Sunday, April 20, 2014

NOW AVAILABLE: Roped In (written with Marie Sexton)

So Marie Sexton and I have joined forces, and the result is a kinky little contemporary cowboy novella called Roped In. The book is available now from Amber Allure, and will be on sites such as Amazon and AllRomance soon. 


Graham and his roping partner Jackson have ruled the rodeo scene for ten years running, but lately, Graham’s heart isn’t in the game. He’s tired of the bruises, the cowboy mentality, and the animal rights activists who picket every event. And then there’s Jackson. 
Graham and Jackson have been friends since they were boys. But ever since their drunken sexual encounter the year before, things have been awkward. Graham’s accepted that he might be gay, but no matter how attracted he is to other men, he always panics and runs when the clothes start to come off. 
Then Graham has a run-in with one of the rodeo protesters, and everything changes. Kaz is young, idealistic, and sexy as hell. And Kaz has an idea for getting Graham past his nerves and into bed. 
All they need is a bit of rope.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Writing Out of Sequence Without Scrambling Thy Brain Matter (Or 'How Some Scenes Are Like Stopping at a Rest Stop So Batman Can Pee')

At some point, during my early writing days, I started writing out of sequence. In the beginning, I wrote chronologically like most sane, reasonable people, but then I started skipping ahead. A scene would catch my attention and refuse to let me sleep, so I'd write that part, and then go back to writing the rest of the story in order. Over time, this madness evolved until my only inclination to write even remotely chronologically was to start with Chapter 1.  I still do that. After about 100 words, I'll probably flit over to Chapter 17 for a little while. These days, it's a rare occasion when I write a paragraph in order. This blog post? All over the place.

So how the hell does it work, anyway?

Before I get started, I want to throw this out there to anyone who's curious about out of sequence writing: If you have any questions about specifics, anything you want me to cover that I've completely neglected to, please put them in the comments of this post. Out of sequence writing is pretty much second nature to me now, so I'm not always sure what other writers want to know about it.

That said, I'll cover as much as I can in this post. I've covered a lot of this ground before, having blogged about these techniques here, here, and here. So I'll probably repeat myself a little bit, but we'll just blame that on the ADHD and move on.

Let's start with a little bit on how to write out of sequence, and then I'll get to why, advantages/disadvantages, Batman, etc.

How to Write Out of Sequence

There's no one way to write out of sequence. If there was, that would mean this was a sane, reasonable technique employed by sane, reasonable people, but it's not. So, I'll offer tips and pointers based on how I do it, but please take them all with an entire mine full of salt. Should you try any of them and find they are disastrous on an "invade Russia in the winter" level, then by all means, reject them.

First, let's talk about documents and files. Most people I know who write out of sequence swear by Scrivener. I have a copy, but haven't learned to use it yet, so I can't speak with any authority about how well it works. I know several authors who love it, though, especially if they're not chronological writers.

I'm a creature of habit, and I write in MS Word. Each chapter is its own document, and when a chapter is complete, it's dropped into a folder creatively called "Finished Chapters."

But how in the world do I keep track of what happens in those chapters?

Well...

Okay, we all know what's coming. I know this is going to make a few people hit the brakes and yell "NOPE!", but hear me out, y'all.

If you're going to write out of sequence without losing your sanity, you'll probably want to at least consider outlining. I know some authors do this without an outline, but I have no idea how they manage it, and if I tried, my brain would melt out of my left nostril. In the interest of keeping brain matter out of my sinuses, which have already been mercilessly ravaged by the brutal Nebraska winter, I'm going to let those people do their thing while I do mine. So, let's talk about outlining for a moment.

I know that word is enough to make some authors break out in hives or have flashbacks to high school English. This is because high school is a powerful thing that can turn Shakespeare into something as exciting as dried peanut  butter and reduce World War II to a dull landscape of names and dates. So let's start by evicting everything high school ever taught us about outlines. I hereby grant each and every one of you permission to forget everything your English teacher beat into you about outlines. There are no rules. There are no requirements. You don't have to use letters, followed by numbers, followed by Roman numerals, followed by...you get the idea.

You also do not have to stick with your outline. As I've mentioned in many previous posts, my hard and fast (hehe, hard and fast) rule of outlining is that if the characters and outline disagree, the characters always win. If you deviate from your outline, no one is going to flunk you or leave snide comments in the margins. Remember that your outline serves you. Therefore, it should be written, formatted, and adhered to only inasmuch as it helps you, the author, write your story. If you work best with a strict, detailed outline, then that's your style. If you work best with something vague and brief, there you go.

