NaNoWriMo for the first time

Every year I see a thousand posts about NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. Established authors and aspiring writers both seem excited about it and flood social media with word counts and updates.

I always thought, why bother? That’s how long it takes me to write a rough draft anyway. Why should I get involved in this activity and put added pressure on myself to hit a goal, especially when I’ve usually just finished writing a novel. November is for editing—with good reason considering that’s when my holiday rush starts. Time seems to move faster and there’s never enough of it.

I’ve only written new material once in November. (Once, ever.) Book 2 of my Magic Matched series, and then, before the month was out, I’d also written two-thirds of Book 3. The muse was upon me.

I’m calling her back this month. I’m begging my muse for a moment of her time. Or, barring that, I’m begging my motivation to come off its hiatus.

I’ve had a hard year—really starting last fall, so not just this calendar year. Everything has slowed down, everything has been stressful. Personal issues have overtaken my schedule, there’s no time to write and, when there is, I have little motivation to do so. I’ve been exhausted, running from one catastrophe to the next.

I’ve been working on the same rough draft for four months now. I’ve put aside one book completely and haven’t released anything new since the last of The Double O Saga, which I wrote last year (a struggle, as my year of hardship had just begun). I don’t feel like releasing new stories, I don’t feel like marketing, I don’t feel like participating.

I am working on a book though (see above) but I’m only halfway through. I need roughly 40,000 words to make it a full-length novel. But finishing a work in progress is not the point of NaNoWriMo, is it? You’ve got to start fresh, with a new story and not a single word written before November 1, correct? This counts out a lot of projects I’ve started where I’ve got a few chapters, or whatever.

I have to finish the one book. But I’ve got to shake things up too, maybe remember why I started writing in the first place. So I’ll be starting a second book. That one needs 50,000 to complete NaNoWriMo. That brings me up to 90,000 words? Different stories, different techniques, different motivations…same goal: Finish.

Holy Hell.

My plan is to buckle down and finish the first, but also taking my time with that story the way I usually do with all my stories. Some days, I really can’t write. Life happens. Plus, I’m a writer who needs a little bit of self-editing along the way. I can’t progress if something feels out of place or fits poorly.

So I’m also going to wake up earlier every single morning, write a chapter of my new one without stopping, without looking back and without caring what I just wrote. No matter what, every single day. I’ll outline every chapter, decide what needs to be done in each beforehand, then simply write it. No looking back. I’ll fix it later.

And that’s the point, right? Just write. Nora Roberts said

‘I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank page.’

Something has to shake loose around here. I started writing because I love it, because there were stories in my head clawing to get out, but somewhere along the way it got so commercial. I chose to write erotica because it was the most challenging genre I tried (seriously, you write about sex without sounding ridiculous then get back to me with your condemnation, mmkay?) But this NaNoWriMo, I’ll be writing something totally different. Might end up being YA but probably NA.

It’s something I’ve been tossing around for a very long time, a romance where the two lovers truly can’t be together. They can’t be together physically, they can’t even touch physically, but the emotions are there…and maybe that’s the thing that saves them both.

It’ll be challenging. I’m used to creating physical interludes between my characters to express a range of emotions, but what if it all just boils down to tension? I have to find a new way to show the emotional connection, longing and understanding. What if it’s learning how to love another that teaches you how to love yourself? And that opens the future’s possibilities…for them both. I mean, just because you love someone, doesn’t mean that’s who you belong with forever, right? This ain’t your typical romance.

For the first time all year, I’m really excited. Even if I fail, I can’t wait until November 1, when I’ll wake up too early to be rational, only half-functional, and write just for me. Even if no one ever sees it, even it’s awful, I’ll be putting words on the page, creating something. Something new, something I haven’t done before.

That’s the point. Just write. Create.

Happy NaNoWriMo, everyone. Good luck to the participants, and you’ll find my word counts and maybe some excerpts on my Facebook page and my website if you feel like stopping by to check it out. Leave your own word counts and excerpts in the comments, if you want. We’ll help each other through it!

I want to sparkle, dammit.

Once upon a time, I knew who I was, but then, seemingly suddenly though I know it was a gradual slide, I lost myself.

Most of us spend our teenage years and well into our twenties (or thirties) trying to figure out who we are. Some of us need more time, some of us need less time, but what I think none of us realize is…we need all the time. We need our whole lives.

