07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Playing well with others!

by M. L. Buchman

I feel as if this should be a constant theme in my life: playing well with others.

A writer's world is a strange and solitary one...I'm paid to sit in a corner, by myself, and fantasize for a living (a kinder way to say: I sit in a corner and make shit up for a living). I fantasize about what it would be like to fly a helicopter, to destroy a bad guy, to fall in love... Well, I don't have to fantasize about that one, because I did--twenty years ago and still besotted. But I have to think about how it would feel for others, both male and female, from a wide variety of backgrounds.

But occasionally I'm forced to emerge from the depths of the world in my head and interact with those around me. Sometimes just enough, sometimes way too much.

A few weeks ago I attended and assisted at a week-long short-story anthology workshop. Fifty writers, a dozen hours a day for 7 days. OMG! It was fantastically wondrously intensely and deeply fun. (It was also a little mortifying, my inner introvert is still in deep shock.) For 7 days we talked almost nothing except the craft, marketing, and business of short fiction. I did my best to be thoughtful, supportive, and curious. I've spoke to almost no one except my wife in the weeks following. Even at a weekly lunch of local writers (all of whom I've known for years), I still had little to say and am only now returning to normal.

But there is another way that I've been playing with others. In a prior post I discussed doing a world collaboration project with fellow military romantic suspense writer Cristin Harber. This month I've discovered the joys of writing a collaboration project with one of Regency romance's top authors: Grace Burrowes.

Okay, there's the catch...Regency.

Years ago, back when I was a much younger writer (in every sense of the word), I wrote a historical. I was very proud of that book and sent it off and about. A top editor from Mills & Boon sent me back a very kind note: "Thank you for submitting this for my consideration. I'll pass on this manuscript, but absolutely send me your next contemporary title for consideration." A couple of things here: 1) This was a top editor, who was willing to look at my next title. Back in those days this was just one step down from a sale. Fantastically cheering feedback on my level of writing at that time. 2) This was a top historical editor who asked for my next contemporary (and I wasn't the one who added the emphasis, she was). Hmmm...

Wind forward a couple of years, I'm taking a class. One of the assignments was to write a historical short story. The teacher handed it back and said, "Is this your best period?" It was. "Try again." I did. When the teacher, who is always very careful to never give career advice for fear of inhibiting a writer, returned the second draft it was with the whispered words, "Never try to write a historical again." I now understand that I don't have a single historical bone in my writing body.

But I like Grace (and love her writing, I read a fair amount of Regency) and we wanted to do a project together.

Now it was her turn. "Military romantic suspense? Really?"

So, we moved on to other topics, including our own plans for future series, until I said, "I'm about to launch a contemporary series set on a Montana ranch. Two of my key heroes, Emily Beale and Mark Henderson, are finally retiring from the military and from firefighting. They're going to settle on Mark's family horse ranch and mentor a whole new set of love stories."

"Oh! That's good. I have an idea for that."

The result?

So, as unlikely as it seems, a Regency author and a military romantic suspense author found common ground beneath Montana's Big Sky! (If you prefer print, they're available separately.)

We've had a great time going back and forth on this. They are two separate novels (except for a reader cookie here and there), but we were very surprised at all of the similarities in our voices. Maybe that's why I enjoy reading her books so much, because we're so similar in use of dialog, humor, even pacing.

On the collaboration I mentioned above with Cristin Harber, it was a challenge of finding a common voice between two very different sets of military romantic suspense characters. Here it was discovering an easy joy in each other's words.

I'm very proud of both, but for different reasons. The collaboration between my Night Stalkers and Cristin's Team Titan in Target of Mine is a kick-ass tale. Big Sky Ever After is a warm contemporary to get all wrapped up in during a chill Montana night.

Having now done two collaboration projects of this scale, I'm definitely looking forward to whatever next comes my way. Because whatever it is, it's gonna be FUN! And that is the real measure of what project to do next.

M.L. Buchman started the first of over 50 novels while flying from South Korea to ride his bicycle across the Australian Outback. Part of a solo around the world trip that ultimately launched his writing career.

All three of his military romantic suspense series—The Night Stalkers, Firehawks, and Delta Force—have had a title named “Top 10 Romance of the Year” by the American Library Association’s Booklist. NPR and Barnes & Noble have named other titles “Top 5 Romance of the Year.” In 2016 he was a finalist for Romance Writers of America prestigious RITA award. He also writes: contemporary romance, thrillers, and fantasy.

Past lives include: years as a project manager, rebuilding and single-handing a fifty-foot sailboat, both flying and jumping out of airplanes, and he has designed and built two houses. He is now making his living as a full-time writer on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife and is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics. You may keep up with his writing and receive a free starter e-library by subscribing to his newsletter at: www.mlbuchman.com


Michelle Somers said...


Great post!

I love that you managed to find your niche, and you found a way of making your anthology work.

Every genre has a 'voice' and it's so very hard to find it if it's not your natural way of writing. I'd always thought I'd love to write category, but every attempt has ended with a 'thank you but no thank you' - very polite, but very definite. Needless to say, I've absorbed myself in what I love - romantic suspense - something I definitely have a voice for!

Heaps of luck with Big Sky Ever After. I hope it goes gangbusters!

Michelle xx

M. L. Buchman said...

I still wonder sometimes if I have even a contemporary "voice". But after 10 novels and a number of short stories...maybe I should just accept that I actually do and get over my doubts (a journey that never seems to end, grin!).

But historical? Nope, no way, no how.

Barb said...

Good post. I love that you are stretching yourself in a different way. It is inspiring to people like me still finding their own voice.

M. L. Buchman said...

THAT is a never ending quest. What is my voice? Where is it? What can I do to make it stronger/clearer?

Tip 1: YOU can't hear it, no matter how clearly everyone else can.
Tip 2: The best way I've found to find my voice is to think of being my more extreme self. Be over the top. Be thoroughly, totally, and outrageously you! THAT is your voice.