Sunday, November 17, 2013

Guest V. L. Locey - Love of the Hunter

We have a guest post today, from the fantastic and lovely V. L. Locey! I first encountered her as the author of the hysterical Two Guys Walk Into An Apocalypse series (the first installment of which is in He Loves Me For My Brainsss) but she also has some amazing books out focusing on mythology, and she's here today to tell us a little about her latest!

~ ~ ~

Ever since I was a young girl I was fascinated with mythology. There was something magical and special about the legends of Heracles, Achilles, Perseus, and Odysseus. I would spend hours reading books about the Greek pantheon. I cannot recall how many times I have watched the first Clash of the Titans movie. More times than a grown woman should, that's for sure. I am a huge fan of Edith Hamilton, and use her novels as some writers use a dictionary or a thesaurus. It always struck me as sad that some people couldn't enjoy mythology as I did, but given how it's presented in classrooms from elementary school through college, it's no wonder so many hate Greek mythology.


I've tried, through my writing, to bring the gods to life. I've gone in and blown the dust bunnies off Zeus' marble nose and ran my Swiffer over Hera's peacock feather fan. With Love of the Hunter, my M/M mythological romance, I've taken things a step further and have rewritten one of the classic Greek legends. In this book you will see how Apollo, the most Greek of all the gods, meets and falls in love with Orion, the famed archer. This new adult romance is a dramatic one, make no mistake. There is a reason they call these tales Greek tragedies. Love of the Hunter is filled with pain and suffering, but the sadness is tempered with a love so deep it was immortalized in the heavens forever.

Here's a small sample from Love of the Hunter:

***

"You are a shameful man!" Orion glowers then gives me another shove. I fling out an arm to block him lest he strike out again. The man is strong, and his punches rock me soundly. "What possesses you to speak to your sister – your twin – in such a reprehensible manner?"

"What is said between her and I is not your concern!" I yell in his face then stalk past him, my shoulder meeting his. Orion grunts. I do not, although the contact pained me badly. My cape snaps around my ankles as I enter my bedchamber. My lover follows me. The wolves leave in the face of my anger. The door slams shut. I rip my cape from my shoulders and throw it to the corner. Turning, I come nose to nose with Orion. Undaunted and brazen my lover is. That is why he stood and fought Helios instead of begging forgiveness.

"What is said between you and her is my concern for it centers on me!" he shouts, his green eyes alive with his ire.

"So you defend this sick attraction she has for you? Why?" I demand to know. "Are you fucking her? Is that why?"

I let him hit me. I see the huge fist coming, and I allow it. The crunch of my nose breaking is liberating. Golden ichor gushes from my nostrils. I fall back into the wall, my arms getting caught in the thick teal drapery that hangs from the posts of the bed. I grasp a post for balance. My tongue darts out to catch a bit of the godly blood flowing down over my lips and chin.

I find Orion staring at me as if horrified.

"Apollo," he pants, his meaty fist dangling by his thigh.

"Nay," I cough, swallow, and then grab the curtain up to run it under my nose. The flow will stop in a moment; I am a god after all. "You did well. There are times that I require a sound punch to the face."

"I will not hear you speak of Artemis so." Orion steps closer. I hold the drapery tightly to my face, my eyes watery as I peek over the bloody material covering my nose and mouth. "She has been a veritable blessing during the long hours that you are gone. She tends my back, brings me well-cooked game, sings and laughs with me. She tells me stories and washes my hair."

"She loves you, Orion." I raise the drapery back to my nose.

He stares at me dully. He blinks at me as if I had just said something incomprehensible. "Nay," he says, his eyes leaping from me to his feet then to me again. He shakes his head.

"Aye," I mumble into the material over my face.

"Nay, she is naught but a sister to me," he says.

I drop the teal silk. A small trickle is all that remains of the bloody nose. "That is how you see her. It is not how see looks upon you," I tell him gently. I fear a feather landing on him would send him to the floor.

He drops to the end of the bed. The thick mattress compresses under his massive body. I sit down beside him. We both stare at our feet. I sniffle occasionally.

"Orion, she has loved you for quite some time. Do you not recall her saying she had watched you before meeting you? I know her -- she is smitten."

"But she knows I am your lover," he mutters. I sit straighter and glance over at him.

"Yes, she does." I reach over to take the hands hanging like dead fish over his knees in mine. "And that I cannot abide. You are mine. I will not share you with anyone. I will not allow her infatuation with you to grow. I should have been firmer about it before this, but I worried about leaving you here sickly and alone."

"You do not need worry for me," he says, bristling at the jab at his masculinity. I squeeze his hands.

"Orion, you are still pale. Even if you were returned to robust health, I would worry when you were gone from my side," I tell him, lifting his hands to my lips. I kiss each scarred knuckle. His jade eyes rise from his feet to meet mine. "Look upon our hands," I say, rolling his over then showing him mine. "I have no scars upon me. You do." I press my lips against a raised white welt that runs across the back of his right hand. "You are only half god. Your blood is not gold, it is red. Death will come for you and take you from me. This is unavoidable. So I worry. I will worry each time I cannot place my sight upon you. It is not a slur against your manhood or virility, it is simply the knowledge that I cannot die and you can. I would postpone your demise as long as I possibly can."

"Your tongue is gilded and golden, Apollo," he smiles weakly. "How does a man talk a man who just hit him in the face from his anger? How do you make me long for nothing aside from being in your arms?"

"I am the god of poetry and rhyme, my love," I counter seeing his gaze shift from my mouth to my amber eyes. I nod.

He leans in to capture my mouth. We fall back onto the bed, our mouths moving over each other’s slowly. We lay side by side, kissing, exploring, touching and cupping, stroking and teasing. We strip each other slowly, kissing each exposure of flesh.

***

You can pick up your copy of Love of the Hunter at the Torquere Press website: http://www.torquerebooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=83&products_id=4070

Yours in love and laughter,
V.L. Locey


I love to meet new friends and fans! You can find me at-
Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/pages/VL-Locey/124405447678452
Twitter- https://twitter.com/vllocey
Goodreads- http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5807700.V_L_Locey
My blog- http://thoughtsfromayodelinggoatherder.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Chained Mages 101

Though Foxfur features sections from the point of view of both of the characters central to the romance (as well as a few interludes from the villain!) this is really Cheng's story -- he's the one who is in the most danger, and the one who undergoes the most growth.

But that means that you really don't get a solid handle on Jin during this book (there's the seed of a sequel germinating in the back of my mind that might drag him further into the spotlight). In particular, though it's not information you need to understand this story, the Chained Mages (of which Jin is one) are left in the dark. So I thought you might like a peek into their workings.

Gaena is a world of magic. Some thousands of years ago, there was a great war -- the Magewar -- that resulted in the corruption of the world's magic. The end result of the corruption is a magnification of the wielder's id and subconscious, a quiet "whisper" in the back of the wielder's mind urging them to simply take whatever they want, to indulge in shows of anger or give rein to fantasies of revenge.

The time following the Magewar was dark, indeed.

Eventually, a fraternity formed of mages who were strong-willed enough to resist those dark whispers. They developed artifacts -- Chains -- that magnify the ego and superego, bolstering willpower against the corruption. So armed, they made it their purpose to rescue and reclaim their fellow mages. Over the centuries, they have learned other techniques and tricks, and they became the Chained Brotherhood, a separate nation whose citizenship depends not on birth or residence, but inborn ability and willingness to submit to an apprenticeship that culminates with the donning of Chains.

Each set of Chains is sealed to its owner with devotion to a particular force or concept: knowledge, or justice, or love, to name only a few. This concept is one that the mage finds particularly useful in suppressing or resisting magic's corrupted call, and the mage's mastery of that concept is enhanced by the innate magic of his or her Chains.

Jin -- the mage in Foxfur -- is bound to the concept of balance.

The lissa lunged forward again, and the world tipped and swayed. Startled, Cheng barely had time to tighten his grip on the cage bars. The lissa growled and cursed as she slipped in the puddle of vomit. She fell sideways and clanged into the cell doors. Jin hadn't moved; he still stood where he had before, not even leaning against the sudden and unnatural angle of the world.

