it drown you?
# Hello Christi!Margie Lawson 2014-02-07 18:44
Christi --

Smart question! Laura will respond later today.

Your question about managing social media haunts most writers! I have the answer!

Read the full title of this online course:

The Coffee Break Guide to Social Media for Writers: How to succeed on social media and still have time to write!

It's offered through Lawson Writer's Academy, on my website. The same website you're on now. :-)

The Social Media for Writers course will be taught in April. Sorry you have to wait 7 weeks.

In case you want to know the whole business side of writing, including what you can claim on your taxes, the same instructor is teaching this class in March:

The Coffeebreak Guide to Business Plans for Writers.

Thanks for chiming in!
# S. Carlyle on the sweet stuffShanda Carlyle 2014-02-07 14:47
Laura,
I commented over on WITS that I'll be getting this one soon. You all suspense-d me into it. :) For now, I'm truly enjoying your class and The Sweet Spot.
The examples here are great. I look forward to the book and to more in class. It has already been the kick in the pants I needed to get busy with the business side of writing.
Oh, and (please, Lord) you and Margie are bound to help me write a decent logline and premise by the end of classes. Maybe.
Regards,
S. Carlyle
# Yay Shanda!Laura Drake 2014-02-07 23:15
So happy to have you in class, and help you with your submission! Don't worry, that query will be all shiny and perfect by the time we're done!
# S. Carlyle to MargieShanda Carlyle 2014-02-07 14:58
Margie,
You are a deep-edit, teaching-point fiend. Thanks for all your examples, illustrations, and explanations. Love your style. (Please teach a structure class. :)) * Does this last ) make my smiley look double-chinned?
Regards,
Shanda
# Hey Shanda!Margie Lawson 2014-02-07 18:49
Shanda --

Thank you! I'm loving working with you in class for the second month in a row.

Lisa Miller teaches a stellar story structure class for Lawson Writer's Academy: Story Structure Safari. She's teaching it again in April. Writers rave and rave and rave.

Polysyndeton. :-)

Your smiley looks exuberant, like you!
# RE: Hey Shanda!Nikki Weston 2014-02-08 21:59
Quoting Margie Lawson:


Lisa Miller teaches a stellar story structure class for Lawson Writer's Academy: Story Structure Safari. She's teaching it again in April. Writers rave and rave and rave.


Thanks for the tip Margie, I will check this course out. Best - Nikki.
# Fresh Flicker-faceLynette M Burrows 2014-02-07 15:18
Wow, Laura! I love, love, love this: Bolts of emotions cracked like lightning in her mind: anger, guilt, failure. Disappointment. Another lost opportunity. It's a fresh take on flicker-face! As for the rest, WOW. I don't usually read romance, but Nothing Sweeter sounds like it will soon be an exception.

BTW, I'm walking in your foot prints, Laura, taking fiendish feedback from Margie in Immersion and the Fab30 class that will strengthen my fresh writing muscles. Someday I hope to be as 'strong' as you. :-)

I wish you lots of success with Nothing Sweeter, but I'm guessing that it will do quite well and wishing has nothing to do with it. Congratulations !
# LynetteLaura Drake 2014-02-07 23:18
Thanks Lynette - if you keep doing the work, you WILL get there! Margie's classes sink into your brain, and a miracle happens, and the lessons start flowing into your writing. I don't know how she does it - I just know that's how it worked for me.

I consider my writing in the crack between Women's Fiction and Romance. I call it 'real life romance!' Thanks for stopping by and reading!
# Ah-May-Zing!Traci Douglass 2014-02-07 15:39
Wow! Thanks for sharing your processes and your amazingly fresh writing. Congrats on your multiple contracts and landing a fantastic agent. I admire your handwork and perseverance more than I can say. You are an inspiration. :) I love all of the examples shown, especially the dialogue tags. Those are pesky critters are my personal achilles heel.

I love that you write first thing in the morning and listen to classical music as inspiration. I too must do my writing in the morning or else I will find any excuse imaginable not to do it.

I'm taking my second Deep EDITS class right now and am learning so much from the incredible Margie and her fabulous techniques.

Between your two posts here on the blog, you've answered all of my questions for now, though I may think of one later.

Best of luck on your endeavors and I look forward to reading your upcoming books!
# TraciLaura Drake 2014-02-07 23:20
Keep at the classes, Traci - Margie took me from good to sold! Nothing Sweeter is the book she and I worked on in immersion class. It would NOT have been published without her help!

