Thursday, March 19, 2015

So Very Inspiring

Some of you may know of my involvement with my local PFLAG, and my wish to make a safe world for all our youth and every person.

This is so inspiring that I cried... and then I watched again... and cried again. I'd love to hugs all these brave souls.

It does get better....

Friday, March 13, 2015

Early Literary Influences, Books That Shaped My Life -Terry Pratchett

It's been a while since I've posted an installment of Early Literary Influences, and it's with a sad heart that I do so now, to pay tribute to a writer who caught my imagination at a young age, held it, and then allowed me to share my love of his writing with a new generation in my son.

I remember the first Discworld book I ever read: The Color of Magic, Discworld Volume I, referred to me by a friend. While at the time I devoured every fantasy book I could get my hands on, it's the humor the author infused in his work that kept me coming back for more. Zingy one-liners, connections I'd never made before that were so obvious after he pointed them out, and unfunny things (like Death playing grandpa) becoming side-splittingly hilarious.

I'd given up my dreams of writing before I came to know his work, and enmeshed myself in the world he created, a mysterious place where goats classified all things into four categories: something to eat, something to run from, something to mate with, and rocks. Heh. I know people like that, but I digress.

Twoflower and Rincewind, Death, Susan Death and her friends, and the Death of Rats, all entertained me. Nothing could have delighted me more than when my son found the books and loved them as much as I do. Even today, years after reading, we can share a line from one of the books and still get a giggle.

Although now it's time to say goodbye to author Terry Pratchett, he lives on in his words, in this readers, and in the aspiring authors he influenced. Maybe someday my grandkids will quote lines of his works to me.

At one time sixty-six seemed ancient, now I find it quite young. Too young for a man with so many story left to tell to leave us.

Rest in Peace, oh creator of worlds. Many thanks for the laughs, the insights, and the things that made me go "Hmmm..."

I'll never view rats the same way again. Or turtles.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Make Me Feel It!

My crit partners tremble when they see those words in a comment, and I leave them often. But what do they mean?

In any situation of strong emotion, as a reader, I want to be so closely bonded with a character that, in moments of peril, I find myself scrunched up in a ball, laboring for breath and gripping my Kindle so tight I fear it'll break. During a love scene I want to feel the "awww".

But it's not just the emotional climax that earns the MMFI seal of approval. It doesn't matter how well you write the heart-wrenching moment of poor Jenny losing Grandma on page eighty, if the reader didn't bond with Jenny and gave up reading on page thirty.

How do you create such a bond, you ask? By making the character human, and putting us so closely in their world that we ARE them. They can be a total jackass, and unlovable on the surface, but with the gentle caress of the right words, you'll pull readers in.

Part of "make me feel it" starts with the environment. Where are they? Does the story take place in winter, summer, spring or fall? While I don't like twenty pages of exposition about the ornate scrollwork on the staircase, you can work details in that help me to identify with the character and his/her surroundings.

One of my biggest disappointments as a reader was a book I picked up a few years back, in which the characters made a trip to France. France? Woot! I've never been to France, and couldn't wait to visit through this book. But...

The characters got off a plane, stayed at a hotel, and visited a few buildings. Then they got back on the plane and went home. Do what? They could have been in my own home town for all the description I was given. And I have no idea why they even went to Paris except for it looking good on the blurb, and the brief trip enabled additonal search tags.

Where was the historic architecture? The cute cafes? No one even spoke French or had an accent that I could see. They all spoke English like most Americans of my acquaintance. Why did they even go to Paris at all? And while the Eiffel tower is a bit overdone in fiction, even that cultural icon was missing. And I have no idea as to the climate, what they ate, etcetera. Don't take me to Paris and then not let me see!

Another way to let me feel it is to give adequate descriptions. "He had a large apartment." Now, in my neck of the woods, a "large apartment" could be about 1700 square feet. Are apartments in NY city that large, typically? So "large apartment" is up to the reader's experience, as is "small".

Someone wrote about a wide bridge. The story had four characters crossing the bridge. "They crossed the wide bridge". Are you picturing something like Golden Gate? Turns out this was a footbridge. "The bridge's width allowed them to walk four abreast" provides a better, and more accurate, visual that I can put into context as I follow the characters across the river.

Another way to help a reader to fully experience a story is to reduce the use of lazy words. You know about lazy words, I've griped about them before.

