And to all a bad sweater. It wouldn't be Christmas without the annual holiday tribute to Supernatural. Looks like Jensen landed on the naughty list. (snicker) See you next year, everybody!
Monday, December 17, 2018
Monday, December 10, 2018
Work on the series is progressing. Slowly, in fits and starts, but I’m getting there. Pity I’m writing Book 3. Ideally, when you write a series, you start with Book 1 and then write the sequels in order, building the world/plot as you go. That’s how most people go about writing a series, but I’m a pantser, so all bets are off. Don’t try this at home.
To recap: I’ve loosely plotted out my storyline and figured I need at least eight books. I came up with a ninth, but that was an accident. Pantsers have those a lot. I’m also writing the books out of order. My plan is to amass a backlog of at least four books before I market the first. Exceedingly slow writer, remember? It’s single books but one connected story, so I’d like to release a book a month to avoid huge gaps between episodes. Writing a couple of volumes in advance will give me a cushion in case I hit problems down the road.
That right there is a grave mistake. It proceeds from the assumption that I’ll be able to place Book 1 with a publisher, and that Book 1 will sell enough copies to warrant a Book 2. If neither of those happens, I’m dead in the water without ever leaving the harbor.
If you want to write a series, fine. Knock yourself out. Fill up notebooks and flash drives with your notes, plot points, character sketches and manuscripts. But if you want to sell a series, especially to a traditional publisher, all you need to write—all you should write, at this point—is Book 1. Don’t write it as a series book, either. Your Book 1 should be as stand-alone as possible. You can leave loose threads dangling, but nothing major. There should be a beginning, a middle, and end to the story you tell in Book 1, just in case the publisher decides they’re not interested in Book 2. You’ll save yourself a lot of time, trouble and heartache that way.
Think of this in terms of TV series. Book 1 is your pilot episode. You produce the pilot as a marketing tool to attract a buyer. This is my premise, these are the characters, here are the types of stories I’ll be telling over the course of a season. Nobody in their right mind would film thirteen episodes and then try to market the entire thing, not unless their name was Steven Spielberg. Maybe not even then; the last TV show he produced didn’t do so well. Most pilots don’t even get filmed unless there’s interest (and money) to begin with. Even with interest, most filmed pilots don’t get picked up. You write your Book 1, your pilot episode, and then you shop it around…but not as a series. Although it’s okay to tell the publisher or agent, “This could have series potential.”
Because TV series do get cancelled. Some never make it to the end of their first-season run. Ratings are bad so the network pulls the plug and the story ends in the middle, never to be finished. This happens with books as well. Sales could drop off after Book 3 and the publisher could nix a Book 4. Or Book 1 could sell poorly. Or never sell at all. I once wrote a stand-alone book that triggered ideas for sequels set in the same milieu. I was standing by, all set to write them should there be a demand. Sales of that first book showed me there wasn’t, so I moved on to other things. You need to be prepared to do the same.
Think about Harry Potter. It’s hard not to, I know. Rowling may have conceived and plotted out an entire series, but what she wrote and took to market was a single book, with the characters defined and the premise, including the bad guy and conflict, clearly laid out. It told a single story, too, although there was clearly plenty of room for expansion in the world she’d created. It was the opening chapter in a much larger tale, while at the same time being a complete episode on its own. Had there never been a Harry Potter Book 2, readers of Book 1 would still have come away with a satisfying reading experience.
There are exceptions and extenuating circumstances, of course. If you’re going to self-publish, you can write and upload as many books as you want, for as long as you want. In my case, I have to go through an e-publisher first, because my series is a spinoff of books I published through them. I’m using concepts and characters they still own publishing rights to, so they get right of first refusal. If they don’t want Book 1, or decide to drop the series in the middle, I’ll be free to self-pub the remainder.
It all depends on your contract. There are tales of writers who signed multibook deals only to have publishers pull the plug while still retaining rights to the books already published, meaning the writer couldn’t continue or even finish the series. If you’re going to go the traditional route, get an agent or a lawyer and read the goddamn contract. Every version. After all, the point is to get your story out there. All of it. Correct?
It all begins with Book 1. Which I’m not writing at the moment. I’m working on Book 3 because Book 1 is stalled. I should go write some standalones and work on the series on the side. I haven’t even written the first book yet, so all of this is moot. Maybe I’ll just go read Harry Potter again.