Thanks for reading - I'll 'see' you early in the am - I'll bring the Paganini!
# RE: Laura Drake Nothing SweeterBarbara DeLong 2014-02-07 16:40
I love, love, love your writing, Laura! I've read all 3 of your books and they are awesome. I'm a toddler taking first baby steps through Margie's Deep Editing system.
Already I can see all the places that need work. Like, most places. LOL! I look forward to your future books.
Cowboys rule!
# Great examplesBonnie Gill 2014-02-07 18:05
OMG, I loved all the fresh writing examples. Laura's dialogue cues and visceral responses are so much fun.

Thanks for the interview.

Margie,
As always, the teacher in you teaches in a fun way with each interview.
# RE: Great examplesMargie Lawson 2014-02-07 22:02
Hello Immersion-Grad Bonnie!

Thank you!

Teaching and learning, it's all fun for me. I like to make learning fun for everyone. :-)
# Loved the examplesMaria Powers 2014-02-07 18:16
Laura's debut book, The Sweet Spot, was one of my top 2013 books. I haven't started Nothing Sweeter yet and I can't wait to get to it. The examples you've got here are why she's become a must read for me.
# BarbLaura Drake 2014-02-07 23:21
Barb is a long-time dear friend of mine. I beat her over the head until she signed up for Margie's class! Hang in there, Barb, the hard work WILL pay off!
# RE: Laura Drake Nothing SweeterSharla Rae 2014-02-07 19:48
As one of Laura's crit partners, I watched her go from good to fabulous. She's driven and that's what it takes to make it in the publishing world today. Her books speck for themselves, Totally Wonderful!
# CharLaura Drake 2014-02-07 23:23
This is my wonderful friend who let me steal her name for the heroine in The Sweet Spot!

And who made me start Nothing Sweeter over about 13 times, until I found the RIGHT place to start.

A great crit group is essential for success!

Love you, Chickie.
# Where does it come from???Lara Chapman 2014-02-07 19:49
Hi, Laura! I always enjoy the examples Margie provides of your writing. When I read your examples, I fall in love with it and simultaneously think "Why can't I think of these original things like her?"

How do you come up with such fresh ideas The harder I think about those things, the worse my writing gets! Lol

So how do you do it?
# LaraLaura Drake 2014-02-07 23:29
Okay, Lara, assume you're trying to think of a dialog cue. Say for a smarmy politician.

What do you want to convey? His loose morals, 'me' personality, and his love of power, right? Isn't that what constitutes smarmy in a politician?

On way is, "He said it like....." and you fill in the blank with a reference that makes all that clear. Can you think of anything?

How about, "He said it like a used car salesman says, Trust me.complete with the toothy grin.

That's the thought process. Now you try!
# RE: Laura Drake Nothing SweeterGreg Henry 2014-02-07 20:42
Laura,

Another interesting book. I can't wait to read it.

Best wishes!
# GregLaura Drake 2014-02-07 23:31
Thanks, Greg!

Greg is another advantage I took away from a Margie class - I met him in Fab 30, and we've critted together ever since!

If you don't have a crit group, Margie's classes are great places to meet crit partners.

And it's much faster to just say, "Needs green!" than to explain to the 'unMargieized.'
# RE: GregGreg Henry 2014-02-08 06:09
Laura,

I agree with everything you say about Margie's classes, except that it isn't true. I mean, they're great, but you did not meet me in Margie's class. We met in Deadly Prose.

But everything else you say is true. Go Margie classes!

Best wishes,

Greg
# Love Laura's storySharon Wray 2014-02-07 21:52
Thank you for this post, Margie. After years and years of working and moving ahead, but yet to grab that golden ring, I find Laura's story so inspiring. I love hearing stories like this and they are what keep me in online classes and churning out pages.

And what great examples of fresh writing!
# SharonLaura Drake 2014-02-07 23:33
Thanks, Sharon! And don't ever give up your dreams - especially writing ones!

When you get discouraged (and we all do), try to remember why you began writing. I'll bet it was more about getting your story on paper than getting a NY contract.

Am I right?
# VERMONT ESCAPEMarsha R. West 2014-02-07 22:30
Because sometimes I get lost on blogs,Laura & Margie, I read over your post here from last May. Thought, huh! I've already commented on this. Why is Margie re-posting, except I found great stuff all over again. :) I forgot to FB so I came back and here's where I was supposed to be all along.
My favorite of all those wonderful lines is: “I suppose we could try that,” she said in a careful hostage-negotia tor tone." I can hear that line in my head. I could say it out loud the way you intend for it to be said. Brilliant!
Laura, you write fresh better than just about anyone--even those big name people Margie uses as examples. I'll be sharing this.
# MarshaLaura Drake 2014-02-07 23:35
Thanks for the kudos Marsha, and the sharing!

Marsha is a good example of using social media well - I see her everywhere!
# RE: Laura Drake Nothing SweeterAmy Pfaff 2014-02-07 23:53
These are great examples. I'm glad to know it gets easier, because right now, it's really hard!

