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Nano progress and a snippet

With only eight days left, most of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is behind me. I’ve “won” in that I’ve written more than 50,000 words this month–an unprecedented level of success and productivity. I guess this is what I can do with basically no distractions like television (I genuinely forgot Outlander was back, and I’m a huge fan), keeping my book playlists on repeat so that the characters are constantly in my head, and dragging my laptop literally everywhere. It’s also what I can do when I dance on the edge and sometimes slightly into the manic side of my bipolar disorder, which is kind of exhausting, honestly.

I think it’s healthy to have a daily writing goal and it’s helping me quite a bit right now. But I’m also going to have to go into an editing phase and I’ll need to figure out how I can write and edit at the same time. Historically I’ve only focused on one and that means huge lags between my projects. It’s been two years since Capturing the Moment was published (three since it was accepted for publication) and while there have been huge changes in that time, like an international move, I have not always used my time well. I have some ideas for New Years Resolutions, but we shall see how things progress from here.

Thus far in Nano I have completed the book about love and espionage at a video game company  (which is either a long novella or a short novel), and am about 90% done with the second big project of November which is a long novella about what comes after the Were community is exposed on national television, and what will be the first in my first series of stories.

In the meantime, he’s the opening from that Shapeshifter book, which I’m currently calling Lab Rats

Everything went to hell in less time than it took to conduct a five minute interview on Wake Up LA!

Liz Green, the perky blonde co-host batted her eyelashes at Justin Carson. He was a deliciously hot up and coming actor. She wondered if he had a girlfriend, and if he might be amenable to a little extracurricular activity in her dressing room. She leaned forward, just enough to give Justin a glimpse down the front of her top.

“So what do you think of the new trend? Zombies are in, werewolves and vampires are out.”

“Zombies suck,” Justin said flatly.  “Werewolves are where it’s at.  You think dead humans are scary when they want to suck you blood or eat your face?  That’s not scary. You know what’s scary, Liz?  When you can’t tell the monsters from the humans. How can you?  Anyone here could be a werewolf. I could a werewolf.”

Liz, laughed nervously. “I had no idea you were so passionate about scary movies!”

She had never lost control of an interview before, and Justin wasn’t about to faze her. He was probably teasing a new project. She could picture him in a horror flick, and even more clearly, she could picture herself clinging to his arm, pressing her face against his broad shoulder, his arm coming around her to hold her close. Later that night, he’d tease her for being so scared of make believe creatures, and then he’d rock her world six ways from Sunday.

“But you know what, Liz?  No one thinks they’re real, so humans get cast to play werewolves.”

Liz laughed and played along. “Sounds like you’ve got a very meta project coming up. Actors playing werewolves who are actually werewolves. Give us another hint.”

Justin growled. Actually growled.

Nervously, Liz looked at her notecards. “So how did you connect with the character of Grant for After Dark?”

Justin stared at her, unblinking.

Liz glanced at the camera. The interview was D.O.A. and she still had three minutes to fill. Her foot jiggled, the heel bouncing against the floor. The idea of hot sex in her dressing room was starting to fade in the harsh light of a bad interview. She knew she’d be blamed for it—bad delivery of questions, not enough effort at chemistry, making him upset. She took a deep breath, then flashed a dazzling smile at Justin.

“I heard the producers are hoping to start a whole After Dark franchise.”

Maybe that would get this interview back on track. Most actors couldn’t wait to talk about how their franchise was going to be the biggest thing since the Marvel Cinematic Universe series of movies. Please let this get him out of whatever snit he was in. Please, please, please.

“Weres are scared of being outed, and this is the consequence.  Screw that.”

Justin’s hands clenched the armrests of his chair, and his knuckles turned white from the pressure. His nails scraped over the buttery leather, leaving marks in their wake.

“Um…” God help her, she was going to have to dump to commercial. Liz sat back, and squirmed, no longer thinking of sweaty trysts on the soft blue coverlet of the daybed she’d picked over having a couch in her dressing room. At this point, she’d be grateful just to climb into the daybed and pull that coverlet over her head until she could face the world again after this horrific goose egg of an interview.

Justin stood up. He kicked off his shoes, but his paws ripped through the socks. His jeans shredded as his legs contorted, becoming shorter and thicker. His face elongated, and suddenly long canines snapped at his shirt until it, too, ripped and fell away from his body. Within a minute, a large wolf had replaced the handsome man.

Liz screamed, and fell off her chair, out of view of the camera. She skittered backwards, away from the monster she’d actually fantasized about fucking. She could feel a wetness spreading under her as she peed herself in fear. She scrambled to her feet, kicked off her heels and ran as fast as she could toward the safety of her dressing room, which had a solid lock. She’d be safe there, or so she hoped.

As Liz was escaping, the audience had fallen into chaos. People were shoving each other, willing to trample the less vulnerable in an effort to get away as fast as possible. Screams mingled with sobbing as the reality that this wasn’t some strange special effect—this was a real honest-to-God werewolf. And if you believed him, he wasn’t the only one. They fled as if he were on their heels, about to take a big bite out of them.

A woman wearing a smart blue pantsuit with tasteful gold jewelry dashed into the frame.