This was Jin's magic, he realized, not petty tricks of fire and illusion, but the manipulation -- the violation -- of the universe's most basic principles. Jin had changed of the direction of down. The world heaved again, and the demon slid closer to Cheng, venomous claws scrabbling for purchase on the rocky floor and iron bars of the cells.


Find out more about Foxfur at Torquere Press:

Worldbuilding

I've always delighted in exploring causes and effects, on both small and grand scales. It's a skill I developed in my late teens, when I started building a setting in which to run an AD&D game and found myself becoming obsessed with first its geography ("What if I put mountains here? How would that change the flow of these rivers?") and then by geopolitical factors ("What would be a good site for the capital? Here on the river where it would be a good trade route? Or in this valley where it would be easier to defend from invaders?") and then down the rabbit hole of socioeconomics ("How do the people who live here make their livings? What sort of society does that lead to -- mostly small villages, or cities?")

(If only I'd had the internet available to me at the time, I would have been a walking example of the benefits of self-directed study, but that's a blog post for another day.)

My love for these kinds of questions led me to a minor in cultural anthropology, in fact, but I kept coming back and applying my growing knowledge and understanding to this same fictional setting -- Gaena -- causing it to evolve over the years. And not only did it evolve, but it flat-out grew, as well, as the number of stories and cultures I wanted to include in it grew.

While it's true that many of the cultures in Gaena take Earth cultures as their starting points (Shaoda, the setting for Foxfur, is a loose interpretation of feudal China, for example) I felt it was important to take Gaena's unique history into account, and to contemplate the ways each culture would shift and change as events occurred.

I'd graduated from the effects of geography to variables without real-world examples to draw from. What if the gods occasionally -- but provably -- meddled directly in mundane matters? What if magic was real -- and then, what if it suddenly became unequivocally evil?

This is the world my characters inhabit now: a world where the ability to control magic is given to maybe one in ten thousand -- and of those, only a few are able to resist its corrupting influence without assistance. Mages, as a result, are hated and feared, obeyed or avoided -- but never befriended.

And now, another question bubbles up out of the depths of my brain, on a smaller scale, this time: What sort of person would fall in love with one?

Foxfur is one of the answers to that question.



Check it out today at Torquere Press:

Foxfur excerpt

You know I wouldn't let a release day go by without an excerpt that isn't available anywhere else, right? Let's just dive right in on Chapter One, then... (Probably NSFW, this scene is m/f.)

Chapter One: The Red-Haired Woman

The red-haired woman woke Cheng with a soft stroke of her fingertips along his spine. He shivered to wakefulness and suppressed a sigh as he glanced at the night-candle. He'd been asleep for less than an hour.

The red-haired woman put a finger over her lips and laid a hand on Cheng's shoulder, aborting his attempt to sit up. "Leave now, I," she whispered in her broken Shaodanai.

Cheng blinked in surprise. "You're leaving now, mistress? But it's after midnight. The Dog Star--"

The red-haired woman smiled with genuine amusement. "Fear not the stars, I. Night travel happy, I." Her soft fingers traced the skin at the base of Cheng's throat, just at the edge of his slave's collar. He closed his eyes and tried not to shiver. Of all the touches he endured as a waystation pleasure-slave, this was the one he found most difficult to accept with grace. "Too long here," the red-haired woman was saying. "Long travel, many nights." The fingers left Cheng's throat, to his relief, trailing down his chest. She leaned closer, her breath puffing softly on his face. "Kiss," she commanded, so he did.

Three nights, the red-haired woman had tarried at the waystation, recovering from the journey across the mountainous border between Shaoda and her home country of Khadya. Each of those nights, she had paid for Cheng's attendance. He had been a pleasure-slave for more than a dozen years, but never had he entertained a woman -- or a man, for that matter -- as insatiable as this flame-haired Khadyan beauty. Each of the three nights he had practiced his art to the utmost, bringing the red-haired woman to shuddering, gasping release again and again. Each time, the sweat had not even dried on her brow before her hands were on him again, demanding. Urging. Arousing.

Cheng had prided himself on his training and his stamina, but at midnight the third night, every trick he had learned from his former mistress, the Courtesan Mihai, had failed him. Aware of his failing but too worn out to dredge up the proper sense of shame, he had collapsed into exhausted slumber. But even now, as he kissed her, his cock stirred to sluggish life. It was raw and oversensitive from too much arousal, too many orgasms, in too brief a span, but it filled slowly, moving toward a hardness that Cheng thought was as likely to make him whimper in pain as sigh with pleasure.

The red-haired woman released him as the kiss ended, though, and stood to draw on her clothes. "Too long," she murmured again. "Leave, I."

Cheng hid his relief, watching her dress from under his lashes. "Will you come back this way, mistress, when you return to Khadya?"

Her violet eyes blazed with sudden fury. "Not return, I! Never!"

Startled, Cheng bowed deeply, letting her unexpected anger rush over him like a river. Most Khadyans did not expect the instant and unquestioning obedience that his Shaodanai clients demanded, but he had found that it was unwise for a slave to show true defiance of any sort. "Forgive this unworthy one his impertinence, mistress."

The red-haired woman frowned at him, perhaps puzzling out the meaning of his words, then smiled slightly and stroked Cheng's hair. "Meet again, we," she promised. "Kovarstvo. Soul tied."

She had insisted from their first night that the two of them were linked, though it had taken half a mark's pantomime and stilted conversation before he had haltingly taught her the word for "soul". Cheng had been amused, and obscurely pleased -- it was said that Khadyans tended to the romantic, but those who came through Master Dewei's waystation were mostly traders and couriers, more pragmatic than fanciful.

Dressed, she tied her copper-colored hair back into a tail, then sat again on the edge of the bed. She laid one hand almost gingerly over Cheng's cock, which had gone limp again. "Good service, this," she teased. "Mine now."

Cheng grunted softly at her touch and forced himself not to groan at the combined rush of pain and arousal. "Yours always," he promised, though it was necessarily a lie. Cheng belonged to Dewei Kan, and his cock and skill as a courtesan-trained bedslave belonged to whatever traveler offered Master Dewei the most coin for them.

The red-haired woman donned her shoes and gathered up her pack, then dropped a final kiss on Cheng's forehead. "Dream, I," she said solemnly. "Dream, you. Soul joins."

Cheng had no idea what she meant, but he nodded just as soberly. "Of course, mistress."

Then she was gone. Cheng listened as she padded in near-silence into the hallway and down the stairs. He waited until he was certain she had left the waystation's yard, and then let himself fall back into wearied slumber.


Read more at Torquere Press:

Release Day: Foxfur!

Foxfur has arrived! I love this story -- I love its setting, I love its story, I love the characters, and I loved writing it.

Pleasure-slave Cheng takes no particular note of the red-haired woman when she purchases his services. But the morning after her departure, Cheng is taken into custody by the Emperor's own guards and brought before one of the rare and terrifying Chained Mages. Already frightened and confused, things go from bad to worse for Cheng when the mage reveals the demonic nature of the red-haired woman. Now not only Cheng's life, but the lives of everyone around him, depend on their finding the fox-demon as soon as possible.

As a Chained Mage, Jin is at best feared, and at worst, despised. But he can't allow his personal feelings to interfere with his mission, not even when his admiration for the slave deepens. In fact, Jin's love may result in a disaster. The fox-demon has placed a spell in Cheng, a spell designed to turn his sexual energy to a murderous ends, endangering himself and everyone around him. And worst of all, they're not the only hunters on the fox-demon's trail!

I've got some posts queued up for later today about my slightly obsessive worldbuilding and a little bit about how magic works in this world. I'll be bouncing around on a blog tour for much of the next week, as well, so make sure you've "liked" my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/EveryWorldNeedsLove so you can grab those links as I get them!

Foxfur is available now at Torquere Press: http://www.torquerebooks.com

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Grand Tour

Foxfur comes out in two weeks!

I'm trying, for this release, to get some promotion out, because I'm really proud of this book, and I'd like to see it do well. Primarily, since I'm on a budget and can't afford to pay for ads, I'm going on bit of a blog tour.


If I've got my notes right, there's a preliminary (and slightly steamy!) post over at A. Catherine Noon's blog today, comparing writing and editing to a sub/Dom relationship!