By the time I’d reached my twenty-fifth year, I had a decent handle on my likes and dislikes, what I was courageous enough to attempt, how to trust my intuition and just how firm my moral foundation was. I knew the type of person I wanted to be and actively worked to become that person, with a few hiccups here and there because I’m human.

But things changed. Once I learned who I was, life conspired to test me or maybe evolve me, whichever. Without realizing, I slipped into roles defined by other people’s expectations. Maybe you can relate. Parent, child, sibling, spouse, teacher, counselor, healer, lover, protector…or take your pick from a thousand others. We are all something to someone else, but that singular title doesn’t begin to cover what we really are.

I started letting what they thought define me which, in turn, started wearing down my own sense of self. The more bits I lost of myself, the more depressed I got. I didn’t even know it, either, until one day I started crying and couldn’t stop. I only faced the sunlight when I had no choice. I was physically ill, tired… I don’t know if I had or have clinical depression because I refuse to see someone about it, in spite of my doctor’s referral and recommendation. (I’m stubborn and delusional and don’t want to hear their definition of me when I’m already fighting against so many others. If you think it would help you, however, I actively encourage you to seek help.)

I started writing, in fact, because I was pigeonholed into a box that didn’t fit, complete with expectations I didn’t want to live up to by people I didn’t want to let down.

I let others tell me who I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to do. And, because I didn’t want to seem too ‘special’ I stopped dreaming, or at least I stopped working toward my dreams, and then I got depressed because I wasn’t any closer to achieving my dreams. A terrible cycle.

Writing helped me combat the pull of others’ expectations. When I first started sliding, publishing a story was my act of courage, putting sentences together into a working plot was my rebellious act of giving voice to my inner self—not my fantasies, memories or wishes and not my feelings on people I know or even myself, really, but a certain piece of my soul that would not be silenced. Every time a publisher said ‘yes’ was both validation and liberation.

I haven’t always written well, but until two or three years ago, I wrote fearlessly. I’ll always have my inner editor yammering in my brain when I think about what has come before, but hidden inside those stories is my courage, my pain, my knowledge and my fear. But, here I am, a decade after I began sliding into other people’s boxes, and I’m still writing, still clinging to the art that lent me sanity.

I can see the difference. I can see how I’ve gone from writing ‘true’ to writing ‘soft.’ Not in all things, but enough. Whatever will people think if I… But, wait, that already happens. I wrote Levi fearlessly, and there is still criticism. I wrote My Voyeur, then changed it to be easier but that gets criticism too.

I’ve had a terrible few years. It could have been worse, yes, but there has been upheaval and change in ways that were brutal to live through.

—I say that because, looking back, I think it wasn’t too bad and though I remember my tears vividly, I remember my fear and anxiety, my physical unhealthiness, my fight through depression, I also hear someone who was close to me tell me I had nothing to be sad about. Looking back, however, thinking it wasn’t too bad, is me letting her put me into a box that doesn’t fit. It’s me slipping back into a role defined for me rather than by me. A clear and important distinction. I hit a breaking point, a true moment where I knew things had to change and so I did. I lost friendships, hell, I lost my mind—

But I found me again.

Guess what? I’m not the same as I was when I was twenty five. I’m someone else now, still with my spirit and, surprisingly, still certain of what sort of person I want to be. I’d lost some of my courage, changed parts of my public self to accommodate what others wanted me to be, and I’d forgotten the sound of my intuition’s voice…but I’m human, and I’ll consider that a hiccup that taught me a great deal about a whole lot.

I’m tired of holding back to accommodate others. I’m tired of not living true to myself or my courage, of pushing back on my dreams in fear of leaving others behind. I’m tired of dimming my light so that others don’t feel like I’m pretending to be special.

I want to sparkle, dammit.

Also, I want to write what feels right, not because I think the majority will handle a story better if I change this or that. Sorry, but oh well, if I make you uncomfortable…maybe that’s your problem to evolve through.

I’m writing this on the off-chance that someone else might need to read it. I’m writing this to prove to myself that I’m still courageous enough to face the truth, even when it hurts. And, the truth is, you need to find yourself every day. You need to define yourself every day. Even if you’re different every day, it’s up to you to tell the world who you are and who you want to be, because, otherwise, the world will tell you—and that’s soul-sucking.

Every day, embrace who you are and recognize that that can change repeatedly. Be courageous, be true. You are special, don’t let the haters tell you you’re not. You should spend your whole life defining you to yourself, don’t let others do it for you.