All of that being said, I'm one of those vague, flexible outliners. Each chapter gets a one-line summary so I remember what's supposed to happen there. It can be as simple as "They meet."  Notice how there's nothing indicating where, how, why, or if there's a malfunctioning cotton candy machine involved. That's because my outline is not there to dictate every detail of the scene. Rather, it's there so I know at a glance the order of events. Do the characters meet before the Corvette incident, but after the fishing trip? Awesome. Now I know whether or not they can make comments about the rabid bass they caught, or if the love interest already has the imprint on his forehead from the Corvette symbol. So basically, the outline helps me keep the story's chronology straight so I can write out of sequence without creating continuity errors.

And to reiterate: If the characters and outline disagree, the characters always win. So if you find yourself working on a scene in chapter 13 that illuminates a fatal error with chapter 4, run with it and change chapter 4. If chapter 7 actually needs to come after chapter 17, rearrange, renumber, and continue.

So basically...

  1. Have an outline or at least a vague plan unless you're one of those human-alien hybrids who can do this on the fly.
  2. Let thy characters guide you.

Also, precisely how out of sequence you write is entirely up to you. Some people write entire scenes. Some people write a few paragraphs here and there, and eventually sew them all together into a cohesive scene. Me, I'm all over the place. I usually have at least 300-500 words in every chapter of a book before I ever finish one chapter. Then I'll just add 100 or so here and there, and eventually...it's done.

So there really isn't a particular method for out of sequence writing. The biggest thing is just to keep yourself organized enough to know what to write and where, but not so strictly outlined/planned that you suffocate yourself. I know, that doesn't sound terribly helpful. "Just do what you want and try not to get lost."  But that's pretty much what it boils down to.

Okay, but why? It sounds kind of complicated.

So...

What are some of the advantages of writing out of sequence?

A lot of the pros/cons have been covered in the previous blog posts I linked above. Preventing continuity errors, ridiculously easy foreshadowing, etc. A couple of things I'd particularly like to highlight in this post:

  1. Some scenes are a pain in the ass to write.
  2. Some books are a pain in the ass to finish.
Let's face it: Even the easiest book that's just rocking its way out of your head via your fingers is going to have its moments. It's kind of like being on a road trip with awesome friends and Batman. You're flying down the interstate, having the time of your life with your friends and Batman, listening to the radio and Batman's stories and totally not questioning why a) you haven't seen a cop for the last 100 miles or b) Batman's even hanging out with you, but...

...sooner or later, someone will have to stop and pee. I'm not naming names or necessarily saying Batman's the one who's gotta pee, but one way or another, you're eventually going to have to start watching for a gas station or rest stop, slow down, pull into a parking space, and come down from your high-while-sober euphoria of fun to peruse a dirty convenience store's snack aisle while you wait for Batman to come out of the bathroom. Then it's back on the road for more fun and Batman.

Which is an incredibly long and belabored way of saying...sometimes you stall or hit a not-so-fun-to-write part of the book. Sometimes there's a scene you just don't feel like writing. I've argued many times with people who think that if a scene is difficult or troublesome to write, it's probably going to be difficult or troublesome to read. If I don't feel like writing it, the reader won't feel like reading it. I disagree. Honestly, every single one of my books has at least one scene that I beat my head against before it finally came together. There are some scenes that were so difficult to write for whatever reason, I would literally add 2-3 sentences, then go work on something else. For weeks.


The thing is, not every exciting-to-read scene is exciting to write. And sometimes, in order to get from one exciting-to-write scene to another, you need another scene in between that is necessary and interesting to read, but for whatever reason, excruciating to write. Writing that scene is the Batman pee break of the road trip: like it or not, it's gotta happen.

For  me, the Batman pee breaks are usually sex scenes and car chases. Car chases are seriously the bane of my existence, and for reasons I'll never fully understand, I find sex scenes incredibly difficult to write. But since I write erotic fiction, they are obviously necessary.

But what in the name of all that's good and unholy does this have to do with writing out of sequence?

Everything, my dear friends. Everything.

Imagine, if you will, that you're on your road trip with Batman. Now imagine you're like fifty miles from Vegas, and you are itching to sit down at the baccarat table and out-baccarat James Bond. And a hundred miles after that, you're going to visit Area 51 and are guaranteed to witness an alien abduction complete with televised anal probing.

What if you could teleport ahead, skip the miles of desert and the OMG Batman seriously another freaking pee breaks, and park your butt at the baccarat table? And once you were done with that, you could snap your fingers and be in your front row lawn chair at Area 51?

Guess what?

YOU TOTALLY CAN.

