Since 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.
The Novel Approach, a book review blog, posted a nice review of my M/M romance Because Faery Godmonster! They said the book was: “Sweet, a little angsty, comical and sexy all apply to this story. It’s such an easy, breezy read.”
Here’s an excerpt from the review:
This book is at once lighthearted but also touched by the somber notes of both Goss’s and Pox’s individual conflicts. It’s equal parts adorable and weighty, and I loved the building sexual tension between the hobgoblin and the nightsprite. Their quest is ambitious and the eventual consummation of their feelings for each other was unexpectedly erotic. I feel like I should throw in here, now, that there is a fisting scene, because Pox evidently doesn’t like his sex entirely vanilla, so do check your comfort level with that if you’re considering giving Because Faery Godmonster a try.
Read the entire review here!
So, perhaps because bad luck always comes in threes, while I was recovering from a car accident and an unusual esophageal infection that made my doctors take biopsies and suspect cancer, one of my books received a scathing review–my first truly negative review. It seemed strangely personal and hit me as hard as the two physical insults. I was actually so shocked by it that I didn’t cry until the next day.
But I got over it. I had to. You can’t put yourself out there without someone trying to knock you down. People suck like that. So, while I did flail about and whine to my friends, I discovered something helpful.
I wrote a rebuttal, which I might share here later. My only intention was to release my venom, but something crystallized in my mind as I wrote. I saw, more clearly than ever before, my ideal reader for that book. I already knew a few things–that she was probably female, a Millennial, and politically liberal, but she’s also a bit edgy, appreciates complexity, and has above average intelligence. She understands that characters don’t always say what they mean and do what they say. Sometimes characters, like real people, hide things from others–sometimes even from themselves. She has a sense of humor and is a trifle wicked…maybe more than a trifle.
Having a better understanding of my ideal reader has led me to market that book differently. I’m using more humor and playing up the darker elements.
Don’t ever let a bad review get you down. See if you can turn it to your advantage. Never stop dreaming; never stop writing.
I write in basically two genres, epic fantasy and erotic romance. I’m going to finish the last book in my current epic fantasy series, and then I’m done with epic fantasy. To be honest, it’s hard to finish that last story at this point, but I know a few people (literally, a few) want to see the series resolved, so I’ll finish it for them.
It just takes too much time and effort to write epic fantasy, and the rewards are minimal. Monetarily, my erotic romances do much better. People seem to like them. My epic fantasy most be very, very niche. Only a few people (and I am so thankful for and love those people!) seem to get it. I’m participating in a review group and Under the Shadow seems to blow peoples’ minds. They don’t understand it, it has too many characters, on and on. One reviewer loved my voice, but thought the characters drifted and had no concrete goals. (It’s a character-driven story–not a plot-driven story. Grr.) The new reviewer is just lost. I’ve told him it’s okay to stop reading it. Apparently, I’m torturing people with my fantasy books.
The erotic romance crowd doesn’t seem to be having any problems with my romances. Those stories are, in fairness, much simpler than the epic fantasy series. I focus on two main characters; the goal is simply starting a relationship; there are no maps. (There are glossaries sometimes because I can’t help myself; I love fantasy and I suck.) Because of their inherent simplicity, my romances only take a few months to write. I actually spent years putting together my epic fantasy series. Years. But the romances sale and no one complains about them.
So, I’ll be retooling the website and shifting my focus to romances. I already have an m/m historical mystery romance planned as well as a paranormal romance in the works. It’s a painful decision, but I wanted to be a writer to communicate with people, to connect with readers, to have strangers read and enjoy my stories. Torturing people with my works was never one of my goals. So, onward and upward. Hello, world of romance!
Depictions of BDSM in popular media make my skin crawl. They’re rarely anything I recognize. I really hate how doms are portrayed as crazed sociopaths who enjoy hurting people in all aspects of their lives.