Editing is hard work…

Editing is really hard work. I know this because I’ve had to edit many things by now. Most recently, Enthralled with Visions, and my God how I winced at what I’d written before. I needed a better editor back then.

My first ‘real’ edit, by which I mean someone under the gun from an actual publishing company and not just a median-price proofreader I hired, taught me more about writing well than anything else before or since. I will forever be grateful to her because her critique and requests and the tears I shed, helped me progress to the next level in my writing.

The experience was awful, wrenching…then I saw one author’s post (and I was really dumb back then and never made a note of who, so I can’t give proper credit). She saved my sanity, so I’m passing on her advice:

 

editors dont know

 

You’re hearing a hallelujah chorus right now, aren’t you? I did too, when I read that. They will often suggest changes, and as time goes by, I find that more helpful. (Previously, I did not) They will tell you something is awkward, impossible, weird, overwritten, underwritten, etc. But you are the writer…so write something to fix it. In that vein, there were very few changes I resisted in that first edit, or since.

NOTE: this next section does not apply to Beta Readers or Critique Partners! That is a more personal relationship and you’ve got to work out between you how you’d like information to be conveyed. Me and mine write directly into the text, but highlight it, and I have no problem with that even though…

I once had an editor decided a word needed capitalization, and so she did a Find/Replace for that word that wasn’t meant to be capitalized which led to utter chaos, including strange uppercase letters in the middle of other words. Over 300 instances where I had to fix what someone else wrote into my novel. She probably thought she was being helpful, but a note at the beginning asking me to change it would have been better, right?

A certain level of vagueness is, in fact, the mark of an excellent editor. If you find someone who tells you something’s funky but doesn’t try to tell you how to fix it, you might be paying the right person.

gaiman quote

 

Remember, you are the writer. Your creativity did not, hopefully, exhaust itself in the writing of your story, so dig a little more, fall out of love with your own words, and change what needs to be changed in a manner your heart can bear. When you first write your story, you will be ridiculously resistant to cutting out words or rearranging sentences, etc. You want to keep them so badly, you know you just NEED them. If you’re like me, you’ve always got an eye on word count, too, right? You need to stretch a little, make that quota you set for yourself…

That was my problem with Enthralled. I had a difficult time getting that one in shape. I remember rushing to get it out in time for Halloween when I wrote it, and I apparently thought it was in competition with Tempted by Nightmares in terms of word count.

Thankfully, a couple of years really gives you a bit of space to see your mistakes. Plus, I’ve learned so much. I was able to cut out a lot, and add in necessary explanations I failed to include the first go-round. It is now streamlined, more cohesive. If I’d had a better editor before, I wouldn’t have had to go through this now.

Look, editors are expensive, and maybe it’s hard to tell the difference between proofreading and content development by someone’s profile…but try. Use that free sample, and know the difference between an editor preserving your voice and just doing a lazy edit. And when you get your first round back and feel like giving it all up, dry your tears and remember…by the time you finish doing all that’s necessary, not only will you have a better book, but you’ll be a better writer.

Buck up. It really is worth it.

 

Erotica: Down & Dirty

Erotica is literature or art that is designed to arouse you. That’s the definition.

Erotic literature, until recently, specifically used sex to tell the story.

sex

I’m not one of those people who argue the difference between porn and erotica. Quite frankly, I don’t care, but I respect that other people do. That’s not what this post is about, however. This post is about sex in stories, in books, even in movies, maybe.

When I wrote my psychic trilogy, I did what all brand new, aspiring authors do and researched everything I could about my genre, how to tell a story, etc. Generally speaking, I wasted a lot of time, because there is no piece of advice in the world that is as helpful to a writer as simply sitting down to write. (But we keep giving it, and we keep trying to get it, too…Even me! Check out my advice posts on Tumblr) That being said, I did stumble on to something that changed my outlook, especially for those first novels, but it’s something that I cling to, even today.

take out

If you can take out the sex scene and still follow the story completely, it’s not true erotica.

I anticipate a lot of emails about that statement, but suffice it to say it’s not exactly mine. It’s something I came across a long time ago, and I wish I knew where I’d seen it so I could give credit where it’s due.

I will never be ashamed to be an erotica writer and I will never let another shame me for being an erotica writer. I love erotica and romance. I love the sex scenes, and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t write in the genre. I don’t care if they move the story in an obvious way or not, because if there is sex in your story, you’re probably showing something about the characters or the plot. Even in a twenty three page short story.