The rest come as a blitz during the week of release:

  • Leading up to the 13th (release day!) I'll be here, of course, with some talk about worldbuilding and the cultures to be found in Foxfur.
  • On the 14th, I'll be featured at V. L. Locey's blog (where I'll talk a little about character development), and hosting Torquere's Livejournal community, where I've got several topics planned, including at least one spicy excerpt.
  • The 15th sees me over at Lynn's, explaining the value of a great beta reader.
  • On the 16th, I'll be at Torquere's blog, once again with a variety of topics in mind.
  • I'm taking the 17th off, but on the 18th, I'll be visiting Mychael Black, where I'll talk about why Foxfur's first draft was entirely unpublishable, and what survived the rewrite process!
  • And on the 19th, hop over to BA Tortuga's blog for a little chat about kink...

As you can see, it's going to be lots of fun, and there will be plenty of things for you to check out, as I'm fairly certain that none of those posts repeats any others!

But all those blog posts had to be written in advance (or at least the ideas for them sketched out) -- and some pictures dredged up, and my fellow authors begged for the slots, and...

I think I've written so much about Foxfur in the last week or so, in preparation for this publicity blitz, that I'm completely out of topics! Goodness only knows what I'll find to talk about next week. Maybe I'll do another grammar lesson. ;-)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Grammatical

As well as being friends with Lynn, I also happen to be her editor for most of her Torquere Press releases. The other day, I wrapped up my notes on her novel that's scheduled for release next year and sent her the marked-up file, along with the assorted paperwork that goes along with each release.

The next day, she caught me on Facebook and asked me a grammatical question. I answered, and she said, "I ought to take a class or something. I've forgotten all this stuff." (Mind you, Lynn majored in English, so it's not like she just didn't learn it.)

I chuckled and said, "I've been thinking of writing up some of the most common errors that I see and posting it. But the ones who most need it probably won't read it."

"I'd read it," she promised. I could feel her making big googly eyes at me on the other side of the screen. "Please?"

Well, all right. Since you said please.


Let's start with homophones and other similar-sounding words.

You know about them already. Stop relying on your spell-checker for combinations like: its/it's -- your/you're -- then/than -- effect/affect and their friends.

Do a search for both variants (yeah, I know, to/too/two has three, but I don't usually see this one screwed up outside of the occasional typo) and make sure you feel good about your choice. Look the rule up online if you have to.

I still have to look up the rules for lie/lay/laid/lain every. single. damn. time, myself, so it's not like I have any special knowledge, here.

***

Semicolons are not hard! There are two correct uses for a semicolon. Only two. Ready?

1) Joining two complete sentences that need to be linked. Note that they must be complete sentences. If you could not correctly replace the semicolon with a period, then you cannot use the semicolon. Example: I went inside; it was starting to rain.

2) The semicolon replaces a comma in lists if the list items have commas of their own. Example: Your dinner options are meatloaf, peas, and potatoes; chicken, broccoli, and rice; or soup and salad.

That's it. That's the only two uses for a semicolon in prose. For better (and funnier) examples and explanations, you can check out The Oatmeal's comic (http://theoatmeal.com/comics/semicolon) but that's the lot, right there. All the other uses I see ought to be a comma or a colon.

***

Dialog tags. Oh my sweet gods and little pink toasters, but it seems like almost nobody can use a dialog tag.

Tags have several rules, but they're not actually that hard.

The first -- and the one that gets broken constantly -- has to do with the choice of verb for the tag. I can't tell you how many times I've seen this:
"That makes me happy," he smiled.
Here's a rule of thumb for you: If the verb does not imply a vocalization of some sort when it stands alone (said, shouted, coughed, laughed) then you can't use it for a dialog tag. A smile does not make any noise, and therefore it cannot be used to deliver dialog. (Neither does a smirk or a grin.) The above example is more correctly rendered:
"That makes me happy." He smiled.
or
"That makes me happy," he said with a smile.
or
"That makes me happy," he said, smiling.
Don't even get me started on dialog tags that don't have anything to do with the dialog, e.g.: "I'll answer the door," he stood up. AAAAAAARGH. Either add a proper dialog tag (...he said, standing up) or make it two separate sentences.

The other rule has to do with punctuation. If you are not going to use a dialog tag, then the sentence ends with the end of the dialog. You should, inside the quotation marks, use whatever sentence-ending punctuation makes sense. Period, question mark, exclamation mark. And then the first word outside the quotation marks should be capitalized, because it's the beginning of the next sentence. "Are you coming?" He looked back, waiting for a response.

If you are going to use a dialog tag, then your sentence is not finished yet. Replace your period with a comma. (Note that question marks and exclamation marks, as they convey more information than simply "end of sentence", should be left alone.) The first word outside your quotation marks should be lowercase, however, (unless it's a name) because the sentence is continuing, no matter what punctuation you used to finish off the dialog. "Yes, of course!" she answered.

***

A participle is a verb that modifies a noun or noun phrase, which is a very stuffy definition and much easier exampled than explained: "I'll answer the door," he said, standing up. In this example, "standing" is the participle, modifying our speaker.

Unfortunately, I see a lot of participles being used as the next action, rather than a modification of the current one. For example: He stood up, walking to the door. In this case, the noun phrase being modified is understood to be the first whole first clause: "He stood up". And since you cannot walk to the door and stand up at the same time, this is incorrect.

An easier way to keep track of it is this: If you're going to use an "-ing" verb, try slipping a "while" at the front and seeing if it makes sense. For example: He stood up (while) walking to the door. This does not make much sense, and therefore is incorrect; the correct way to write this would be: He stood up, then walked to the door. Or possibly: He stood up and walked to the door. They have moderately different emphases; choose the one that best suits the situation at hand.

On the other hand: He walked around the room (while) staring at the ceiling. This does make sense, and so you can correctly say: He walked around the room, staring at the ceiling. (He should be careful not to bump into anything, though.)

***

Pronoun confusion! This is not a hard rule of grammar, but part of Torquere's style guide. As such, you have somewhat more leeway here -- but I've found it makes for much smoother reading (even if not necessarily writing). The rule here is that each pronoun set should only have one antecedent per paragraph.

Wait, "antecedent" is one of those fancypants grammar words, so let's back that up a smidge for those of you who had better things to do with your brains than storing 8th grade grammar lessons:

An antecedent is the thing that a pronoun refers to. If I have a scene with Joe and Mary, then most likely all the (he/him/his)s in the scene refer to Joe, and all the (she/her)s belong to Mary, and so Joe is the antecedent of "he" and Mary is the antecedent for "she".

But Torquere, being a publisher for mostly m/m romances (or sometimes f/f or m/m/f, but in all cases at least two people of the same gender), runs more often than most into this sticky situation where you could easily have two antecedents for the same gender pronouns. For example: Jerry shivered as he took off his shirt. Who do those pronouns belong to? I can see several different interpretations here: Jerry is taking off his own shirt; Jerry is taking off someone else's shirt; someone else is taking off Jerry's shirt; or someone else is taking off his own shirt. Without further context, there's no way to tell which interpretation is correct.

So the rule Torquere has is that in each paragraph, all the pronouns of a particular gender must have the same antecedent (and that antecedent must be made clear by the context).

I will say that this is a very difficult rule to abide by strictly, and since it's a house rule, I don't follow it 100% -- I'll skim past the occasional slip as long as all the antecedents are crystal clear. (Other editors are extremely picky about this rule, though. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.) But I've found it's an excellent rule to keep in mind for the sake of clarity, anyway. You may know perfectly well what you're trying to say -- but are you completely certain that your reader will?

***

There. Those are the grammatical mistakes that I trip over most often. I hope that's at least vaguely helpful! Any other grammar questions you've stumbled over and could use some help with? Please ask!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Covered!

It's been a while since I've attempted to post via email, but the actual blogger editor still doesn't work for me at the Day Job, so we're giving it a try. If the image doesn't come through, I'll post it as soon as I get home tonight.

Because I really can't wait to show off my cover for Foxfur!
 



The models are so perfect (especially Cheng, the one in the foreground), and I adore that cute little 3-tailed kitsune by the title! Isn't it gorgeous?! Many, many kisses blown to Brandon, my cover artist, who was very patient with my endless requests for tweaks and adjustments.