Skip ahead. Write the baccarat scene. Then skip ahead again and write the Area 51 scene. While you're at it, jump back to the pre-baccarat driving and write in a witty, foreshadowy snippet of dialogue that you hadn't thought of before. When those are done, time warp all the way to the end and write the wicked cool epilogue involving a reincarnated Joan of Arc and a disembodied owl brain.

See? Words are flying! The scenes are landing on paper, and they're awesome! A few more scenes, and you're done with this bad boy!

Which of course brings us back to Batman and his temperamental bladder.

Yes, we can skip around and write all the exciting-to-write scenes, and knock out all the scenes that just wanted to happen right now, but sooner or later, you're gonna have to suck it up, pull into a rest stop, and let the dude do his business.

In my case, this usually means going back and writing at least one or two of the sex scenes, or going back and finally finishing that car chase which is currently nothing more than a dozen or so sentences scattered throughout an otherwise blank document because OMG car chases are going to be the literary (not literal!) death of me.

So... really? Now we have to sit down and write the scenes that are really hard to write? Now that all the cool scenes are done?

Yes.  But look at it this way: those scenes are the only thing standing between you and a finished book.

Just last week I was wrapping up Razor Wire, my lesbian  military romance. That book had been flyyyying out of my fingertips, words hitting the page like... like... okay, let's just let this one go before I find a way to bring it back to Batman stopping and peeing again. Point being, Razor Wire was flying.

Except for the second sex scene. I was flitting all over the book, adding 100 words here and 500 there, but every time I came to that scene...crickets.

I couldn't take the scene out because it was necessary for the story. There was nothing wrong with the scene, I just...didn't feel like writing it. It was that simple. Sort of like the car chase scene in The Given & The Taken. It was absolutely necessary to the story, and when it was finished, my betas were thrilled with it and fortunately couldn't tell that writing it was word dentistry.

With both the car chase in The Given & The Taken, and the sex scene in Razor Wire, I found myself in the same situation: the entire book was written except for that scene.

Now, it was still a struggle to finish those two scenes, but it made a huge difference knowing that once they were finished, the book would be finished. It was decidedly less daunting to approach those scenes knowing I'd be done with the entire manuscript, rather than "Okay, now on to the next 50,000 words..."

Bottom line, which I probably could have summed up in far fewer but considerably less entertaining words:

  1. Writing out of sequence allows you to write the scenes that your brain wants to write without a) blowing through the less interesting ones just to get to the good ones, or b) completely stalling out because you can't get past the less interesting ones.
  2. Writing out of sequence can also put you in a position where the less interesting scene is the only thing standing between you and a finished book.

A few points about that:

1. When I say "less interesting" scenes, I don't mean less interesting to read. Some scenes are just tougher to write, or aren't as exciting to write, but are still mission critical and absolutely interesting to read. Make sure you know the difference. Is this scene just tough to write? Or is your reluctance/difficulty a sign that there's a problem with the scene?  Does Batman really have to pee, or is he just being a jerk?

2. For some people, writing all the exciting stuff first can backfire. For me, it's like chapter peer pressure. All the other chapters are done, and they're glaring at chapters 15 and 23 like "WTF, dude? Get your head out of your butt," and that's enough to motivate me to pound out those chapters.  For others, once the fun stuff is done, they don't feel like writing the less fun stuff, and the manuscript stalls. Know thy mind, know thy limits.

As with anything, if a technique or explanation doesn't work for you, toss it aside and ignore it. Part of this game is figuring out what works, and there is no 'one size fits all' on this particular rack.

Hopefully at least some of this made some sense. If you have particular questions about out of sequence writing, please do put them into the comments, and I'll address them in a future post.

And I make no promises about whether or not Batman and his overactive bladder will appear in that future post...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Writing Fast While Maintaining (Some Of) Your Sanity (Or 'For the Love of Brackets and Grandmas Who Won't Shoplift)

I started writing at speed during NaNoWriMo 2008, and pretty much haven't stopped. My output is roughly 80,000 words a month, give or take 10-20K depending on what else is going on in my life. As such, I get a lot of questions about it, mostly "How?"

So, I decided to write up a post with some tips for writing faster. There's also some general commentary on not driving yourself crazy (and stalling out) with your story because in a lot of situations, the key to writing fast is knocking over some mental obstacles in your writing technique. i.e., spending less time banging your head against the keyboard and more time tapping your fingers on it.

First, I want to preface this by saying that writing fast does not equate to writing better. I can't write slow because I get frustrated and impatient. Other writers are solid and consistent at a few hundred words a day, and that's a comfortable pace for them. Please don't take anything in this post as a criticism against those writers. This is simply to answer the questions of people who want to understand and possibly adopt some of my techniques.