Most of my stories follow the premise above—without the sex scene, you’re missing something. You can skip the sex …but if you’re skipping those scenes, why are you reading erotica? Granted, I take pride in having a great story too, but that story is told in the context of sex. It may not be obvious right away—especially in my Tithe Collector series—but eventually, the piece of information I have conveyed in each, individual sex scene, will be necessary to the whole story. (The Tithe Collector is a long story…it might take a minute, but I promise, you’ll eventually be like, OMG, I remember, and so THAT’S why…)

In some of my other stories, the sex is there in the same way it’s present for other romance novels. To show relationship, communication, forgiveness, a deepening of emotions, or even a lack of emotion. Humans are complex, and sex is just as complex for them. That is why so many romances include graphic scenes.

So what does that tell you about the definition of Erotica?

WRONG

It tells me the dictionary can be wrong! Erotica is more than just trying to get your readers off. It’s about conveying the most complex human idiosyncrasy. Sex is joyful, it’s communication, it’s a promise, and it’s a weapon. Sad, lonely, vulnerable, weak, strong…all at the same time, too. A connection between two people, or desperation on behalf of one. Sex is beautiful and horrible, pleasurable and harmful.

It is all these things, and Erotica is the only genre fighting to show every nuance.

There isn’t a lot of advice about REpublishing your work.

I’ve been editing the first novels I ever released. The Psychic Trilogy is getting updated, and it’s more challenging than you would imagine.

this to that

First of all, my brain balks at having to read them over again. They were my first and I read them a hundred times each—especially Demon’s Bond, about to become Seduced in Dreams. It’s not like it’s my favorite story, I will admit. But it is, hands down, the book I’ve read most often in my life. That’s hard. Let me be honest about that—I don’t want to read it ever again.

But I am. I am reading it, and wincing…and impressing myself. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing back then. I wrote what words came into my head then I used a thesaurus, then I changed everything back to regular words. I mean, come on…a thesaurus? How obnoxious. On the other hand, it did help me broaden my vocabulary, so it served its purpose. (Maybe I’ll write a post on the topic, one day)

I think I asked for ten reviews, and got three or four for Demon’s Bond, which isn’t actually a bad return. They were good reviews. God, for Monster’s Chains, about to become Tempted by Nightmares, I only asked for one, and I got a five star return on that. But then I stopped asking for more, I didn’t even try with Ties of Family (soon to become Enthralled with Visions), and I didn’t know how to promote (I still don’t, but I’m a little better at it. Not great, or I’d be on the NYT Bestsellers list, but better…)

There isn’t a whole lot of advice concerning updating your old books. Sure, there are plenty of posts about cleaning up the interior, or changing the cover. But new titles? I found a few places that tell you to just change them, the metadata (ie how the online bookstores present your particular URL address) will reflect the changes. Hopefully. Otherwise, there isn’t much, as if everyone was entirely happy with their first attempts at publication. Yeah, okay…unless they’re all secretly unpublishing, then putting their updated version back up.

I’ve seen posts warning authors not to unpublish then republish their updates. Some people think that means you’re gaming the system, working your old book into the new releases. So that’s another worry I’ve got on my plate. Authors always have to think about the perception of others, because others’ opinions are what sells books. I’m going to try to upload the changes, even if just to preserve my few reviews, but if things go wrong, I’ll take them off and republish, and worry about losing respect if that issue ever materializes.

prose is architecture

So what am I doing? Cleaning them up, tightening the prose. I ran across this quote—that’s right, I’m not really a Hemingway fan so I hadn’t seen it before—and it pretty much serves as my inspiration. “Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.” I went a touch overboard in the first editions, but I’m not stripping out my description entirely. I don’t write ‘stark’ I write stories you can see, stories you can fall into.

For these books, I want to keep the voice I’d started my career with. I want to honor the place I began, but I want to marry it to all that I’ve learned so far. I don’t want to change the books dramatically, there will be no drastic overhauls. The plots remain, the elements are fixed, but the prose is tighter. Hopefully, it will flow better, seem shorter. It’s always good when a book seems shorter than it is—that means you enjoyed it.

They’re not bad books, I’ll toot my own horn. Sometimes it’s hard for a writer to understand that they do, in fact, have talent. Your book could be the #1 seller in the world, and you’re still going to wonder if it’s any good. You’ll also have the added pressure of wondering if that was the peak of your career, if anything else you write can measure up. Authors live in their own strange, little paradoxical hell.