Foxfur will be coming out on November 13, so you can expect to see some more about it from me in coming weeks!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Guest Post: Lynn Townsend

Y'all know Lynn, right? I mean, I talk about her all the time around here. She's one of my favorite writers, quite aside from being my friend, and we've found that we work together spectacularly well. Which is good, since I've become her de facto editor whenever Torquere takes something she's submitted.

Speaking of which, she released a new short story this week -- a really fun one about a guy who's spending a lot of time in a graveyard and... well, I'll let her tell it:

***

My husband doesn't usually read my work; he says it promotes marital harmony, and honestly, I'm not sure he's wrong about that. I do tend to argue with him when he compliments me - it's a bad habit, I'm working on it!

Sometimes, though, when I'm stuck, I'll bounce ideas off him. He's good with that. I tell him what's going on in my story and where I'm stuck, and he'll come up with some suggestions; one of them nearly always involves the use of high-yield explosives, so... sometimes he's less help than one might hope.

For this particular story, I don't even remember what we were talking about; but I described the scene where Dariel's thinking about his sister, who snuck out and was killed in a car accident...

To which he said, "Well, he's a more concerned older brother than I ever was... when my little sister wanted to leave at night and I was supposed to be looking after her, I usually gave her a ride. On my way to wherever it was that I wasn't supposed to be."

I'm an only child. Sibling relationships are weird to me and I don't understand them.

Find out more about Dariel's family in Blood Cries Up:

Since the death of his sister, Dariel's been haunting her grave. Then he meets Zach. It's love at first sight -- unfortunately Zach is a ghost. An accidental possession results in Zach moving into Dariel's body, but before they can fully figure that out, they learn that there's more to Zach's death than the suicide it had seemed -- much more. With the help of the cemetery cat, Dariel and Zach will have to confront the diabolic Isaac Caine and return Zach's soul to its proper resting place.

Author Bio: Lynn Townsend is a geek, a dreamer and an inveterate punster. When not reading, writing, or editing, she can usually be found drinking coffee or killing video game villains. Lynn's interests include filk music, romance novels, octopuses, and movies with more FX than plot.

Contact:
Blog: http://paidbytheweird.blogspot.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LynnTownsendwriter
Twitter: https://twitter.com/tisfan
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Lynn-Townsend/e/B005OQA0AA

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What I Know

"Write what you know."

It's a funny thing for me to say, isn't it? I mean, I'm a mostly heterosexual, cis-gendered woman, and yet I write mostly m/m romances and erotica. Many of which are sci-fi or fantasy, taking place in worlds that have never existed. I am certainly not writing what I know.

Or am I?

I know how it feels to touch a man's body. I know the slide of muscle under skin, the scrape of late-night stubble, the almost surreally smooth texture of an erect penis. I know the scents and the tastes.

I know what it's like to fall in love. To think about someone obsessively and wonder if they feel the same. To feel my body responding to their nearness. To see the colors of the world actually brighten when my love is returned.

The things that I know inform everything I've ever written.

I know what it's like to want to protect someone you love.

I know how it feels to be afraid and mistrustful.

I know what it's like to make assumptions, and then have them kick you in the face.

I know about wanting to keep part of yourself hidden.

I know how it feels to crave something to the point of addiction.

I know about wishing someone would notice you, even though they're out of your league.

I know how it feels to be utterly exhausted, clinging desperately to the only thing that's keeping you going.

I know what it's like to mourn, and to be betrayed.

I know what it's like to be angry and proud, and I know what it's like to have my world turned upside-down.

And in writing all these things, I've learned even more -- mostly about myself.

What do you know?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Spicy Brains

I missed last week, too, I know. Here's the thing: September sucks.

I mean, it's great that it's starting to cool down again, and fall is pretty much my favorite time of year, but here's the thing... I have a Day Job. And at the Day Job, we mostly do government contract work. And mostly (currently, exclusively) for the US government.

The US government has a fiscal calendar that runs from October 1 through September 30 of the following year. I have no idea why, really, but it does. What that means is that the majority of our contracts end around the end of September, which means we (at the Day Job) have to wrap up the work (which is sometimes a bit of a scramble) and package it up and deliver it (which is always a scramble). And even the customers with contracts that aren't ending generally want a lot of reports and data packages around that time so they can include it in their end-of-year reports.

So pretty much all of September -- especially the last half of it -- are always slammed for me at the Day Job. Which has the effect of eating into everything else I do in a domino effect of exhaustion.

But! Yesterday I sent out two huge packages, and once it was done, the rest of the afternoon was fairly calm. And we're in hurry-up-and-wait mode on a couple more packages, so the next day or two look to be fairly quiet for me (not so much for others) and I thought: tonight, I will Be Productive!

My slush pile had gotten huge. I had -- no kidding -- more than 20 submissions for Torquere's Christmas short story line, so I waded into that and Got It Done. (If you are reading this and your story was rejected, let me say this: There were more than twenty stories, and there are only three release dates in December. There's no way I can handle more than nine or so of them in a month, and I agonized really hard over the choices. There's a good chance that if your story went through a couple of rounds of beta-reading and revision that it would be a solid contender for next year's Christmas collection.)

And then I did some crocheting, which doesn't sound particularly productive, but the piece I'm working on now has a hard deadline (it's a gift for a child's birthday that's in a couple of weeks), and then there's another piece in the queue that I've been commissioned to do, so that's going to be moderately urgent, as well.

And then... O Best Beloved... Then... I wrote.

See, earlier in the day, E. M. Lynley had put out a call for submissions that tickled a thought in my brain. It's a twisted fairy tale call, and I had this story idea a while back for re-imagining "The Gingerbread Man," but it had never quite gelled. I mentioned this on Facebook, and several friends concurred that I needed to write this. And then a bit later, while I was crocheting and turning the thought over in my head, I figured out what my opening hook was.

So I turned off the overhead lights and put the lamp on its dimmest setting. I lit a gingerbread-scented candle. I used Freedom to turn off my internet access for an hour, and Isolator to block out everything but my word processor. And I wrote for one hour. At the end of which I had just over 800 words. Wow. Considering how little writing I've been doing for the last few weeks, I'm very impressed with myself, honestly.

And now, as your reward for having waded through all that, a snippet from last night's writing!

***

Jonas remembered when he was fourteen, Dad had taken him aside, fidgety and uncomfortable, and Jonas had realized he was about to get The Talk. A couple of his friends had gotten The Talk from their dads already, and Jonas figured he already knew pretty much everything he needed to know from them -- plus there had been those films in Health Class that had managed to be simultaneously vague and gross -- but it was one of those things that everyone had to endure, like homework, or letting your aunts pinch your cheeks. So Jonah sat on his hands and studiously avoided meeting his father's eyes, waiting.

Only Dad hadn't really given him The Talk, not the way Jonas' friends' dads had given it. Dad had coughed a few times, cleared his throat and then coughed again, and finally said, "Look, son... There are things a young man just needs to learn for himself, and anything I try to tell you isn't going to do any good. So I'll just say this: a man acts responsibly, and with honor. You know what I'm trying to say, son?"

"Sure, Dad."

"Good. Then we're done-- Oh, one other thing. If you bring a girl back here to the house-- Well, I expect it's better than going out to the park and getting caught, but if you do, it's probably best if your mother doesn't know anything about it. Eh?"

By this point, Jonas' face had been aching with the force of his blush. He nodded quickly. "Yeah, sure, Dad."

(It wasn't until later that he had realized that he couldn't bring anyone to the house for anything more illicit than playing video games anyway, because he shared a room with John, and there was no threat or bribe on Earth that would be big enough to put a lock on the eight-year-old's mouth if he caught Jonas kissing a girl.)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Editrix

I hope you're all taking prime advantage of Torquere's anniversary giveaways! (http://glbtromance.blogspot.com/2013/08/10-years-wow.html)

Other changes are happening there, as well. The GM (er, that's general manager, not game master) looked at sales and determined that when Torquere releases short stories in conjunction with an anthology (that is, we release an anthology, and then we release all of the stories in the anthology separately as well, so readers have their choice of just buying the ones they want, or buying the whole collection) then both Torquere and the author make more money than when we release a short story by itself, or an anthology without the option of picking up the stories separately.

