The Most Romantic Thing

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Some people roll their eyes when you mention romance. They don’t consider it serious literature. They probably don’t consider it very important in their relationships. It’s frivolous, right? It’s a box of chocolates and some rose petals.

I don’t think so. I write romances, mostly gay romances, so maybe I’m biased. There was a time when I didn’t believe much in romance, either. But I married a terrifically romantic guy who has convinced me that romance is real. Here’s possibly the most romantic thing he has ever done.

We bought a large glazed pot with a beautiful interior. The interior was so beautiful, in fact, that we chose not to plant anything in it. It sat out on our back porch and looked pretty. One day, I noticed the little dried up husk of a lizard in the pot. I was horrified. I love animals and hated the thought that this little creature had died in agony, trapped in my beautiful pot, unable to climb out the slick sides. I told my husband, in tears, about my grisly discovery.

The next day, I found a strange collection of junk in the pot. Someone (my husband) had made an escape ladder out of stones and sticks. I’ve never loved anyone more than I loved him at that moment. I felt heard, validated, and loved. Isn’t that what we’re all looking for?

Romance doesn’t have to be awkward poetry and candlelight. It’s about listening to someone you love, making his needs important, and taking action out of love. These things are powerful. They keep our hearts open to the people near us, making our relationships stronger.

So, no, I don’t think there’s anything frivolous about romance. I think it’s vital to a healthy relationship and important to life, itself. I think it’s significant as a genre, as well, and every bit as important as fantasies or mysteries or sci fi or whatever else.

Following a Story Where it Leads

magicalhorseSome writers are pantsers. They ‘fly by the seats of their pants’ and write what they feel at a given moment. I’m more of a plotter. Usually, I come up with a couple of characters and start imagining situations they could be in. I mull things over until a few scenes really gel, then I make a rough outline and start writing. I’m a control freak. I need to have some idea where all of the bits and pieces go before I can lose myself in the writing.

The new story I’m working on has decided to make me crazy. I’ve never written a mystery, but I thought it would be fun to write a gay mystery romance. I’ve never written a historical. So, why not a gay mystery historical romance? I actually did a significant amount of research for my epic fantasy series, and I enjoy research, so I thought researching this new book would be a lot of fun. Ha! The story had other ideas….

I thought I understood my story. I thought I knew what it was going to be about. I had a spiffy outline that told me what I wanted to hear. But my research turned up new things. Horrible things. Things I thought I knew, thought I understood, but….um…no. The world I’m writing about is so much darker and more frightening than I imagined–and I chose the area because it always frightened me as a child. I chose the era because it seemed like a spooky period, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

My research turned my pathetic little outline on its ear. The story is morphing, growing into some hungry new beast. It’s thrilling, honestly. Is this why pantsers get so starry-eyed when talking about their process? I, because I’m still a stodgy control freak, am slavishly bleeding out another outline. Being thrown into the briars was fun, however.

I have an ambitious project to tame. I imagine it will throw me again when it feels bored. For the moment, I’m excited by where it has taken me.

 

The Fur Coats

Authors often talk about what music they listen to while writing, but what do their characters listen to? In my new gay romance, Zen Alpha, the two main characters get their blood pumping with the pop punk sound of Austin’s The Fur Coats. Ward listens to them every morning before work, where he teaches autistic children. On this particular day, he and Bradley listen to them after a long night looking for a lost cat.

Check out The Fur Coats here and wake up!

Zen Alpha

My new book Zen Alpha is now available on Amazon! Zen Alpha is a steamy M/M romance. It’s free with Kindle Unlimited.

When his domineering stock broker boyfriend goes too far, Bradley wonders if his flexible, mindful neighbor might be just what he needs.

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Don’t Be Afraid to Change

eye-color-change-2852261_640Since I published His Dungeon Discovery a couple of months ago, I’ve been trying to write an urban fantasy m/m romance. Initially, I was very excited. I had been thinking about it for a while and was happy to dive into it.

But then it stopped being fun.

I started worrying about what genre it actually was, because it was also sort of dystopian. I got caught up in one of the subplots–the main character’s mother has early onset dementia. My own mother is schizophrenic, so dealing with an impaired parent is a big deal for me. Perhaps for this reason, I wanted to spend more time with that aspect of the story. The romance atrophied as I wrote dialogues between my MC and his mom. The story spun out of control, and I grew increasingly depressed by it. I would hide from it for days at a time.

So I set it aside. I started writing a contemporary m/m romance with a couple of fun characters. It’s a simple, straightforward romance with a hint of humor. I’m ten chapters in and I’m glad I made the switch. Since I started working on the new story, I’ve gone back to writing every day. I have scenes going in my head at all times; the characters are talking to me. I’m happy again.

For whatever reason, the last project just wasn’t working for me. I want to go back to it someday, but I need to be in a better frame of mind to grapple with it. So, if you’re a writer who’s stuck on a certain piece, try taking a break from it and working on something else. You might find, not only solace, but a great story.

GammaFrost

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My own blue Loki helping me plot my latest book. 

I haven’t seen the new Thor movie yet. My friends have given it mixed reviews. I have to see it because I wrote a whole fanfic series where Bruce Banner, alter ego of Hulk, and Loki fall in love and are a happy couple living in New York City.  The pairing is called GammaFrost.

I began writing these sweet, smutty stories while in the grip of writer’s block. The warm reception they received from fans encouraged me to start publishing my original works.

If you’re curious, you can find one of them, Loki Gets Blue, on Ao3 here.