I’ve created my own hell by choosing to update, but I think it will serve me better in the long run. At least I’ll wince less, if I ever have to read these books again.  I’ve got a lot to do with my Psychic Trilogy in time for the blog tour I want to set up in late September. Just in time to promote these stories for Halloween. They are dark erotica/erotic horror, dealing with demons, monsters and ghosts. They’re hot, they’re compelling, and they’ll be updated.

fb banner freedom

You want to write a Romance?

I’m not going to lie. This is about a post I saw giving some ‘basic concepts’ to writing Romance. Except what the author of the post wrote is backwards. It holds just fine if someone is writing a different story and there HAPPENS to be a romance in it, but not if you’re actually writing a romance novel. I’m not going to rehash the points made in the other post, I’m just going to offer a little wisdom on the Romance genre for those who wish to write an actual romance.

romance

The ROMANCE is the story. This is, apparently, quite a hang-up for those who don’t read or write romance. It’s nice to add outside plot elements, those can really spice your story up…but the focus is the relationship. Romance is not used to set the mood or describe the customs of your time or place. It is not there simply to raise the stakes so the hero has to rescue the heroine and the heroine can then rescue the world. Nope—the ups and downs of the relationship are the core of your story, it is the world, it is the suspense, the conflict and the resolution all wrapped into one.

Follow the tropes, and a few clichés aren’t bad either. It’s one of the few places where ‘expected outcome’ is a necessary, though you may feel free to twist other things however you please. Try not to be overly dramatic, but that’s still much better than being too subtle to feel the chemistry between the characters. If you begin with insta-love, make sure the characters FEEL it all the way through—they can have doubts about the direction of the relationship, what they truly feel and even if things can work out (etc.), but their mind should be occupied with this other person, they should agonize a bit over things. Love at first sight isn’t all that common, so if they feel it, make it special.

Erotica and romance aren’t the same thing. There is a bit of cross-over. They can be connected. They can both be present in the same story. But for the love of God, please stop confusing the two.

Finally, I will add, as so many others have, that romance and its authors take shots to the chin a lot. On the flip side, every time some author from a different genre sits down to write a romance they feel the need to then blog about how difficult it was. Yes, prepare yourself, it is difficult finding the proper balance of things, but if you keep looking at the events of your story through the prism of falling in love, you’ll stay on the right track.

Three Acts

Here’s some free advice for every aspiring write out there: Write a three act story.

3 acts

(super simplified, but you get the point, right?)

Even short stories follow the format, though some have more events and others have less. Hell, even non-linear tales have this format buried somewhere in the back and forth of chapters. You need a beginning, a middle and an end. Each of those needs build-up and a challenge the character(s) must face.

The beginning should have at least some build-up, though not an info-dump of backstory. We should get to know the character, start understanding what the problem of the story will be and at the end of the beginning, the first major turning point of the conflict should occur and draw the character into the drama. Like a mini cliff-hanger.

Middles are tricky, don’t let yours sag. The middle needs some backstory and character insight so the reader continues to care and root for success. The middle needs some action—whether that’s actual plot events or emotional action. The middle also still needs world-building or some setup, basically some driving details to pull the reader ever further into the conflict, the struggle, the feels…and it needs to contain the MAJOR turning point somewhere between halfway and three-quarters of the way through the whole story. This is where everything changes, and if it’s somewhere in the middle of the middle, you’ll still need a cliff-hanger to push the character into the end.

The ending should, of course, have a resolution, even in the case of actual cliff-hanger endings! (A cliff-hanger still resolves one problem before introducing another, usually larger, challenge. That gives a sense of satisfaction for the reader. Ah, problem solved…OMG, look what happened! Get it?) The ending must have a conclusion for the character, and preferably at least a little extra to tie up any loose ends, unless you’re carrying it on to a new story.

Remember that not every major plot point will necessarily concern the major plot. These turning points can be also be emotional turning points, places where the characters learn something about themselves, etc…Think of them as ladder rungs, adding or subtracting from this diagram as needed, but each rung takes the characters farther and gets them closer to their ultimate goal.

Marcella, Levi and POV

Well, it’s been a crazy month, so forgive me the delay in writing a new blog post. Magic Matched: Married was released, I attended HallowRead, and I participated in two Facebook release parties where I got to take over the posting. I’m also trying to get ready for my next release, My Voyeur.

