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.

A Lovely Blog Review!

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!

BFGbookmockup

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.

Bruce with hulks
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.

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

Writer Tools…er…Toys

I love toys. My office is filled with action figures, stuffed animals, and just weird stuff. In my heart, I’m really a nine-year-old boy. Toys just make me happy, and I tend to be more creative when I’m feeling playful. Although I have toys scattered around the room, I keep three close at hand while I write. They are my super special writer toys.

HulkHead

My Hulk head is one of my favorites. I love the Incredible Hulk and will buy almost anything with Hulk on it. I had no idea when I found this rather gruesome ball in a drugstore just how much I would love it. It’s filled with liquid and is fun to smash and slosh around. This is what I grab most often when I’m reviewing my work. I bounce it from hand to hand as I read and mash his head when I’m frustrated. It’s a great editing tool.

Hulk body

Another drugstore find is my squishy Hulk body. This one is filled with some sort of sand and makes a wonderful “walking on the beach” sound when you smash it. His legs are floppy, too, which makes him fun to waggle back and forth. I grab him when I’m stuck on a scene.

DragonSpinner

My husband gave me my newest toy, a dragon fidget spinner. I’ve started playing with it when I’m filling in a scene or trying to figure out where else the plot should go. It’s a nice alternative to squishy Hulk body and has a completely different vibe.

So, if you’re a writer, try playing with some toys to get the creativity flowing. My other tools tend to be pretty boring–I write in MS Word, for instance, and use Excel to plan plots. I tend to jot notes in a spiral notebook, so there is nothing fancy about the way I actually write. I do everything, however, surrounded by a horde of Hulks, Lokis, cats, dragons, and foxes.

But…I Like it Rough

So, my first negative review ever was about the only book I’ve published that has been a commercial success. The reviewer criticized the BDSM in my M/M romance, Lover, Destroyer, as being “borderline hardcore” and violent with “a frail veneer of consent.”

What hurt most about these comments, once I was able to separate my bruised writer feelings and set them aside, was the fact that it felt like an attack on my lifestyle. I don’t read about BDSM in books. The BDSM in my story might be a bit edgy because that’s how I like it. I’ve been a practitioner for about twenty-five years.

In the Dark Ages, when the Internet was in its infancy and few people had access to it, people who didn’t live in a city with a BDSM club–or who simply didn’t want to be part of a club–couldn’t just google ‘BDSM etiquette.’ They had to explore and discover things on their own. That was part of the fun.

Even in an age where such things are codified and catalogued,  accidents happen. Scenes go wrong. Feelings–and sometimes flesh–get hurt. One time my husband had to see the doctor because I bruised his spleen. He’s a wonderful sub, we’re closely bonded, and he was ready to go the next weekend. (Although I limited myself to flogging his bottom.)

Sometimes BDSM, like life, is messy and chaotic. Maybe some people like to conduct their BDSM like Vulcans in surgery–and more power to them–but I don’t. It’s  not fair to say that my way is bad simply because you don’t like it or don’t understand it. In Lover, Destroyer, which is set in a pre-industrialized world, Elarhe, a budding dom, is trying to understand what masochistic Kite wants. They are learning what works for them and discovering each other’s boundaries. They’re learning about each other.

I wanted to include a snippet from one of my sex scenes, but couldn’t find a piece tame enough. So, here’s Elarhe learning about after care following his first session with Kite.

When they were done, Elarhe removed the clamps from Kite’s nipples and sprawled on the floor, panting. Kite thudded next to him. He lifted his bandage, revealing his eyes. Elarhe stared at the high ceiling. Kite stared at him. After a moment, Kite asked, “Will you hold me?”

Elarhe couldn’t help himself and laughed at him. He stopped laughing when he saw the sincerity on Kite’s face. “I guess. I’m all sweaty.”

“So am I.” He looked rather childlike. “It’s just—it’s like I’ve been on a long journey. I need help coming home.”

Elarhe pulled Kite into his arms. Kite snuggled against his chest in a quiet, fragile way that took Elarhe by surprise.

Elarhe kissed the top of Kite’s head. “I didn’t realize there was this part. I would have done it sooner if I had known.”

“This part is just as important as the rest,” Kite said quietly, tracing one of the lean muscles in Elarhe’s arm. “You didn’t know because I failed to tell you. It’s not your fault. You performed splendidly.”

As they embraced, Elarhe realized that he needed the cuddle, too. It closed the door on their game and returned them to their normal lives. It reassured him that Kite bore him no ill will, carried no grudges. The dungeon was its own world.

 

 

Bad Reviews Can be Useful

imageSo, 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’m Done With Epic Fantasy

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!