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I hate starting a new book.

I’m probably not supposed to say that. First Rule of Social Media Club seems to be “Never talk about negativity.”

StubbornBut darn it. I hate starting a new book.

I’ve sold forty books. It ought to be a snap, right? Nope. I’m scared to death every time. What if I can’t think of anything new? What if the characters are just finger puppets? What if the plot’s too stale, or too thin, or too impenetrable? What if the well’s run dry, or the Muse has departed?

As I start out, I usually have names, a basic conflict, a theme-ish-sort-of-kind-of-idea-thing…and that’s about it. Obviously that’s not enough. I’m still a stranger in my own story. I wouldn’t know these people if I saw them on the street. I have no idea what they want, or how to help them get it.

blind man's bluffSo for some indeterminate, tortuous time, I stumble around with my hands out, feeling for walls and identifying markers, bumping into things like a kid playing Blind Man’s Bluff.

Yeah. Hate this part.

But apparently there’s no avoiding it. There’s only the hope of getting through it.

I’m just beginning the fourth book in my Sisters of Bell River Ranch series–a series I’ve loved so far. WILD FOR THE SHERIFF came out earlier this year, and I’ve received such nice mail about it from readers–hurray, hurray! betting on cowboy box of books
BETTING ON THE COWBOY
comes out in just a few days, and got a great 4.5-star review from Romantic Times Book Reviews. (Also hurray!) Book Three, THE RANCH SHE LEFT BEHIND will be out in December, and is safely written and in my brilliant editor’s hands.

But now…now I have to start from scratch again. This fourth and final book in the series will be about the Secret Sister. The one Rowena, Bree and Penny didn’t ever know they had. I’ve been so excited about this book. Tess’s story always seemed like the “fun” one, the one I couldn’t wait to write.

Then it really was time to write it, and suddenly the enthusiasm evaporated. For the past two weeks, this “fun” book looked as terrifying, as dark and shadowy and fraught with unanswered questions as every other book I’ve ever written. Blind Man’s Bluff…and I was losing.

great ideaHere’s the great thing, though. Eventually, if I soldier on, allowing myself to bump and hunt and face the fears, I reach the “aha” moment. The blindfold comes off, the light flicks on, and suddenly I can *see* the story. The people. The places. “Ohhhh,” I say, blinking happily. “So that’s what you look like!”

Yesterday, at my critique group meeting, it happened. AHA! Tess Spencer is no longer just “the secret sister.” Her story is no longer a dark, shadowy landscape filled with half-perceived obstacles. out of focus man

And best of all, because I’m a hero-driven storyteller, Jude Calhoun isn’t just “The Hero.” They are both real people with fears and flaws and dreams and quirks.

And I like them. Whew! Hugs and kisses to my clever critique partners!

How about you? When you start something new, are you excited and invigorated–or intimidated, like me?

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