Friday, November 30, 2018
Cullen Braithwaite has two obsessions—a massive crush on Grant Guthrie, his handsome neighbor across the street, and drawing comic books. Grant has one obsession—protecting his ten-year-old nephew from his sister’s abusive ex. The two meet and romance blossoms. Then Cullen draws Grant into a comic book story, publicly exposing him to a dangerous stalker. With real-life evil closing in, one of them will have to learn to unleash his inner hero.
Be Warned: m/m sex
you can get it here
The moment they stepped into the bedroom, Grant got hit with the double whammy of racing heart and racing brain. He wanted a clear head for this. He didn’t want Cullen thinking he considered him a casual fuck. The time had come to kick this single life shit to the curb and settle down with the right man. After that fanfuckingtastic blowjob, he’d been ready to propose right then and there, but what little remained of his rational brain urged caution. He didn’t want to move too fast or too recklessly, and maybe send Cullen screaming back across the street.
Then he looked down into Cullen’s eyes and all his fears disappeared. Their blue had darkened to a navy ring around his enormous pupils. And that voice he’d used in the living room, deep and dark and hoarse with passion—no, his man wasn’t going anywhere.
He had his shirt off and draped over a chair in the corner before he noticed Cullen still hovered in the doorway. Dammit. Grant didn’t want to lose the momentum they’d started in the other room. He’d better make a move before his dream date’s feet got any colder.
He returned to the doorway and slid his arms around Cullen’s waist. His lips blazed a nibbling trail down Cullen’s throat to his shirt collar. Seeing—and feeling—the effect his bare chest was having on the smaller man, Grant deliberately rubbed up against him. His fly was still open. To his surprise his cock was already showing signs of randy life again, in spite of its recent exertions. Perhaps it sensed Cullen’s, twitching behind the thin barrier of his slacks. Great heads thinking alike.
“I thought we were doing this,” he murmured against Cullen’s throat.
Cullen peered beyond his shoulder. “Your room. It’s … clean.”
“Yeah, I’m the neatnik in the family. Marti takes a more I’ll-get-to-it-when-I-get-to-it approach. Helps when you have a kid.”
“I’m not complaining,” Cullen said quickly. “I was expecting, I don’t know, a den of iniquity or something.”
“Seriously? My ten-year-old nephew stays here. Iniquity got kicked to the curb a while ago. On the other hand…” That spot just behind Cullen’s ear looked incredibly tempting. He leaned in to lick at it, and heard Cullen’s breath catch. “Rudy isn’t staying here tonight. I’d say some iniquity’s in order.”
By now Cullen was rubbing back—against his cheek, against his naked chest, especially against his crotch. The man was practically purring. Or was that a growl? Grant’s blood quickened with excitement, and his cock gave a definite leap. Here was his horny little slut-man from the living room, all wound up and ready to go. Those still waters of his ran deeper than the Marianas Trench, and Grant couldn’t wait to dive in.
“What are you still doing in your clothes?” he said roughly.
Cullen’s eyes were practically all pupil by now, and his voice had dropped into a Darth Vader register. “Waiting for you to take them off.”
Foreplay over. Let the games begin.
Sunday, November 25, 2018
My writing buddy J. J. Collins just got the cover art files for her latest M/M release, His Super Neighbor, due out either this week or next from Evernight Publishing. I'll be back to plug it once I have a release date.
As a fan of comic books growing up (and still a reader today), I have to say I loved this book. As a fan of Those Two Guys on That Show (we all know who I mean, don't we? ;D) I got a kick out of Jen's sly references, knowing she's also a fan of both them and comics. Personally, assuming the show ever goes off the air, I'd love to see it continue as a comic book, a la Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Comics have the advantage of no budgetary restrictions, and characters who don't age.
JJ asked me to mention this book was not written as a tribute to Stan Lee. The book had been completed, subbed, accepted, and was in the editing stages when the news of Stan's passing was made public. This book is a love letter to comics in general, and Stan loved comics as much if not more so than any of us, so feel free to consider it a huge thank you to Stan the Man if you choose. Excelsior!
Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Sometimes I hate my brain.