And what’s uppermost on my mind? POV. My schedule got away from me a teensy bit—I blame Changelings & Champions, the second book in The Tithe Collector series which will release in early 2016. See, that story proved a little stubborn and set me back…and filled my head with first person POV.

I know you’ve all seen the posts about POV, but just to recap…

First person POV puts the reader in the head of the character they’re reading at the time. I would say ‘main character’ but sometimes there’s more than one, like in The Tithe Collector. This is the ‘me’, ‘my’ and ‘I’ style. I walked to my car…You get it right?

Then there is third person POV, which puts the reader outside the character’s head. There are a thousand other blog posts out there that can tell you how many types of third person POV styles there are, so I’ll just keep it simple. He walked to his car. Got it?

Good.

So what’s my problem? My extreme first instinct was to write The Garguiem series in 3rd person. I have a chapter of what has now become the second book in that POV. But then I wrote Sister Marcella for the Holy Communion box set released through Excessica. And Marcella was written in 1st person.

The first book of The Garguiem series is about Levi and Marcella. And I wrote it in first person, except one scene that is in 3rd person, and started making me think about a shift in POV.

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. My last confession was one week ago.”

She paused, and Levi thought perhaps Father Tom was of the idea that a passage from Scripture should be read, but Levi didn’t dare speak. If he said a word,
she’d know it was him she was confessing to.

“I committed many mortal sins since my last confession,” she finally whispered. “I am guilty of one act of blasphemy in this very church yesterday. I have
also committed one act of fornication, one act of adultery, and numerous times have fallen to licentiousness with lustful thoughts plaguing me. I am sorry
for these and all the sins of my past life.”

Levi listened to her confession in shock. The agony in Marcella’s tone almost hid her excitement, but she was breathless and he’d been in her company enough
by then to know the break in her voice had little to do with shame and everything to do with curiosity.

Still, one particular sin had caught his attention more thoroughly than anything else. Levi ripped open the door of the confessional and leaned out to tear
at the curtain covering the entry to her side. He jerked it back.

“Adultery?”

Marcella’s mouth dropped open.

So, that particular snippet is causing me some serious mental anguish. I’ve now written half this story in two different POVs, trying to figure out which one to settle on. The question comes down to this: Do my characters need a little separation to fully get what’s going on (3rd person POV) or should my readers be invited into the inner workings of both characters’ minds.

Any suggestions?

Holy CommunionThe Garguiem: Levi will be out by the end of January 2016. Fell free to check out Sister Marcella in Holy Communion on Amazon .

Write the Damned Story

Have you noticed how many blogs out there give tips on writing?

Spend just a few minutes online and you’ll be bombarded with what to do, how to write and even when to write. They’ll tell you how to make your story more romantic, more suspenseful, more terrifying. They’ll tell you how to world-build, and even when to stop world-building. They’ll tell how you how to develop your characters to the point you know them better than you know yourself, and then they’ll tell you not to use that information directly.

Sometimes, it’s enough to tear your hair out.

Do you plot, plan or ‘pants’ it? Do you fill out multiple-page questionnaires detailing every little thing about your character, or do you only have a general idea of what color their hair is? Do you draw a map so you can keep track of where in the world your story is happening?

If you really want some sage, down-to earth advice slicing through all the contradictions, then here you go…

THEN, and only then, after you’ve written the thing you’ll swear is your ‘baby,’ the next bestseller, the newest trend to hit the book market in at least a day you can go read those blog posts. ‘Cause they really do have some awesome advice.

Don’t be afraid to take the long way, though. Don’t be afraid to screw it all up and waste your time in epic fashion. Don’t be afraid to write a complete piece of garbage that will never see the light of day again, let alone sell a single copy.

Some of us have to make those incredible mistakes to find our voice. We have to ‘pants’ a few novels before we understand that plotting might be better for us. And that’s MIGHT, people. Not everyone will successfully plot a story EVER. Some are Pantsers for life, and that works for them.

Point is, you gotta figure out what works for you. How does your vision come across on the page? In a blinding stream of consciousness, or a meticulously laid out sequence of events? Do you write chronologically, with Chapter 1 always coming before Chapter 6, did you write the end before you even began the prologue or did you bounce around…Chapter 7, 4, 9 then 1?

After you figure out what works for you…well, don’t hold on too tight. There’s a downside to being ‘artistic’ and that usually involves your creative brain hijacking you and taking you for a hell of a ride. You might write your book in a step-by-step, logical fashion…all the way to Chapter 25, when suddenly Chapter 40 is so bright in your imagination that you just know the muses have gathered around you and you MUST write it down before all is lost…And later you go back to write the chapters you skipped.