Why this is, I'm not sure. Possibly because doing the joint sale manages to hit both readers who like short stories and readers who like anthologies? No idea, but the numbers are pretty clear.

So the standalone short story is off the table, at least for now. For 2014, we're going to be offering only anthologies, one a month, and each release will offer the anthology as a whole, or the short stories individually.

And I am no longer the Sips (short story) Editor, but the anthology editor. Well, I'm still the Sips Editor now. The change won't happen until around mid-November, when I'm done editing the last of the December Sips. Which means that my "edited by..." credits are going to be getting quite a bit longer. (Because standalone stories of any length don't show an "edited by" credit, but anthologies do.) Or maybe I'll start calling myself the Editrix!

...Okay, probably not.

In case you're curious, the calls for the first eight anthologies (through August 2014) are up at Torquere's website, at http://www.torquerepress.com/specialcalls.html.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Free Books!

Guys. Guys.

September is Torquere Press' anniversary month, and this year, in honor of their tenth anniversary, instead of doing contests or drawings to celebrate, they've taken a simpler -- and more awesome -- approach.

They're giving it away.

Every day in September, for one hour each day, they will be making one of their most popular books completely free. The complete listing of books, and the date/time each will be available, is at: http://glbtromance.blogspot.com/2013/08/10-years-wow.html

Some notes:
  • Let me be clear, here -- these are not short stories, or the first few chapters of books. These are full-length novels.
  • Nothing I've written is in the list, alas, primarily because I don't have any full-length novels out (yet). But hey, when you're picking up the free book, there's no reason you can't also pick up something of mine!
  • You do have to get them directly from Torquere's website; it simply isn't possible to coordinate this kind of thing with all the distributors. But there are benefits to having an account with them anyway: Books you buy directly from Torquere come with all the available file formats, so you don't have to worry about losing them if you decide to switch from a Nook to a Kindle or whatever. Torquere is almost always running a sale of some sort for 15-20% off. And when you buy directly from Torquere, the authors get a bigger chunk of the royalties, which doesn't do much for you directly but certainly helps keep your favorite authors fed and able to keep writing!
  • The giveaway hour each day rotates, so whatever corner of the globe you're on, you're sure to be able to snag at least a couple of books while you're awake! (Of course, that means that whatever corner of the globe you're on, at least a couple will come up while you're asleep, too, so check the listing and see if you need to set any alarms!)
  • Note: All the listed times are CST. If you don't live in the CST timezone, adjust accordingly. Don't blame me if you set your clock wrong!
  • If you follow them on Twitter (https://twitter.com/torquere) or on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TorquerePressInc) they will be posting reminders and announcements shortly before each book is released, so you may want to follow/like them if you think that would be helpful. 
Thirty days of free books; how awesome is that? I know my TBR list is about to get a lot longer...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sampler

I didn't post last week. Bad author/editor -- ten lashes! (Yes, please!)

I've got no excuses, good or bad. I was working from home for the day so I could talk to the contractor who's working on my house, and I simply forgot.

And today I'm off quick to take my youngest to his kindergarten pre-screening tests, so how about a sampler of excerpts from the collection Lynn and I are putting together?

***

- from Crisis of Faith:

The cock churned in her and Faith made the noises the cock's owner expected, but in truth, she barely felt it. It couldn't touch the burning, couldn't slake the need.

She'd tried, God witness, she had. The burning had come on her late in her twelfth year, but she'd pushed it from her thoughts, concentrated on her crafts and skills and her lessons, and she'd held it off two full years before her oldest brother had caught her trading kisses with one of his cronies behind the gooseberry patch. She hadn't lied, not quite, but she'd let Thom and their parents think it had gone further than that, and before her fifteenth year was out she'd been wed to Nicholas.

The first weeks had been jolly, but then Nick had seemed to lose interest and Nick's mam had started ordering her about like a drudge, and the next few years had been a misery of scullion work and a burning that never left her, not even when Nick would get drunk enough to remember the wife that warmed his bed and come home from the pub to put his cock in her.

She'd tried to be good, but when Nick's da had died, Faith had taken her best dress and run away. She'd let the man who drove the haycart put his cock in her in exchange for a ride up to the city, and she cut the hem off her dress and took up with Singing Jenny, the two of them selling what they had to sell in the sidestreets and alleys.

***

- from As If It's Real:

A horse crossed the line. A heartbeat later, two more thundered across, and with a collective sigh, the crowd at the railing broke apart, its noise ebbing briefly and then swelling into another crescendo. Edward's posture relaxed somewhat, though aside from that minute shift in position, Edward did not move, either to seek out winnings or to place a fresh wager.

Davis pushed through the crowd until he drew up at Edward's side. "Here you are," he observed.

Edward looked down at Davis dispassionately. "Yes."

"Come on," Davis said, taking Edward's arm. "Let's go home."

Edward did not immediately move. His head tipped to the side, for all the world as if he was considering other options. "I want to stay."

Davis sighed. "Edward, you can't keep living your life as if it's real."

***

- from Surrender:

Mistress Masque removed the green and brown leather demi-mask, signaling that the evening's play was at an end. Red marks on her face mapped the territory where the disguise had once lain, pressed tight against her flesh. She sighed, rubbing absently at her temples.

Bradley lifted his head and rocked back on his heels, a graceful movement, much practiced. He didn't speak. Technically, she was no longer his mistress, only his friend and co-worker, but it was better to be safe than sorry. She would dismiss him soon enough – and too soon – and then he could ask questions, talk to her, and figure out just what the hell was wrong. And get his street clothes. Having a mistress was all good and well, but sometimes the outfits she put him in, meant to highlight all those desirable aspects of him, were a bit chilly.

"You should just go," she said. Said. Not commanded. Not demanded. Not even suggested. Just said. Her voice was flat, unemotional. Bradley blinked.

"Mistress -"

"I'm not your mistress!" Her temper flared, as hot angry as the red wigs she usually wore over her normal, sensible business haircut. In her suits, at work, she looked androgynous, even with the gray pencil skirts that showed her shapely legs. Tears welled up in her eyes and spilled over the elaborate makeup she wore, sending green glittery smears down her cheeks.

"Of course you are. Mistress." Bradly was openly shocked. Never had his mistress revealed any sort of vulnerability. He could not have been more unnerved if the sofa where she sat had stood up and walked away.

"Oh, knock it off," she said. She blotted the tears from her face, leaving her makeup job in tatters. A twist of emotion, lust, longing, wonder, desire, surged through Bradly's chest, a lightening bolt of agony. "You know as well as I do that she set her eyes on you, and you'll go. Submissives always go to her. You all flock to her. I can't compete. The best I can do now is turn you loose on my own, so she doesn't get the satisfaction of taking you from me."

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I Haz A Happee

Awesome things that have happened to me this week, so far:

- I had a very productive day on Monday, editing-wise, dealing with a slew of admin tasks (both editing and for the Day Job), editing two stories, and doing some work on Foxfur's edits.

- I engaged in a fantastically fun email flirtation with one of my authors (to remain nameless, though she's welcome to out herself in the comments, of course):
Author: ...[Writing Partner]'s got me trained pretty well and I'm obedient, so we won't cause you too much trouble.

Me: ...bah; there needs to be SOME trouble, or I start feeling deprived. (If I had disposable income, I'd *totally* get a flogger made in the shape of a red pen to hang over my workdesk at home... The pun of it being something to make red marks with is just too delicious! And also, because an editor is nothing if not a switch, a pair of handcuffs made out of laminated printouts of painful slushpile entries...)

Author: ~blink~
MARRY ME!
My safeword is "Oxford comma". ;-)

(The more I make that joke, the more it lodges in my brain. I may end up with it being nothing more than the plain truth...)

- I found out that there is an honest-to-gosh real live creature that looks like a smiling Muppet squid: http://www.seathos.org/tag/banded-piglet-squid/ (via the Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/IFeakingLoveScience). How can that not immediately make your world a happier place to be?!

- Being the inveterate punster that I am, I discovered and then leapt upon this Woot sale (link will be dead after Aug 9th). I mean, I'm not the biggest Flash fan, but how could I pass up a FLASHDRIVE?! *flails with punny glee*

- I went to a friend's birthday dinner. I had some fun conversations and a delicious meal. And a slice of the most decadent chocolate and peanut butter cake evar.