Here’s an excerpt. Bruce, a scientist, struggles with loving a god of lies.

People always fell in love with lies. With facades. In reality people were nothing more than gristle and bone, motes of dust swirling around electrical impulses, a superficial collection of atoms, of quarks. But there was more than that. The bass note underneath it all. That spark—the universe straining to understand itself.

 

A Different Kind of Triangle

HisDungeonDiscoveryHis Dungeon Discovery is the sequel to Because Faery Godmonster. You don’t have to have read the first one to enjoy the second one, but I strongly recommend it. Like the first book, this is a rather silly, smutty story. I did try to do something different, however.

Since the first book showed the lovers getting together, I thought the second book should show their bond being tested. Classically, this would be done with a love triangle. But I don’t especially like love triangles, and I always prefer to do my own thing. So I gave them a young orphan with a vocabulary limited to one word and challenged them with taking care of her. Goss, the more nurturing of the couple, bonds to her immediately and wants to protect and adopt her. Pox thinks she stinks and is rather tiresome.

So that’s the main source of conflict between the lovers in my story. One wants to nest, but the other isn’t ready. It’s a funny little fantasy story, but I wanted it to have an honesty to it. In my life, wanting different things/ being at different life stages have been the big relationship problems–not the tall, dark stranger.

Now you know why Lady Grawgraw plays such a pivotal role in the story!

You can find His Dungeon Discovery here, and you can read it for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Indie Editing for Indie Authors

Recently, a professional editor told me I didn’t need her editing services. I was extremely flattered! Editing can be hard work, particularly when you’re editing your own material. I’m sharing my method in case it might help other self-published writers on tight budgets.

  • Edit while you work. Before I start writing a scene (I typically write in scenes), I scan the previous day’s efforts for typos, unintentional repeated words, etc. This serves the dual purpose of getting me into the world and voices.
  • Do a rough edit. After I finish the rough draft, I do a rough edit. I search for typos, adverbs, missing or misplaced commas, and inconsistencies. I look for things like hair and eye color that changes for no reason, voice changes, and weak verbs. Because I’m an indie author, I tend to stick to old-fasioned usage and grammar rules. Lay people don’t trust new authors and won’t realize you’re trying something new. They’ll probably just think you don’t know what you’re doing. Choose a style manual and try to be consistent.
  • Have beta readers. Good beta readers are invaluable. Betas will not only help you by asking questions about character motives and ferreting out plot holes, they will also notice typos and missing words. I submit my manuscript to betas after the rough edit.
  • Enter beta edits. This is often where I do some rewriting. Theoretically, you shouldn’t have to do anything too extensive. Your story should have been ready to go when you sent it to your betas. If you have to do significant rewriting, consider running the story by at least one more beta before continuing.
  • Do a final read through. I can’t stress the importance of this step enough. It’s so easy to mess things up by cutting and pasting, adding new phrases, etc. Use the final read through to correct the small errors still in the manuscript.
  • Stop picking at it. If you’ve done your rewrites, edits, had your manuscript read by betas, polished your piece, and gave it a final read–you’re done. Publish it, send it away, give it as a present to your fifth grade Engish teacher–whatever. Just don’t mess with it any more. Move onto your next project. Call your book finished and let it go.

That’s it! Oh, and have fun. Use different fonts and colors to mix things up and change the way your eyes see the text. Currently, I’m editing the sequel to my M/M romance, Because Faery Godmonster, and did the rough edit on a blue background with white New Times Roman text. (I wrote it on a white background in Arial.) I’ll probably do the final read on my tablet. The different format seems to expose typos.

Happy editing!

Because Faery Godmonster, Collector’s Edition!

I re-released Because Faery Godmonster as a collector’s imageedition. Yeah, that’s pretty cheesy, but have you read the book? (If not, you should!) BFG is a quirky gay romantic comedy, but it’s also a geeky homage to RPGs. So, slapping on a new cover, changing some formatting, and adding the first chapter of the sequel seemed like a perfect collector’s edition.

For part of junior high (middle school) and all of high school, I lived with my evangelical Christian grandmother. Not only did she think being gay was a sin, she also forbid me from playing D & D. Sooo, I guess I should have dedicated this book to her since it’s basically what happens when urges like that get bottled up too long. (She would hate it.)

Buy a little piece of my weird rebellion here. It’s also free with Kindle Unlimited.

My Office Mate

Bruce Banner is the only cat well-mannered enough to visit my office. (I have five cats.) Once in a while, he decides to help me rearrange my action figures, but, for the most part, he’s the perfect writing companion. He either stares out one of my windows or flops in the middle of the floor and snoozes.

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Bruce Banner sleeping near my desk with some Hulks he has knocked down.

Writing can be a lonely endeavor. Having another beating heart in the room–whether it’s a cat or a fish–can make it a little less so. I don’t write horror stories, so I don’t exactly scare myself, but sometimes I write violent or intense scenes that make me feel chilled and anxious. It’s nice to look over at Bruce’s sleepy face when my hands have turned to ice and feel human again.

Sometimes I’ll stop and pet him if I’m stuck. Animals can be distracting, at times, but they can also be great sources of inspiration. Being with me while I write seems to benefit Bruce, as well. He is normally a rather high-strung little cat. I think he appreciates having a break from the others. Writing in the office is our special time–even if I’m at my laptop for most of it.

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Bruce in the living room, where I do most of my editing. He seems to enjoy being around me while I work.