Jeff walked into the room. Ho-hum. This tells me Jeff physically moved from one place to another.


Jeff sauntered into the room gives me a full visual of a guy that is confident, or maybe over-confident, or even putting on a show for his ex that he isn't hurting.

How about:

Jeff swaggered into the room. What does that show you? Or: Jeff slipped into the room, hiding behind Bill. Oh ho! Is Jeff shy perhaps, or hiding from a cheating ex who broke his heart?

Jeff slipped into the room, heart pounding in his chest. Oh shit. There the man was, big as life. With... with... him. Mr. Perfect. Everything Jeff would never be. The big house, all the memories he'd planned to make, the children he'd hope they would raise together. His dreams belonged to someone else now.

Uncertainty twisted through Jeff's insides. Was it too late to turn around and go home?

In a "make me feel it scene", unlike the Paris encounter, you want to limit details. In times of great stress or "fight or flight", tunnel vision is common. Jeff sees no one else but his ex lover and the new love interest. His heart is pounding, he may get light-headed, but his entire focus is on what he's seeing and how he feels.

When a good guy is running from the drug dealers, the blood will pound in his ears. Sentences are short and choppy, and thoughts may be incomplete.

Oh fuck! Run! But where? A light! There! Down the alley. Blood roared like thunder in his ears. Jeff ran.

Avoid -ing words. Keep to -ed words to keep the action tight.

I work with a lot of authors on techniques to pull readers into the action, and do a lot of studying on the subject. While I am by no means an expert, if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

And above all...make me feel it.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Captain Ian Lewis Once More Terrorizes the Seas!

Some of you may remember the first short story of mine ever published: The Pirate's Gamble. My, how's it grown. At nearly double the original size, the third edition has been released by Rocky Ridge Books. Cover art and editing by the talented P.D. Singer.

Archaeologist Ian Lewis turns up the most remarkable antiquities, thanks to moonlighting as a buccaneer. Flitting in time between modern day and the eighteenth century, he rescues soon-to-be-lost artifacts from watery graves.

Just as he must keep his sideline career as a pirate captain under wraps, so too must he hide his relationship with his closeted lover, fellow archaeologist David Kane. With David’s help, his rescued treasures surface again after hundreds of years, and Ian would like nothing more than to display his love and his pride as publicly as his museum finds. Now they are on a quest for a legendary golden statue—a statue with hidden meaning for them both.

For a prize more valuable than gold, Ian must win The Pirate's Gamble.

Available from All Romance Ebooks. As other vendors come online, I'll share those links too.

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon DE

Amazon AU

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Transgender* Romance Writer's Blog Tour

I’d like to thank Eden Winters for allowing us to hop on by on our Transgender* Romance Writer's Blog tour.

Many of us are members of the gay romance writing community. Women read romances (I saw a statistic that a romance novel is sold once every seventeen seconds). In a recent study women were shown to be the primary care takers of children about 83% of the time. I've watched women change their stance on homosexuality based on loving a character who happened to be gay. The small niche genre of gay romance has kicked off a revolution of women who are voting, marching in Pride, calling out those around them making homophobic slurs out, and mindfully raising accepting children.

We desperately need to create a wave of trans-friendly romance readers who are going to fight on the right side of transphobia. Thirty-one percent of transgender people attempt suicide. The news has picked up two kids who surrendered their lives in the last two months… but how many more that we don’t know about opted out of the transphobia.

This is why we are hopping around blogs trying to raise awareness. Selling books is nice but most of us want our readers to leave their comfort zone just for a moment and trust us to explore transgender romance. Fall in love with our characters so you will find out more and figure out ways to increase acceptance.

Here’s the question we answered: Do you plan to write another transgender* romance?

Theo Fenraven: I have another story in mind, but it's still percolating. If it refuses to leave me alone, then yes, I plan to write another one. This one will be FtM and take place in the near future.

Vicktor Alexander: Oh I plan to write many. That’s like asking me if I plan to write another black character. Or another interracial romance. The entire Scandalous Whispers of the Remmington Realm is a transgender/intersex series with Dreamspinner Press and then I have many more books I plan to write and submit to other publishers or self-publish, so yes, I have many more planned.