For the last couple of entries I’ve been talking about my efforts to write a closed romance series—seven books that follow sets of characters meeting up and falling in love while telling a single long story. I’ve already run into problems, chief among them my glacially slow writing pace—seriously, empires could rise and fall in the time it takes me to write a single 50,000 word novel—and the fact pantsers shouldn’t try to write a series, except for loosely related standalone books. If you can dig up Marion Zimmer Bradley’s essay on how the Darkover “series” evolved, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
Anyway, I figured out I’d need seven books. I decided what would happen (in general terms) in each book, came up with titles and characters, decided on the overall storyline, and started writing Book 1. So far, so good.
Then the fun began. My bad guys are vampires; my good guys are a family dedicated to stopping them. I was at least three chapters in when Brain tossed inspiration my way: what if the woman, who’s supposed to fall for the two handsome heroes, comes from a family that sided with the vampires a hundred years ago? After all, vampires need human servants. Somebody has to be available during the day to pay bills, answer the phone, go to the grocery store, and above all make the house looked lived in so nobody goes poking around. The woman’s family served this purpose, and were all but wiped out, along with the vampires, because of it. By the heroes’ ancestors. Their family killed her family. That’ll put a crimp in the ol’ romantic plotline, wouldn’t you say? Ah, conflict. The lifeblood of fiction.
I decided to run with it. Which meant a total overall of Book 1’s plot, and I’d barely even started on it. I went back, redrafted Chapter 2—
And got stuck. Stopped dead in my tracks on a scene I’d already written. I knew where I was headed, but I just couldn’t make myself progress.
Here’s why: If you’ll check back to my previous post, you’ll see I actually decided on eight books—the seven in the main series, and a backup standalone I could maybe use as a springboard for another connected story arc, or as a placeholder between arcs. But I wouldn’t have to worry about that one for awhile, because the series was meant to go first.
Three guesses which book Brain wants to write. And Brain won’t take no for an answer.
It gets worse. Just for the hell of it, I wrote the opening to Book 8. I added a throwaway character who wasn’t supposed to last beyond Chapter 1. Think again, said Brain. Not only is the “throwaway” now a major player and vital to the resolution of the story, she may be getting her own book once the first series is done. I already know who she ends up with. Whether it still leads to another story arc, I have no idea at this point. All I know is, I have a whole other storyline that wants to get written right effin’ now, putting the original seven-book series on hold.
Brain is doing this deliberately. All this “creativity” is my subconscious throwing roadblocks in my way so I’ll end up not writing anything. It’s an insidious form of procrastination designed to screw me up.
Well, up yours, Brainy boy. I’ve got your number, and you lose. That former standalone Book 8 just became part of the main series. It’s Book 3 now. Book 8 will be the finale. Then I can start a new story with the former throwaway character, if I haven’t reduced myself to ash by then. Nobody ever said writing, or life, was easy.
Innocent, carefree non-writers ask, “Where do you get your ideas?” Mine come from a dark pit inside my subconscious, thrown at me by my own brain like boulders from a catapult, meant to shatter my castle walls so my resolve leaks out. Well, the joke’s on you. I’m writing this series and you can’t stop me. I just ha ve to write the books out of order. All eight, nine, or ten of them. Oy. Why didn’t I take Art in college?
Friday, November 9, 2018
Book 3 is going to feature a ménage—one woman, three men. That is, it was supposed to. Two of the brothers are fine, upstanding romance heroes, but the third is a total asshat. He’s what’s become known in the genre as an “alpha-hole.”
There’s no way my heroine, as I conceived her, is going to fall in love with this dickhead in the time allowed by the story. There’s no way that he, total jerk that he is, is going to change that fast, either.
At the same time I had what I thought was an unrelated problem looming in Book 7, the series finale. Books 1 through 6 are all the characters pairing off (or tripling or quadrupling off) with their respective destined lovers. Book 7 is the showdown with the bad guy, the culmination of the overarcing plot. No romance happens in that book; therefore, there’s no sex. The publisher requires sex. I thought I’d have to run a spate of scenes between all my established pairings the night before the big battle. Cliché plotting, but necessary.
Until I realized I could tie off two plots with one twist. All I have to do is bend the rules a bit.