Um. No. We, as a group, tend to be nice people. If you met me outside of my dungeon (yes, I have one. No, it’s not the red room of pain. It’s decorated in green men and cats) you would probably find me charming and kind hearted. (At least, that’s what people tell me….) I don’t eat men for breakfast. I don’t make cutthroat business deals. I don’t try to find ways to humiliate my husband outside of our playtime, and I don’t try to control his life.
Some people do have slave contracts. Neither of us are big on formalities or paperwork, so we’ve never bothered with anything like that. BDSM has been a huge part of our romantic life during our twenty years together. We’re both creative, playful sensation-lovers, so it fits our needs well.
But other people’s ignorance still irks me. Being a dom means seeing yourself portrayed as the bad guy almost constantly. The damaged one who hurts people because he doesn’t know how to love. Why? Because vanilla sex is love? Reduced to its lowest terms, vanilla sex is just a lot of jamming various things into various holes. Love doesn’t have much to do with it. It’s what we decide it means that’s everything. The same thing is true of BDSM.
In Lover, Destroyer, although it’s fantasy romance, I tried to show BDSM as part of a loving relationship. The men have problems, but BDSM isn’t one of them. It’s no more a problem than vanilla sex is in most vanilla romances.
Lover, Destroyer is available on Amazon. Read it for free on Kindle Unlimited!
Yesterday I watched Trump adviser Stephen Miller, with his cruel, lifeless eyes, discount the worth of the poem inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty. The poem is “The New Colossus,” a sonnet written by Emma Lazarus. It was added later, he said, and insinuated that it didn’t have anything to do with the meaning of the Statue of Liberty. I don’t understand the conservative preoccupation with the way something originally occurred. Every writer knows the first pass at something is rarely complete and almost always inadequate.
The poem and its message of sanctuary and openness, to me and to many other Americans, defines the statue–it explains its metaphor and purpose. It’s as important as the Statue of Liberty herself. But what does any of this have to do with a blog about writing books? I write fantasy and erotic romances, those aren’t political. Except when they are. (And, honestly, they always are. Everything is political. Ursula LeGuin has said that fiction writers tell lies in order to tell the truth.)
My latest book, an erotic M/M romance set in a fantasy land, involves a young prince named Elarhe. Magic is forbidden in his land, but he has developed magical powers, so he steals away, disguised as a peasant and crosses the border to the neighboring kingdom where he hopes to explore his abilities. He is an unauthorized immigrant and finds himself doing “anything dirty and dangerous” in order to survive, including interring the bodies of victims of a tannery’s poisoned runoff. (Because I also like to sneak environmental themes into my books….)
He is treated badly in his new land, but he never gives up and never stops trying to improve his life and make a difference. The idea to make Elarhe an immigrant arose from Trump’s stupid border wall and Muslim ban business. (I tend to react to things by writing about them. I think all writers do this whether their conscious of it or not.) When I was crafting Elarhe’s character, I very much wanted to imbue him with a confidence and optimism that I associate with immigrants. It takes a special courage to relocate to a new country. I’ve thought of doing it myself and have always felt too fearful to make the leap.
I admire people who search for their dreams. I find nothing admirable about dead-eyed, creepy little Nazis who bully reporters and think poems have no value.
My wonderful, geeky friends are excited about the new woman Doctor in Doctor Who. They were thrilled to see Wonder Woman do so well at the box office and many are hoping that the Black Widow in the Marvel Universe will get her own movie. They’re excited that the new Bond might be female or black. Although I share in their excitement, as a biologically female, genderqueer writer, I find myself wishing we weren’t just rehashing characters written by cisgender, cissexual white men in the middle of the last century.
I wish we were celebrating new, original characters created by people living here and now. I want to hear from diverse voices. I want to know about the characters and worlds created whole cloth by women, people of color, and LGBTQIA people. Diverse writers in the here and now are brimming with stories and characters that are every bit as exciting as anything from some comfortable franchise.
Breaking the glass ceiling is fine, but I would rather create an entirely new ceiling. Something unique and profound. Something from this century. Something created by many points of view–prisms through which we might see ourselves in a new light.