Or, maybe you’ve got an outline that is absolutely perfect…until your hero drives over a cliff and suddenly your story takes a sharp turn. Don’t fight it, people. Inspiration like that is actually very, very rare. If your story does something you never expected, go with it…

See, it’s just that most people are hands-on learners. We understand best when we dive in and get our hands dirty. Maybe it’s a waste of time NOW (or maybe not) but whatever you discover will be put to good use in the future. You’ll have a better idea of how to craft a story, when to rein it in and when to let it run. You’ll have a better idea of your own talent, skill and determination.

Never out-write your own ambition.

Don’t understand that? Well, try writing a 500,000 word epic adventure (without a bunch of filler or subplots or excessive world-building) and you’ll understand. Write for as long as your attention span holds, for as long as your belief in your tale holds true. And I don’t mean that you shouldn’t get bored with your story, that happens, and I don’t mean stop when you think it sucks, because you probably won’t get past page two. What I mean is, if your gut says your epic adventure would be better served as a less-than-epic novella, do that. Otherwise, you’ll quit a third of the way through, and that might be a shame.

Above all, enact your vision. Only your story is yours. Yes, of course it will be similar to someone else’s story, we’re all writing variations of just a few themes and there’s nothing original in the world of story-telling… except you. You are the unique element, your voice is what we haven’t heard before. That’s your ace-in-the-hole.

So get in there, get dirty and waste your time. Learn what your voice sounds like, and learn what your methodology is. Write the damned story…

Then go read all the advice so you can write a better story next time.

Follow Your Gut

I’m gonna get a little metaphysical on everybody today.

So I wrote a story…like forever ago. I wrote it for a specific submission call for lesbian short stories for a publishing company that closed up shop before I could even submit it.

Having never written a lesbian sex scene before this story, I was nervous. But I had a plot and a vision, a whole tale spinning out in my head, though it ended up being a ménage story, F/M/F. I liked it—and as a bonus it can stand alone or be expanded into a great many tales.

On a whim, I submitted it to a publisher I consider a powerhouse in my genre and they accepted.

Here is some advice for aspiring authors—be willing to walk away if you can’t come to a contractual agreement. That’s what I did, and though it was the scariest thing I’ve ever done career-wise, I also know in my gut it was the only thing I could do to preserve my vision and my story. As an author, your business is your intellectual property, your asset. Your imagination and your voice are what define your business and passion. That’s worth a lot more than most might think.

Sometimes I get superstitious about the craziest things. I read my horoscope every day, though I don’t believe it. They’re never right for me, but on the day I got my acceptance letter for my story, my horoscope said I would get a second chance at a missed opportunity.

The horoscope thing is just eerie, right? But I refuse to sign my story away with no protection for it. I can’t throw it to the wolves and wonder if it’ll ever come home. Can’t do it…

Plus, I was completely unenthused about the whole thing. I felt no particular joy in the acceptance. Many times, I thought of withdrawing the submission. It took forever to hear back from the publisher, which wasn’t too surprising considering they’re facing some major legal hardships these days, which I spent far too many hours researching online. I knew right away I wanted a lawyer to go over the contract. There was very little communication about how the company operated and what they expected.

Obviously, there was doubt. It’s not that it felt wrong…just that it didn’t feel right for me. I chose to listen to that initial sense, rather than talk myself into believing it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The day I sent my ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ reply to their rejection of any and all changes to the offered contract, my stomach squeezed up and my hands shook. I wondered if it was the stupidest decision I could ever make. And yet, in the midst of that chaos, I was very calm.

I have a bad habit of ignoring my gut instinct. I always rationalize myself into situations that sound great on paper, and yet I know it’s not going to work out well. This time, I’m pretty sure I did the right thing.

Even if I didn’t, it’s too late now, huh?

I still have that superstition swimming through my head. But maybe it wasn’t the publisher that was the second chance, but the story. Maybe that story would have sat on my flash drive forever, without me ever looking at it again. And maybe it should be brought out into the light. Maybe that’s the second chance.

I’ve decided to put it in Kindle Unlimited rather than sending it to one of my other publishers. I’ve never had anything in KU, but I know a lot of people like it. I also know a lot of people aren’t so happy with the changes that have recently been paid to the program, but I’m willing to take my chances.