-  I had the day off from the Day Job on Tuesday, which is an awesome thing all on its own. It was dark and rainy, so I went back to bed after I fed the cat and didn't get out of bed again until 8:30. (My kids are early risers, so trust me, sleeping as late as 7 is lovely, and any day I get to sleep past 7:30 is a red letter day!) And to crown that, I had a chiropractor adjustment in the morning and a relaxing massage in the afternoon. Blissout!

- And then I had a productive, writer-y sort of evening, sorting through the slush pile and then reading and making notes on the stories Lynn and I have collected for our project.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Invitational

It's all about who you know.


In my case, who I know is, mostly, Lynn. I think at least half the people I know are through her, quite honestly. Case in point:

Lynn likes music. Lynn likes music the way dragons like gold, quite honestly; she doesn't just enjoy it -- she hoards it. Though unlike dragons and gold, you can share music without having to let go of it yourself, and so she's also extremely enthusiastic about sharing it. And so I think it was at the 2012 MarsCon (in January, so early in the year, but I'm still a little surprised that it was that recent) that she dragged me to a performance by Jonah Knight, who writes steampunk/goth/horror music. It's good stuff. He's got a great voice for doing slightly spooky songs.

Jonah ran a kickstarter campaign later in the year to finance a new album, and one of the higher-price perks on offer was a personal performance. Lynn waffled over the money for a while, then decided that it was her birthday and Christmas present to herself, and ponied up -- and so for their Christmas party last year, Jonah put on a concert in their living room and then we all did a geek-themed gift swap before going out for Chinese. It was a lot of fun, and resulted in my newest favorite novelty Christmas song, "Bacon and Beer", which -- alas! -- is not yet available on any of his albums. Dammit. And also while I was there, he gave me permission to use one of his songs for my book trailer for He Loves Me For My Brainsss.

He was at MarsCon again in 2013, of course. And at RavenCon a couple of months later. And when I went to a wedding in June, he was the musical entertainment at the reception for that, too, much to my amusement. He sat down at my table during his break and we chatted about this and that -- but it always surprises me when people I've only met a few times remember me. I tend to think of myself as fairly forgettable.

A couple of weeks ago, Jonah unveiled his latest project: he and some friends are starting a publishing company, Antimatter Press. Specifically, they want to explore ways of breaking away from the traditional publishing models, and I really like some of their ideas. From their Vision Statement (which I really wish was on their website):
Because of our desire to experiment, when we buy a story, we will buy all rights. For example: we may release a story in audio form paired with a song. We may have a story illustrated. We may adapt a story into a short film.

I went and looked at the call for the first anthology and pondered it, but wasn't having any ideas. It's a little out of my usual venue -- I mean, I mostly write romances, yeah? So I pushed it to the back of my brain.

And then this Monday, he sent me an email, specifically asking me to contribute. In fact, asking me to contribute, specifically, a GLBT romance that fit the submission requirements. The notion, apparently, is to gather specific genres of stories together and release them as packages. e.g., urban fantasy, mysteries, romances, etc. He'd invited Lynn first, knowing her well... and then when he'd asked her for other recommendations -- well, she'd put me on that list.

I still didn't have any ideas, but allowing it to be a romance helped. And then I thought about the "local history" requirement some, and an idea just... jelled. I wrote about 600 or so words on it Monday night, and another 650 or so last night. Which is pretty good, considering that I'm doing my writing in the last hour of the night, after I get my youngest put to bed and before I chivvy the eldest off the computer for the night. It's coming together nicely, and I'm actually pretty excited about it.
Sarah bared her teeth in what Jason had come to recognize, even after only a month of graduate school, as an expression of commingled disgust and fury. It terrified him, and he didn't feel the least bit of a wuss for admitting it; it terrified most of the department. Physicists were supposed to be weedy geeks, not Amazonian women who ran ultramarathons and could probably bench-press Jason without even gritting their teeth. "Those... people," she spat. "Those people!"

Jason nearly sagged in relief -- whatever she was angry about, it wasn't his fault -- before recalling that he was still in her crosshairs. "Um, which people?" he tried.

Sarah actually growled at him, a wordless thing that almost prompted him to ask if she'd been messing around in the bio lab's lycanthropy samples. He managed to keep the remark behind his teeth, barely.

It's really nice -- flattering, even -- to be specifically requested and invited to participate in a call like this. Even if it came, mostly, from Lynn.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Roller Coaster Perspective

I am weirdly bad at multi-tasking.

I say weirdly, because usually, somehow, it all seems to get done -- the Day Job and the editing and the taking care of my kids, and even sometimes the writing. I cook dinner and get everyone to their doctor appointments and I make sure the files are uploaded and I keep track of what needs to be done and what hasn't been finished yet.

And yet, every additional task pending in my mental inbox makes me feel anxious and fretful. I work best if there's a clear and simple path: Do this job, then this one, and then this one. When things conflict, I tend to get downright frazzled, and if you drop just one more task in my box, then a strange kind of stasis happens, where I get so stressed about getting everything done that I lock up and can't focus on any of them. I feel like I'm locked into a roller coaster, being pulled this way and that, a jerky, bumpy ride that periodically drops the bottom out from under me, and even when I can see it coming, I can't do anything to stop it, just ride it out and hope I don't throw up.

And I know it's about perspective. The important stuff will bubble to the top and it will all get done, and the things that don't get done will turn out not to have mattered that much, and all in all, there's nothing for me to be stressed about, because my life is good. But I have trouble pulling it together. I have trouble maintaining perspective. I have trouble staying off the roller coaster.

It happened to me four or five years ago. I fell into this mild OCD behavior where, every time I was stuck somewhere with nothing else to do (in meetings, say), I'd get out a sheet of graph paper and draw a schedule, trying desperately to squeeze everything into my life that I wanted to squeeze in there. I must have created dozens of those graphs, every one telling me the same story: Not enough time in the day.

I can feel it creeping up on me again. The Day Job is actually light on work, but that's adding to my stress since no work means I'm not sure I'll have a job in another two months when our current contracts have wrapped up. The editing work is piling up fast. My house is undergoing some repairs and renovations that are sorely needed, but it means a lot of my furniture and stuff is dislocated, which has me feeling antsy (and also is piling on the tasks, as I had to MOVE all the stuff, and there's more stuff left to move, and then I need to paint...) I'm still working on that prompt collection project with Lynn, and I'm trying to improve my writing promotion efforts.

I'm sitting at the tipping point. The warning signs are there. I find myself procrastinating, or locking in on low-priority tasks. My boyfriend suggests a date, and instead of being enthusiastic and happy to get to spend time with him, I waffle over how much of my schedule it's going to eat up. Co-workers invite me to lunch, and for just a minute, I resent the intrusion. I keep thinking things like, "As soon as I get through X, I'll be able to slow down and relax a little," except that I know there's no slowing down and relaxing, because long before X is done, Y and Z will have been added to my plate.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. Tell me what you guys do, when life gets entirely too crazy, to make yourselves back up and regain perspective -- I could use the advice!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Phases

Lynn and I were chatting the other day...

(An aside: Lynn is not her real name; it's a pen name. That's hardly news. I first met her more than 20 years ago, when we were both in college, and we've been best friends for most of those 20+ years. You would think, with that kind of history, that I would have trouble remembering to use her pen name when I'm talking about her as a writer, but I really don't. I never freeze, fingers poised over the wrong keys, and then correct myself; I never even think her real name when I'm talking about her on this blog or on my Facebook page. She's just Lynn, as if the writer-friend is a completely different person from the best-friend. Sometimes I find it weird, and sometimes I think maybe Lynn is just the name she was always meant to have.)

As I was saying, Lynn and I were chatting the other day and somehow we came to the conclusion that the first phase of our prompt-fic project is done. That is, we've written about all the little ultrashort fiction pieces that we need to write. (Which is good, because I think both of us were starting to run into a bit of a wall on them.)

Phase two is for us to both read through everything and sort it all out. There may be some pieces that, in retrospect, we don't think are good enough to keep. There are a couple that we might decide would be better if we pulled them out and expanded them into standalone works. There's at least one that I left unfinished, that I should complete; and there's an intended series of three that Lynn's only written two of that she should finish up.