Corvus Alyse: I hesitate to label anything. I mean, my whole point is that there are too many labels in the world and people fall into the trap that just because they have a label, that they have to be that thing always. Freedom of choice, freedom to be who you are, even if that thing changes from day to day or even hour to hour, is important to me. But I will say that I have a science fiction plot written down that could be considered trans* in nature.

Kimberly Gardner: I do have another trans character hanging around the edges of my imagination. Her name is Charli, but I don't know much more about her. I have written a couple short scenes with her, but I can't say yet if she will get her own book.

Z. Allora: Absolutely. I love exploring variations within orientations and gender identities. The deeper we define who we are the more unique each of us appears to be which proves labels are too limiting.

Sara York: Yes, like I said before I just need to find the right characters.

Ethan Stone: I’d like to someday. I prefer to write mysteries and I’d love to write a story about a cop who is trans* and terrified about being found out.

We want to encourage your participation in this hop so please comment or ask us questions for a chance to win:

1 of 2 $20 Amazon gift cards

1 of 1 $20 online retailers B&N, ARE, or Amazon

1 of 1 $15 gift card

1 e-book copy of Groom of Convenience

1 e-book copy of Illusions & Dreams

1 e-book copy of Transgression

The winners will be picked after our last stop March 5th. We will notify you by e-mail.

 Transgression blurb: 

Zachary Fox can’t sleep. 

His acting career is taking off. Public recognition is picking up. Now more than ever, he understands how key reputation is to his success. But his relationship with his co-star, Kris—arranged around publicity rather than genuine feelings—is suffocating him. She once understood his needs, but her demands are beginning to grate with every shrill order she gives.
Zach has a secret. The breakout star of a new medical series, he’s been hiding his orientation from co-stars, friends and family, the studio, and his fans.

On the recommendation of a friend, Zach seeks out Sky Kelly, a well-connected herbalist whose concoctions are natural magic, as is her stunning beauty. On the surface, she has it all: her own house, a thriving business, and good friends, but the things she had to do to get there are a time bomb ticking away, and when it goes off, she'll be teetering on the edge of a chasm that can put her right back where she started.
Sky has secrets. Like, she’s got a Y chromosome and the original equipment to go with it. Like being a highly paid escort. Like, if Zach is seen with her in public, it could ruin his career. Like someone becoming so obsessed with Sky, that obsession threatens them both. 

Secrets... everyone is hiding something, and instead of finding The One, it could be The End. 
Transgression Excerpt:

Zach didn’t realize how drunk he was until he left the club and tried to get into the car. His foot slipped off the running board twice, and he stopped, swaying slightly, looking at his friend over the top of the vehicle.
“Can’t drive, Andy.” He closed the door and leaned against it. “What shape are you in?”

Grinning, Andy came around to the driver’s side. “Better than you, by far.” He opened the door. “Get in, slide over, and open the window in case you need to puke.”
Laughing, Zach crawled in, climbed clumsily over the center console, and collapsed in the passenger seat. “Not gonna puke. I never puke.”

Andy got behind the wheel, inserted the key, and started the car. “Bullshit. What about the time we were at that party in the Hills? You know, last summer.”
“Sarah’s birthday? Oh, yeah, I did kind of lose it that night, didn’t I?” Slipping down onto his tailbone, he propped his sneakered feet on the dash, bracing himself against movement.

Snorting, Andy merged into traffic. “The inside of that car had to be cleaned twice.”
Zach giggled. “Sorry. Promise! No upchucking tonight.”

“Hey, I don’t give a shit. It’s your car.”
They drove to Santa Monica Boulevard. It was a chilly night with a light breeze. Zach wished he could see the stars, but the light pollution was so bad, nothing in the heavens was visible.

“You were hitting the liquor hard. What’s up?”
Zach was still peering up through the windshield, trying to see anything other than the light umbrella over the city. “Can’t sleep lately. I thought it might help.”

Andy shook his head. “No, no, you pass out on liquor, but then you’re awake again a few hours later.”
Leaning back in the seat, he glanced at his friend. “Then what do you suggest?”

“I know someone who can fix you right up. You don’t have anything against natural herbs and stuff, do you?”
“Herbs are good. Minimal side effects, right?”

“Right. I know someone.” He pulled into the right-hand turn lane at the next light. “Ever heard of Sky?”
Zach burst into laughter. “What, that stuff over our heads? Supposed to be blue but is often a dirty gray? Yeah, I have a passing familiarity with it.”