Writing is my passion, and I’ll even toot my own horn and claim I have talent and skill. But I also want it to be my career, which is a difficult thing to achieve, and so I must turn my mind to the business end of things. I need to focus on name recognition and giving readers a chance to discover my talent, give them a chance to find out whether or not they like my voice. KU does that for a lot of people because they take the risk out of buying.

 

I’ll be putting Beloved Priestess out this month. It’s F/M/F ménage, a high fantasy taking place in a world not our own.

beloved-priestess-Amazon

Beloved Priestess: Her duty—their pleasure

Dahlene is an acolyte of the rain goddess, tasked with the responsibility of bringing hope to her drought-stricken people. She is faithful in her duty – even if it requires her to give up the man she loves. Prince Valeran chooses Carani as his bride to be, but he has no intention of giving up Dahlene. That suits Carani just fine – she wants them both.

A jealous brother and an old pact with the fire god has left Valeran’s kingdom wasted. It will take all three –groom, bride and priestess– to right past wrongs and bring the rain.

The Strength of Female Characters

There have been a lot of internet posts on the strength of females. A surprising amount, actually. So I thought I’d weigh in—just ‘cause I can.

And because I write female characters and they’re all strong.

I don’t particularly care for weak female characters, but that’s my preference. I don’t mean Damsels in Distress, hell that’s usually the bulk of a story, right? But when that damsel can’t even contribute to her own ‘rescue’ I start losing interest.

But what is feminine strength?

There are a lot of female characters who are straight-up kick-ass. They can shoot and fight, solve crimes, arm wrestle werewolves, or whatever. I do love these stories, because reading is supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to be an activity to engage your imagination, and lots of readers love to put themselves in the shoes of that kick-ass heroine because it’s completely different from our reality.

I’ve got a few of these women roaming around the pages of my books. Nina in Ties of Family, Georgie in Magic Matched, Beryl in The Tithe Collector. These women are strong, tough and more than capable of handling themselves in physical confrontations. They’re brash, bold and intelligent.

But strength often comes in softer forms. The most important characteristic of strength is courage, right? Courage doesn’t necessarily mean swooping in to slay the dragon—it can also mean ducking the dragon’s fire while trying to point the villagers toward safety. It’s about standing your ground as the person you are, and meeting the obstacles you face with determination and hope.

For example, in spite of my personal preferences in regards to FSOG, I knew Ana’s character to be strong from the start. A quiet strength, and that’s part of the reason the trilogy is so wildly popular. This was a form of strength millions of women could relate to, the quiet aspect of daily life and pushing forward with hope.

Strength is the courage to keep going.

That’s it, right there in a nutshell. I have a lot of female characters that fit this description, too. Rebecca from Monster’s Chains, Ileana and Tulah from Magic Matched, and Hyacinth from Outrageous Offer. They are afraid or anxious over their situations, but they get themselves together and push forward, because there is little other option except completely giving up. (And my women rarely surrender!)

I’m going to add a third form of strength that doesn’t quite fit into either of my above categories. It’s not bold and it’s not quiet. Stubbornness, I might call it. The drive to change oneself, or something about oneself, for whatever reason. In real life, this is the hardest thing to do, for either men or women, because that involves facing the darkness within, a true battle with demons that have been hauled around for years.

For example, Meggie in Demon’s Bond has spent the majority of her life denying her psychic ability, but she has to face her fears when a demon attaches itself to her. She has to fight using the only weapon at her disposal, which, quite frankly, scares the hell out of her. Zahra, the djinn in The Tithe Collector, is an addict trying to reform her life. She’s got plenty of motivation—but, then, many addicts do—and she’s determined to succeed no matter the pain or loss. That takes a special kind of ‘guts.’

Strength isn’t just limited to female characters, of course, and for any aspiring writers reading this, give all your characters enough strengths and weaknesses to make them real, to make them 3-D, interesting and relatable. So what’s my point in specifically focusing on females? I write erotica, and all too often I see weak female characters…though I’ve also reads tons of stories following strong women. My genre has definitely drifted away from the helpless maiden who has been ravished by…wait, that’s actually a good story…

Seriously though, this is just me and my opinion of women in fiction. So if you’re looking for a definitive purpose in me writing this, there isn’t one.

Strength has no gender, but it does have form. It comes in boldness and physical combat skills, intelligence and innovation, determination, the ability to stand their ground, face their fears, and, most importantly, hope.

Because what good is strength if there is no hope in using it, whatever form it may take?