While we're at it, we need to decide on a rough order and presentation: the stories range from sweet and simple to edgy and kinky; from contemporary to urban fantasy to science fiction; and we've covered a pretty broad range of sexual identities and orientations. So we need to figure out whether we want to start off slow and sweet and progress to the weirdest and hardest stuff, or just mix it up entirely. Should we segregate sections by sexual pairings, or just assume that, like us, our readers are into a little of everything? Do we put some descriptive keywords (e.g., genders, genre, kink level, explicitness rating) at the top of each to help the reader know what they're getting into? About half of the stories were generated from prompt words -- would it help the reader to know what those words were, or would it just be a distraction?

Lots of things to decide; this phase may actually turn out to be more work than the first one.

Phase three will be much easier -- we'll ship the collection off to the amazing and talented V. L. Locey, who has agreed to do an introduction for us, and we'll edit everything to within an inch of its life.

And then we'll submit it. Phase three is going to take maybe a month. I have no idea how long phase two is going to take, though, because it's much weirder than anything I've ever done before. It would be much easier if Lynn and I could get a day together that's just the two of us (without the kids or menfolk or any other distractions) and sit down face to face and figure it out. Put all the info on notecards and shuffle them around, or something.

And if you have any suggestions or comments, please feel free to speak up. Especially if you have an opinion on the ordering and/or keywords/prompt questions above!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Prompt Fic: Fair Deal

I asked a word generator (http://creativitygames.net/random-word-generator) for four words, and it gave me:
spacestation
stamp
comic
violin

Hn. Okay, let's see what I can do with it...

***

Dariel was playing the violin again. The notes shivered through the thin air and lodged in Arved's spine until he wanted to scream. He gritted his teeth until the song was done, and then sighed in relief. Now, maybe--

Dariel started a new song. Something with a lot of high-pitched, wobbly notes that made Arved's ears want to scrunch up and pull inward, like testicles in a cold shower. He couldn't take it any longer, he just couldn't. He stamped into the break-room. "By all that's holy, will you please just stop?"

The noise ceased as Dariel stared at him, bow still poised over the strings, eyes comically wide and dismayed. Relief and guilt washed over Arved in equal measure. "I'm just... It's just so... It sets my teeth on edge."

"But... But Mik has a guitar, and you like that," Dariel sputtered.

Arved shrugged. "Only sometimes. And the sound doesn't have that..." No musician, he struggled for the words. "...kind of a hiss? From the bow. Makes all my hair stand on end."

"Oh. So this--" Dariel plucked a string with a fingertip, "--doesn't bother you?"

"Not as much. I really don't like music that much anyway. I just like quiet."

"I'm sorry." Dariel laid the violin carefully in its case and looked back up at him. "Tell you what: if you'll take my walkabout shifts, I'll hold off practicing until you're outside. Fair?"

More than fair; Arved loved walkabout shifts like no one else anyway, and he knew Dariel hated them. He sagged slightly as relief won out, and grinned. "Fair, and deal. Why'd you bring a violin to a spacestation, anyway? I mean, Mik's guitar's nothing special, wouldn't cost more than a couple hundred to replace it if it got smashed. But aren't violins a little more expensive?"

"By about an order of magnitude, yeah. But this isn't my good one; she's back home. The acoustics here are pretty lousy anyway. Though the low humidity makes for a nice, crisp sound fresh out of the box."

"Then why?"

Dariel shrugged and grinned. "Just something to do in my off-shift, really. My other hobbies, back home, are gardening and pottery. I mess around in the hydroponics section sometimes, but I don't think Kalen likes me too much. And enough clay to be useful would have really exceeded my weight allotment."

Arved chuckled appreciatively. "If Kalen even lets you in the hydroponics pod, she likes you, trust me." Without the violin's screeching to put his back up, Arved was beginning to notice Dariel's fine profile, and the pure, snapping black of Dariel's eyes. "Ah... Well, my hobby is cooking. How about I make dinner for us, sometime, and we can figure out something else to do with your off-shifts?"

Dariel's eyes sparked with amusement -- and maybe something more. "Fair deal."

***

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Whoops! Wednesday

I keep being surprised by Wednesdays. You'd think I would get used to them rolling around once a week, but the Day Job's schedule has been crazily erratic lately, which kind of throws me off, sometimes, when it comes to getting routine tasks completed. Like remembering when to take the trash bins to the curb, or when I'm supposed to do my walk-around checks on safety equipment at the Day Job... or when I'm supposed to post to my writing blog.

(I keep worrying that I'm going to lose track of the custody schedule and forget to pick up my kids, but that seems a little more solidly embedded. I guess even my scatterbrain has a priority system in place.)

But here we are: Wednesday again!

What shall I talk about...? Oh! News!

I almost forgot about this in the excitement of Human Aspect's release, but Foxfur was accepted by Torquere! It's currently (tentatively) scheduled for a mid-November release. I'm very excited -- this will be my first actual novel release! When we get a little closer, I'm sure I'll be offering up some more excerpts, and maybe even a contest!

I've also had some whispered words from little birds about my shorts that are out for consideration, "The Dancing Princess" and "Squrk Squee". In both cases, the news is promising but unsubstantiated and unofficial, so I'm not announcing anything yet -- but I'm still pretty pleased with what I've heard! Keep your fingers crossed for me!

So that's the current news.

If you happened to pick up Human Aspect (or any of my other books) and enjoyed it, please, please, please consider hopping over to Amazon.Com or Goodreads and taking thirty seconds to rate/review it, or even share a link on your favorite social media page. Word-of-mouth does more to sell books than any other advertising and promotion method. I'm tempted to say more than all other methods, combined, even, though I don't have specific numbers to back that up. But I do know that even a mediocre review is better than none at all. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Release Day for Human Aspect!

Human Aspect is finally out!
Dauch has never doubted his clan's wisdom: Humans are fit only as prey and slaves to the shapechanging lochmari. Nor has he ever doubted his place in his clan: As the Warleader's son and heir, his only true rival is his despised cousin, Afel. But when, on the very cusp of manhood, he spies human lovers in the lochmari forest, he is suddenly faced with questions he had never thought to ask -- and a dangerous new infatuation. Dauch hopes to find a way to embarrass his rival and gain the woman he wants, but his anger and obsession will only pave the path to his doom unless he can learn something no lochmar has ever known before: how to love.
It's a novelette-length high fantasy coming-of-age story with shapeshifters and swords, magic and murder, romance (m/f) and rivalry. All that for only $2.99!  An excerpt from the beginning of the story can be found at: http://www.prizmbooks.com/samples/humanaspect.html

I'm incredibly happy to see this release. I love this story. Love it. I love protagonists who are deeply flawed but struggle to better themselves. I love magic and I love non-standard shapeshifters and I love digging into the psyche of the bad guy and I love feisty, fiery women. I love turning expectation on its ear.

And I love backstories. And that's how this one started -- Lynn wrote a novel (yet to be published, or I'd be shoving you in its direction as hard as I could). And there was a scene where the main character met his grandmother for the first time -- a fiesty ex-redhead with an eyepatch and the tantalizing hint of a story about his long-deceased, nonhuman grandfather. I wanted the rest of that story. Of her story. I demanded that Lynn give it to me, and she confessed that she really didn't know any more than what she'd already written.

So I wrote it. That was the first draft of Human Aspect. It's changed quite a bit since that first draft -- for one thing, I had to lift it out of Lynn's world and into another one in order to avoid the legal quagmires of copyright and fanfiction. That changed things sufficiently to necessitate rewriting several scenes entirely, and some heavy edits to others. But at its core, it's still a backstory about a feisty redhead and the monster she loved.

Pick it up today at: http://www.prizmbooks.com/zencart/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=66

(I haven't seen it show up on the distributor sites yet, but I'll edit this to include those links when I do, or you can check the sidebar.)

Edited to add: Amazon link - http://www.amazon.com/Human-Aspect-ebook/dp/B00DHNA8CC/

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Newsy

I know I haven't posted for a while. Bad author; no cookie!

But! But but but! This week, there is news!

First and foremost, we are only one week from the release of Human Aspect from Prizm Books (the YA imprint of Torquere). I'm so excited for this story, I can't even begin to tell you!