“Asshole. I’m talking about a person. Sky is sort of the unofficial herbalist in this town. Does her own distillations and mixtures, sells them to whoever wants them. Also happens to read palms, and I swear to god, she’s psychic. The real thing, not like those twits who talk to you over the phone for five bucks a minute.” He turned left, then right again, driving into Laurel Canyon. “She told me the woman I was seeing a few months ago was shagging someone else, and I found out a week later she was.”
Zach rolled his eyes. “In this town, everyone is shagging everyone else. That’s not prescience, it’s a fact.”

“Fine, don’t believe me, but she can fix you up with something that will help you sleep naturally. I’m taking you there now.”
Get Transgression at Amazon. Visit my Fen's Blog.



Sunday, February 15, 2015

Writing Update - The Diversion Series

I'm thrilled to say that the first draft of Redemption, the fifth book in the Diversion series, is complete at 63,500 words, and is now in the hands of my first critique partner. For me, the draft is just one step in the process. Next comes critique, revisions, more critique, more revisions, editing, proofing (heavy drinking falls in here somewhere), blurb, artwork, formatting (liberal swearing at finding dumb mistakes I've made), and finally, publication. It's too soon yet to give an estimated release date, but I'm hoping for mid spring.

In the meantime, rights to Collusion, First Edition revert to me next month. I've polished the manuscript, have my lovely cover artist L.C. Chase working in the art, and am expecting to release the second edition in April. Same story, but a bid more polished with what I've learned of the craft since it's initial release.

I hope to do a cover reveal in the next few weeks, followed by announcements and giveaways.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Mama? Where Do Readers Come From?

There was a time, when I was child, that if an American author published a book, it was a pretty safe bet that it would be available in print in the US and other English speaking countries. For other markets, the book would be translated into other languages, or even dialects as Harry Potter was translated for the benefit of American readers, turning “The Philosopher’s Stone” into “The Sorcerer’s Stone” simply to make the terminology more reader-friendly.

However, in this day and age, it’s no longer major publishers controlling the editions, and print books have given way to e-books. E-books know no boundaries: they require no shipping. Geographical restrictions exist, but can be very porous.

The world’s transition to a global village also means that now, more than ever, folks living in other countries may pick up a copy of a book from a US source, or a US resident pick from a German source, etcetera. Add in programs like Kindle Lendable, and Erica in New Zealand can share her favorite book with her friends in Norway, Romania, and Scotland.

What does that mean for readers and writers? Well, you can’t always assume that something familiar to your frame of reference is universal. Case in point: if one of my characters is injured, he might go to the ER for treatment. But it’s not fair of me to expect all my readers to be familiar with “ER”, so some adjustments are needed. At the first usage, I’d be well advised to spell out “Emergency Room”, and then use “ER” thereafter. Yes, my story takes place in the US, where “ER” is the norm, but I don’t want any reader to have difficulty understanding my meaning to the point of enjoying the book less.

But writing for a global audience is only half the issue. What about a blog post announcing a new release that only links or All Romance E-books, while neglecting Amazon UK, JP, DE, etc? I recently became aware of this issue and have made an effort to make it easier for all potential readers to access my books in their local venue.

Another thing that has come to my attention is giveaways. I’ve had winners and non-winners alike send me thank-you notes simply because I offered a chance for readers to win even if they weren’t in my country. Yes, shipping costs extra, but the reader wanted MY book. It’s worth it to me to keep them happy, and be fair. Also, unless they want a signed copy, I can actually order the book locally to the winner, and arrange drop shipping.

Now, I’m careful about countries where the kind of books I write are not permitted, but I value each and every reader, regardless of when they live, and do my best to make sure they don’t feel alienated, either in the wording of my work, or availability of titles.

On that note, someone in France read Diversion and liked it well enough that now it’s soon to release in French. Something similar happened in Japan. I’m not sure when the Japanese version will be available, but look for the French version this spring.

So in answer to the question: readers come from every part of the world, and writers are wise to acknowledge this fact.

I’d like to take a moment to thank my readers, be you in the next town or on the other side of the world. Know that you are near to my heart. And I hope that over Bo, Lucky, Aillil, Malcolm, Tessa, Sebastian, Henri, and all my other characters, we bond.