“Justin, we need to go. Now!”

The large wolf snarled at her.

“I said now,” she snarled back.

The wolf turned its head to the camera, tilted its head back, and howled.

The video cut out.

Just in time for Halloween–Blood in the Rain Vol 4

Ready to get into the Halloween frame of mind? Just love Vampires? Blood in the Rain, Vol 4 is now on sale. 3.99 on Kindle. 

For as Long as You Need Me is my story

A vampire who only hunts men. A war veteran with PTSD. Will she be his death or his salvation?

 

Missing the Mark

There have been several occasions where I’ve missed the mark, professionally. Times when I mangled the call, or pushed myself to write something I think the person might like that isn’t true to who I am, or just plain fucked up.

I have rushed to submit. Sometimes, even though you’d love to be part of an anthology, you miss the mark because you rushed, and the quality of your work suffered. Sometimes all you get is the rejection. But sometimes the editor lets you know that they like your work, but what you sent them is half baked. Sometimes you just have to say that you’d love to have been a part of something but your work just wasn’t ready.

I have pushed myself to be edgy. I wrote a story called “Lab Rats” last year to submit to a call. I thought the author wanted edgy, so I ended without the happily ever after/for now, and ended on an ominous note. I haven’t given up on the story, but I’ve put it to the side for now. It would fold into the larger paranormal I want to write at some point, and will be much more romance and less edge. I’d say write true to who you are. If you love happy endings, don’t feel guilty for writing happy endings–with everything going in the world today, we need happy endings. And if you’re dark and ominous, be dark and ominous.

I have triggered beta readers on several occasions. We all have our buttons and it’s hard to know when you’re going to hit someone’s buttons. I can’t read any story where someone gets kidney damage–it’s an oddly specific one, but because Athena almost died as a baby and lost a kidney to that infection, it’s very triggering to me to read that sort of thing. But somethings just don’t work, and don’t come across the way you mean them to, and it upsets your readers. Sometimes it’s a not every book is for every reader. Other times, it’s that I fucked up and hurt someone unintentionally. But intentions don’t matter when you cause someone grief. You just hope they can forgive you.

But when you fall down, own up and accept the consequences. No one is perfect, but we can all strive to do better. As authors, and as people.

Changing Up Writing Styles

For years I’ve said I’m a pantser, and that I begin with very little preplanned. I usually know the inciting incident, and an idea of the end of the story, and then I let my characters fill in the blanks. I don’t do outlines. I write the story in a linear fashion–I might throw out some chunk of the first bit of book, or reweave it into the story in the editing process, but for the most part, I write start to finish.

Book three, which has the very trite working title of The Game of Love (because it takes place at a video game company ,GET IT?), is confounding me at every turn.

I first conceptualized the story many years ago. So many I can’t tell you if it was in my literotica days, or if I started a story later and then moved onto something that answered a specific call in the years since I turned professional. It’s stayed on the periphery of my radar, but it’s never been quite the right moment to write it. I’d thought I would do a big multi-pov paranormal for book three, and I have a ten bullet points or so list on tentpoles through the story, but ultimately it was too political for me at the moment. There is a subplot of wanting to take shifter children from their parents, and with everything that’s happening to migrant families, it felt like the wrong time to sit down and try to write it. So when I put away the paranormal, I started going through my “ideas not in production” folder. Some of what’s in there is a single sentence. Other files have the start of a story. The Game of Love had two false starts, and that was it.

When I decided that I was going to play around with The Game of Love, I sat down with my little Ravenclaw notebook and made some preliminary notes. Having done a full length novella and a full length novel meant that I had an idea of what pitfalls were ahead of me. Corporate espionage is one of the biggest tentpoles of the whole book, so I need to know who did what, who got set up to take the fall, and how. But character sketches led to thinking about the books in general, and I started to note down more ideas. Noted down ideas started to come together to make up a plot, until I had essentially plotted out the whole book. I typed up my notes, and ended with a six page, single spaced document of characters and the plotted events of the story.

Thus far, I’ve been writing in a linear way, sort of, in that I’ve written things that took place prior to the start of the book that will end up needing to be in the book, like where my MC’s met, their first kiss, etc in some sort of linear order, but I’ve written very little of the actual book’s chapter one, so to speak.

I’ve joked with friends that they’re rubbing off on me, but really I think that the process of writing is an evolving one, and I don’t know if I’ll ever write two books exactly the same way. I don’t know if any authors truly do, especially at the start of their careers, where every new book brings a slew of new discoveries like I CAN WRITE BUT ONLY IN MY BLUE SWEATSHIRT or I CAN WRITE, BUT ONLY AFTER MY DVDS ARE PROPERLY ALPHABETIZED. All kidding aside, as long as I have flow, I’m down with experimenting with process.

One, Two, or Many Narrators

When I sit down to write, one of the questions I ask is “How many narrators does this piece need?”

For me, short stories are exclusively single narrator. There’s so little time to get the story told that it’s nearly impossible to establish two characters voices. I’m also not sure what a secondary viewpoint would add to the story. Would Dumped have been made any better from getting Storm the asshole unicorn’s voice? No, because it wouldn’t serve any useful purpose. I can show that he’s a jerk without jumping into his head. There’s nothing he knows that my MC needs to know that she doesn’t find out organically within the story.