Congrats on your success.

Amy
# AmyLaura Drake 2014-02-08 00:40
You'll go through what I call a, 'Deer in the headlights' phase with Margie's classes. Feels like your brain is working like a fully-loaded freight train in the Rockies. But don't give up. Parts are seeping into a part of your brain you're not aware of. It'll work, I promise! One of the magic of Margie moments.
# Robin OlsonRobin Olson 2014-02-08 02:38
Thanks Laura and Margie for this awesome inspiring post. Every time I try to write something fresh, those critiquing my pages say it's too much, I'm trying too hard to say something that could be shortened and say the same thing. I'm going with you guys and keep plugging away at originality. Thanks, Robin
# WowTerri Herman-Ponce 2014-02-08 17:11
I don't have a question but gotta admit that I LOVE the writing. I definitely see where Margie's teachings wove there way into such great storytelling. Best of luck with the book!
# RE: Laura Drake Nothing SweeterJulie Weathers 2014-02-08 21:00
Well, here we go on the right blog. I'm using Empowering Characters Emotions now and my crit partners have really noticed a difference in the last few chapters I've sent them. I'm still not "there", but it's definitely improving.

I've read several of Laura's excerpts and keep thinking, "why can't I write like that?"

This is the year Far Rider goes out, so I'm going to do everything I can to get it ready for agents and hopefully editors.

Thanks for sharing this.
# RE: Laura Drake Nothing SweeterJulie Weathers 2014-02-08 21:06
Laura, I have to ask, if you don't mind sharing, how long was it between the time you wrote your first book to getting an agent?

Also, how much research did you do on rodeo and bullriding for your book?
# JulieLaura Drake 2014-02-09 00:31
Julie,
It took me 15 long years! But I am a slow learner - that doesn't mean it will take you that long! If you can find it, I wrote about my story for Chuck Sambuchio's blog, that explained the whole story.

About bull riding, I was a fan long before I ever thought of writing about it! I'm from from Detroit, so I didn't know from rodeo, but I fell in love with it from the first time I ever saw it!

Thanks for reading!
# RE: Laura Drake Nothing SweeterNikki Weston 2014-02-08 22:05
Hey there Laura,

and huge congratulations on your publishing success, your enthusiasm is inspiring! Funny you should mention that folks need to hear a name 5-ish times before they'll recognise same - the moment I read the title 'The Sweet Spot', I recognised it as one that came highly recommended! Adding it to my wishlist on Amazon ;-)

My question is: you mentioned that your deep-editing muscle gets stronger the more you use it. Do you find that the deep edit tools come into play as early as first draft? Or do they come to the fore once the first draft is done?

Best for now - Nikki (Currently in the February Deep edits class online! WOOT, IT'S AMAZING!!!)
# RE: Laura Drake Nothing SweeterLaura Drake 2014-02-09 00:38
Nikki,
Thanks for wanting to read - and for proving my point!

Actually, after working at Margie's classes, the emotion came out more balanced on the page!

Keep at it - it'll happen!
# RE: Laura Drake Nothing SweeterNikki Weston 2014-02-09 20:38
Cheers for that Laura! Wishing you continued success in all you do!
Best - Nikki
# RE: Laura Drake Nothing SweeterNikki Weston 2014-02-09 20:41
Laura, one more thing: I was just on Amazon, 'The Sweet Spot' got 45 (!) 5-star reviews? FANTASTIC!!!!
Nikki
# RE: Laura Drake Nothing SweeterJulie Glover 2014-02-09 00:33
What great writing! I loved Sweet Spot. Thrilled to see another book out!

I love what you said about the fresh visceral writing becoming easier, like flexing a muscle. I think I need a better rhythm, exercising that muscle almost every day to strengthen my voice. Thanks for sharing your work, Laura!

And thanks to Margie for great content here! (Margie's awesome.)
# JulieLaura Drake 2014-02-09 15:48
Margie is my hero, Julie! I wish I had a nickel for every time I recommended her....nothing else has made that much change in my writing!
# Questions to bothShanda Carlyle 2014-02-17 15:30
Any advice for nailing that crucial opening scene? Length of time before the inciting incident, allowable yellow, etc.?
Any resources you recommend?
# RE: Laura Drake Nothing SweeterMargie Lawson 2014-02-17 18:22
HELLO EVERYONE!

Thank you for dropping by the Pubbed Margie-Grad Blog!

Random.org selected our two winners:

Winner of an online class ($50 value) from me: Julie Glover!

Winner of NOTHING SWEETER: Amy Pfaff!

CONGRATULATIONS to JULIE GLOVER and AMY PFAFF!
# Laura Drake Nothing SweeterWrite Windows 2014-04-03 23:29
Write 1000 Words For $5!

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