Most romance books end with an HEA (happily ever after), with all participants committed to a lifetime together. But the HEA isn’t mandatory. There’s the alternative of the HFN (happily for now), where the lovers hang out but nobody gets married. In fact, I’ve got a Book 8 in the back of my mind, a stand-alone unrelated in plot to the rest of the series, that would absolutely have to have an HFN because neither party is ready to commit. It’s a Batman/Catwoman thing. HFN is acceptable, but the HEA is preferred.
A mix of the two settles everything. In Book 3, my FMC enters into a HFN ménage with the two decent brothers. Brother Asshat is left out in the cold. Over the next four books his story arc will play out as a subplot as he works to redeem himself in the woman’s eyes. He succeeds and is welcomed into the ménage in Book 7, before the final battle, in a scene I hope will satisfy the publisher. I can still have snapshot scenes with the other characters, but Brother Asshat’s story fills the requirement of a romance plot and makes the relationship an HEA. I can give him a scene alone with the woman, then add his brothers in, and it’ll all work thanks to the setup. Damn, I’m good.
I still don’t recommend pantsers try to write a series this way. This is plotter territory. On the other hand, it never hurts to stretch your writing muscles. Good luck.
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
But not today. Today I’m going to talk about writing, and why I must be out of my mind.
Y’see, I don’t just write because I need to, although that is the biggest drive. I get these stories in my head and have to get ‘em out. I also write for that happy side effect called “royalties.” Here’s how it works: I write a story, put it out on the market, and people give me money. Not much, but it pays for gas and groceries. Well, over the summer my air conditioner gave up the ghost, and thanks to a drop in my freelance income I couldn’t afford to replace it. I survived a sweaty, humidity-drenched summer with the aid of two fans and lots of time spent in the library, and came to two conclusions: I am never moving to Florida, and I’m not going through that again.
Therefore, in order to increase my income, I’ve decided to write a romance series.
Coming up with the idea wasn’t a problem. I already had a couple of series ideas on the back burner, so it was just a matter of choosing one. I decided to go with the one that’s an offshoot of a couple of books I already have on the market. If the series catches on, it might also spark interest in those backlist books, resulting in more sales. See how it works?
After preliminary plotting, I came up with a single overarcing story spread over seven books. Each book will focus on a romance while advancing the overall plot. Book 7 is the grand finale. It’s a well-tested and workable formula in the genre. Sounds easy on paper, doesn’t it?
Here’s the fatal drawback: I’m a pantser. I make things up as I go. I only know in general what’s going to happen from one book to the next. However, I have no idea what’s going to happen from one page to the next. I could be tooling along in Book 4 and suddenly get hit with an inspiration that could change the entire course of the series. Which has already happened. I was fiddling around with drafting Book 1 when I suddenly got an idea that would throw a major monkey wrench into the budding relationship between the FMC and both the men competing for her. It also added a new facet to the series-wide plot. Luckily I caught that one early. But what if it happens again?
For instance: Still on Book 1, I was sailing along nicely when all of a sudden something happened on the page that I realized could be put to use in the grand finale in Book 7. In fact, it would give one major character’s whole backstory symmetry. Thank God that one happened early too, otherwise I would have had to retcon like crazy. But the threat remains.
There are a couple of twists I know are coming up and can foreshadow accordingly. But what if my pantser inclinations hand me the perfect plot swerve in Book 5, and Books 1 to 3 are already in print, with no way for me to go back and do a proper setup? (This isn’t an issue in self-publishing, but I’m going through a publisher for this one. I’m using characters and concepts borrowed from books they put out, so I’m contractually obligated to give them first look.) No do-overs here.
Writing a closed series, a finite number of books with an overall plot that advances from book to book, is a job for a plotter. Plotters have it all figured out before they even start typing. No pitfalls on the page, no gaping craters turning up in the plot. That isn’t me. I can’t even get to the end of a page without surprising myself. And I want to write a series that tells a cohesive story over seven books? Am I out of my mind?
Well…yeah. I guess I am. So what else is new?
Here’s the solution I came up with: I’m going to finish at least the first four books in draft before I even think about marketing the first one. By then I should be far enough along that I can deal with any curves my brain decides to throw at me, or still have the option to rewrite if something really terrific should occur to me. Nor will this deter me from writing another series in the future. I’ve already got one lined up. That one’s a series of stand-alone books connected by common characters and setting. That’s closer to a pantser’s speed.