 

Novellas and novels are trickier. There are great single voice novels, like the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire. There are also great multi-narrator/omniscient narrators who jump into multiple characters point of view. But for me, the higher word count gives me the opportunity to full establish two points of view. For example, both Capturing the Moment and Plunder I write from the female and male lead characters’ voices. Books like the Black Jewels series by Anne Bishop, in which we get easily more than five points of view are harder to pull off, but when done well are amazing.

I will confess to trying to write a multi-pov with more than two narrators and it was something of a mess, much like my attempts to write sex scenes with more than two people in it. Not my strength, but something I may do better at in the future.

What about you? Do you deliberately write single/multi narrator books? What motivates your choices?

Audiobooks

Recently I learned that Irresistible has an audiobook. I have not purchased it, but I’m curious.

While at WorldCon, I attended a panel on audiobooks. I’ve never created one, although I’ve certainly considered recording myself reading the first chapter of Capturing the Moment. I learned how expensive they are to create, how complicated they are to make, and why you shouldn’t just give away your audiobook rights when negotiating your contract.

I’ve grown to love audiobooks and I currently have two going in the car. The first is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas with my older daughter, Athena. I want to take her to the movie in October and I think she can handle the book, even though it is intense. The narrator does a great job at reading the story, and I nearly started crying when she narrrates the scene where Khalil is shot. (Not a spoiler–it’s in the flap copy and is the incident that puts the book in motion). The second is Discount Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire, which I am enjoying a bit less because I don’t love the narrators choices (including mispronouncing Aeslin mice, based on the cannon pronunciation guide per Seanan). David Sedaris is a great narrator, and that’s how I super recently fell in love with him–not through his written essays, but by listening to him narrate them on the drive from San Francisco to LA. Ditto David Rakoff (RIP), who I have loved for years. I’ve listened to What Happened by Hillary Clinton on and off, but thinking about the 2016 election (and how she was right) is still tough for me.

But then there are terrible narrators. I love Madeline L’Engle, but she shouldn’t have narrated A Wrinkle in Time. There has also been several dreadful audiobooks of The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe. If the narrator is crap, the experience of listening to it is crap.

To revisit the question of the Irresistible audiobook–should I get it?

Rereading your own work

I first started writing for Literotica in 2001/2002. I got lots of good reviews, feedback, and all the affirmations a new writer could ever hope for.

I’ve worked at the university stacks for 5 years now…and can I tell you, nothing beats sex among the stacks. I’ve had horny professors, pervy grad students, and uptight law students fuck me up against the books more times that I can count. Who knew bookworms were such sex addicts?

None of what I wrote was….good. Or even okay. I can actually reread that story, even if I roll my eyes multiple times each paragraph. It’s so bad that I wouldn’t even bother using the idea as an inspiration without ripping out the guts of the story and starting over from scratch with a title and a setting. The rest of it? Right in the trash. Why do I still have it? I have no idea–I have a subfolder in my cloud called “Literotica” and all of my terrible, wretched writing is there. I guess it occasionally gives me bare bones inspiration?

Then came my “first novel” if we’re going to call it that. I call it the NaNo novel that must never see the light of day. I started with a decent premise–what if my husband’s family rejected me? But if I hadn’t been in NaNo, which favors word count over quality or process, I would’ve realized that the main character’s sister’s lesbian romance was the far more interesting direction and chucked it to start over. But in NaNo, there is no starting over. There is no going backwards, only forwards. So forged on and I hit 50k words in November 2006.

That book is so unreadable I can’t force myself to read past the first page, if that. I don’t even think about it when I talk about first novels–for me Plunder is my first full length novel. But the truth is that I wrote it, and it taught me important lessons like “write a good book, not a bad book in an arbitrary amount of time.”

My first professional sale was “Renewal.” It was…okay. I rewrote parts of it to resubmit it to If Mom’s Happy, which makes it unique.

But I don’t frequently re-read my own work, mostly because I want to rewrite it. Which I think is common–we are constantly evolving as authors and part of evolution is that things you’ve written in the past feel “bad” even if they represented the best you could do at that time.

That desire to rewrite old work is why time is a gift an author can sometimes give themselves. Sometimes you’re up against a deadline. Other times you just want to get something done with. But if you can, try and create wiggle room in your work schedule. Because sometimes the best thing you can do is let a story sit in a drawer for a while. The irony was that while I didn’t work on Plunder for a little over a year, it was probably a good thing because then I hit it with fresh eyes. While I don’t recommend taking year long hiatuses from your work if it’s avoidable, it can be good to put something in a drawer for two weeks. A friend caught typo errors/missing words in a story I was rushing to finish and was just blind to, even when I read it out loud to myself.

Now this isn’t a universal rule. I recently re-read Capturing the Moment to get a quote for an interview, and I was surprised how much I still like three years after I wrote it, but I may feel differently in another three years, or in thirty years.

What about you? Do you reread your old work? What do you think of it?