What's that, you say? Excerpt? Why, yes, you can have an excerpt! How about something just a little sexy?
[Dauch] woke from a doze with a start at the sound of bodies moving through the underbrush. He sniffed, but caught only the faintest of scents; he was upwind.

It was the same pair, though, he was certain of it. Even in the dark, he could make out the red of the female's hair, and the breadth of the male's shoulders could not be mistaken. Dauch's tail whipped through the air, but he remained still otherwise, watching them.

They had gained some confidence. The male did not plead, but took the female into his embrace quickly. They grappled in near-silence, punctuated only by an occasional grunt or groan. Dauch was amazed and confounded by the things they did with and to each other.

What was the purpose of that caress, or such a position? Was it sanity to allow a female to use her teeth thus? What lochmar would put his mouth there?

When the female cried out, the male petted her hair tenderly, like a mother soothing a child. But she did not whimper as if in pain or fear, and indeed reached for him again. Dauch realized, with startling clarity, that their purpose was not mating, but pleasure alone. He could scarcely believe such a thing -- but though he waited and watched, the male never mounted to plant his seed, letting it spill fruitlessly to the earth instead.

In silence, then, the humans dressed. They clung to each other a moment longer, and despite the wrongturned wind, Dauch could smell the musk of their strange and fruitless passion. His tail lashed in confusion, but when he resumed his natural shape, his body's reaction was painfully intense.
That's about as explicit as the story gets, by the way -- this is not the purchase to make if it's erotica you're after. Because of the maturity of the content, this is being classified as a "New Adult" story, the very "oldest" of Prizm's offerings, but it is still a YA imprint, so there are lines that remain uncrossed in terms of what's shown on-screen, so to speak.

***

And in other news, I finally finished my novel, Foxfur, and submitted it. I don't even want to admit how long that's been in the works. Its initial incarnation, Willow Bough, is some eight years old, and I didn't seriously think about publishing it until at least three years ago -- at which point I ran into this brick wall of, quite honestly, kind of hating the plot.

It had all my least favorite story elements.  The bad guy was bad for no apparent reason. (Or rather, he had perfectly good motives, but no excuse at all for carrying anything to the extent that he did.) There were threads introduced and never used; there were characters and capabilities showcased that later completely disappeared; the climax smacked of deus ex machina, and the denouement was actively depressing. And all of that could have been overlooked if the main character had been especially relatable and on a journey of self-discovery, but he wasn't especially likeable, and worse, he was passive, apparently unable to act on his own behalf. (To be fair, it had started out as an exploration of total power exchange submission, but I didn't realize at the time that's what it was, and so I'd utterly failed on several points, including the understanding that good submission -- by which I mean both enjoyable and readable -- is an active decision rather than a passive one.)

Despite all that, I liked the feel and tone of the story. So I spent a long time trying to fix it before eventually I gave up and shelved it.

A couple of years later, I had an idea of how to revamp the story to make it better. It required, however, starting over, completely from scratch. The only bit of Willow Bough that remains to this story is the main character's name and profession (sort of). Everything else is completely revamped: new bad guy, new plot, new romantic interest, and most of all, a new personality for the main character.

(When Lynn beta-read it for me, she said two things: first, that she'd opened the file when she received it that night just to make sure it hadn't been borked by the email -- and found herself looking up when she got to the end only to discover it was one in the morning. And second, "You really weren't kidding when you said you started over from scratch." Because usually when an author says they completely rewrote a story, what they mean is that they edited extensively. Not, you know, actually rewrote it.)

Anyway, if Torquere accepts it, it'll be my first real novel, which makes me feel pretty excited!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Listen to Me!

I found out yesterday that Duty and Desire, which contains my short story "Dead on Her Feet" (and Lynn's "Snake Dance") has been released as an audio edition, either on CD or digitally from audible.com! (The Kindle edition, by the way, is on sale right at this moment for only $2.99, if you've been on the fence about picking this up!)

The audiobook has different cover art from the original book; an interesting change. The book is aimed at a primarily female audience, so I wouldn't have thought a naked woman would be a selling point, but maybe more men listen to audiobooks? (Something about the woman gives me an Uncanny Valley twitch in any case; the hair, maybe?)

Whatever; I'm not a marketer or a cover artist, so maybe they know something I don't. And anyway: audio version; the cover probably doesn't matter as much as it would for a physical book.

As far as I know, this is my first audio release, so that's worth noting, right? It's pretty exciting! If you like audiobooks, check it out!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cover: Human Aspect

Human Aspect will be coming out from Prizm Books (Torquere's YA imprint) in about a month, on June 19 -- and I just got the cover!


I am squee! Human Aspect is one of my favorite stories I've ever written, for many different reasons, and I'm thrilled for it to see the light. Here's the blurb I've written for it (though it may change somewhat before publication):
Dauch has never doubted his clan's wisdom: humans are fit only as prey and slaves to the shapechanging lochmari. Nor has he ever doubted his place in his clan: as the Warleader's son and heir, his only true rival is his despised cousin, Afel. But when, on the very cusp of manhood, he spies human lovers in the lochmari forest, he is suddenly faced with questions he had never thought to ask -- and a dangerous new infatuation. Dauch hopes to find a way to embarrass his rival and gain the woman he wants, but his anger and obsession will only pave the path to his doom unless he can learn something no lochmar has ever known before: how to love.

For my followers here who aren't actually regular readers, this is a good one to grab -- it's a fantasy coming-of-age story with a (m/f) romance element, but there's no explicit "on-screen" sex.

I'll be posting some excerpts and possibly running a contest in June, so be on the lookout!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I'm So Sexy

I do a thing, and I'd bet cash money that you do it, too.

Here's the thing: when I'm hanging around with friends, and I happen -- for whatever reason -- to end up looking especially dorky, or doing or saying something especially graceless, I'll say something like, "Oh, yeah, I am so sexy right now." Sarcastically, of course.

You do it, too, right? It's a pretty common thing to do. You recognize that you're doing something generally considered unattractive, and you tag yourself on it (with a hint of humor) to let others present know that yeah, you're aware.

Now lately, I've been reading through Emily Nagoski's blog (http://www.thedirtynormal.com/) archives, and recently, I hit this entry: http://www.thedirtynormal.com/2011/10/28/this-is-what-sexy-looks-like/

But since I know you probably won't read it, here's the summary: She got up one morning to take the dog running, and because it was cold, she put on a bunch of really kind of ugly clothes, and then as soon as she stepped out the door, she fell on her ass. And she thought to herself, "This is what sexy looks like."

When I got to that point in reading it, I thought: yep, I'd've made some snarky comment at myself at that point, too.

But then she goes on: getting up in the dark and cold to take care of the dog? That's proof that she's a nice, responsible person. It makes her sexier to her significant other. (And how adorable is it that she calls her boyfriend her romantic euphemism?) And then the blog entry goes on: she went to work, and this, too, is what sexy looks like. And then she gets home late and her boyfriend is waiting for her, covered with dog hair because he's been petting the dog, and smelling of curry because he made dinner, and that is also what sexy looks like.

And it was worth taking a minute to appreciate that.

It was worth taking a deep breath.

She wasn't being sarcastic.

And maybe, just maybe, I should stop being sarcastic with myself, too, sometimes. Is it not ironically but actually sexy if I wear a shirt that exposes my muffin-top? Or if I laugh when I'm eating and slop spaghetti sauce down my shirt? Yeah, maybe it is, because it means I love and trust the people I'm with not to laugh at me... not to mind... not to even care. That's a lot of love and trust, right there. It's the kind of thing that says, "I want you to know all of me."

That is kind of sexy, actually.

And it's the kind of sexy that I need to remember to write into my stories once in a while -- not just the magical, falling-in-love, everything-is-perfect-and-beautiful sexy, but also the other kinds of sexy.

The kind of sexy that gets baby spit on its shoulder.

The kind of sexy that forgets its allergy meds, but skritches your pet's ears anyway.

The kind of sexy that cries on your shoulder at 2am.

The kind of sexy that challenges an 8-year-old to a belching contest, or lets a 4-year-old paint its fingernails.


The kind of sexy that lets you nurse it through a cold.

Sometimes, it's worth taking a breath and remembering... sometimes, the deeply unsexy is profoundly sexy.