And as with everything, your mileage may vary. These techniques will not work for everyone, and that's perfectly okay. Please also bear in mind that I'm a full-time writer with no kids and very few obligations outside the home. Things like kids and day jobs obviously have an impact on how much time and headspace you have available to write. Hopefully some of these techniques can help you get as much written as possible during the time you have available.

With that out of the way, ONWARD!

How do I write fast? Basically, I...

Write out of sequence. There will be a post specifically about this soon, and I've blogged about it before (here, here, and here), so I won't go into lengthy detail here. Point being, I flit around from chapter to chapter and write bits and pieces, and when a scene really crystallizes, I'll fill in the gaps, sew all the little pieces together, and have a nice cohesive chapter.  More on that soon.

Obsess about word counts. This is how NaNoWriMo really helped me: With daily semi-tangible goals. By the time I was finished with NaNo in 2008, I had fallen into a rhythm of aiming for specific word counts every day. Before long, I had a spreadsheet that calculated how much I'd written that day and how much I had left to meet my goal.

That's not to say word counts are the end all, be all of writing. It goes without saying that quality trumps quantity. BUT... when I'm trudging along and hit one of those "I could call it a day" moments, and I see on my spreadsheet that I'm almost to the next 1,000 or 500 milestone, it's enough motivation to keep me writing until I hit that milestone. And more often than not, whatever I've written to hit that milestone is enough to give me a second (or third, or fourth) wind, which gets me almost to the next milestone, and so forth. It can mean the difference between a 900 word day and a 5,000 word day.

Related to that...

Set goals and keep them. I set daily, weekly, and monthly word count goals. And yes, there's a spreadsheet involved. How do you determine how much you should write every day?  Figure out what's easy for you, figure out what's doable with extreme effort, and find a goalpost in between. For example, I can write 1,000 words pretty easily. If I really push hard, I can write 10,000, but that's not a sustainable daily pace for me. So my daily goal is 5,000. It's a comfortable enough pace that I can sustain it, but also requires enough work that I have to push for it.

Word Wars. If you're competitive and have a writing buddy who's game, do some speed challenges. See if you can both hit 500 words in half an hour. Aim for 1,000 words in an hour. First one to 2,000 words gets a $0.99 song gifted to them on iTunes. Whatever floats your boat, but if a little friendly competition gets your fingers moving on the keyboard, do it.

Multiple Works-in-Progress. This is definitely an area where your mileage will vary. I used to be strict about writing one book at a time, but after some deadlines coincided, I ended up writing two at a time. I don't recommend more than that, but I've found two at a time is a good pace. Reason being, if I'm stalling on one, I can work on the other. If I can't get words out on either book, that's a pretty reliable sign that I'm burned out and have probably forgotten (again) to take a day off for like two solid weeks.  If one book is flying and the other is stalling, then at least something is getting written, and once I finish working on that one for the day, I can devote some time to figuring out what's wrong with the other one.  And then there's the best case scenario: Two books that are absolutely flying. I love it when that happens, and can usually knock out 7-8,000 words a day without much trouble and make headway on both books. Win.


Okay, so that's all well and good for output, but what about the actual writing? Because obviously, quality is important here. 

Don't sweat the little details (or, How I learned to love [brackets]). This is a technique I picked up from author Aislinn Kerry, and it's worked wonders for me. Let's say your character is a wine connoisseur, and is selecting a bottle to go with a particular meal, but you don't know quite so  much about wine, so you're not sure what he'd select.  You're on a roll, though. Do you stop and open up wikipedia or google it? Do you crowdsource on Twitter or Facebook? You could. I've done it.  But what if you have to wait for an answer? What if your expert-in-waiting is offline? Like when I need my husband to answer a military question, or I've e-mailed Aleks, who inconveniently lives on the other side of the world?  Do you stop completely until you know what kind of wine the character would select? 

Bottom line, do you really want to lose your momentum over a relatively minor detail? I don't. In this situation, I write, "He grabbed a bottle of [wine] off the rack," and move on. 

Or what if my character is driving a distinctive sports car, brought to him by the unimportant-to-the-story-but-named valet at the party?  "[valet] brought the bright red [model] around to the front."  My recent military romance is full of "[rank] [name] turned to [name2]..." and "she boarded the [C130?] cargo jet..." because the story was just flying, and I didn't want to stop to figure out names, which cargo jets flew out of Okinawa, what rank this or that person would be, etc.

Then, when there's some downtime -- after I've finished the scene, made the day's goal, finished the entire book, or what have you -- I do a search for "[", and correct them all. It does sound a little time-consuming, but it's really not. Razor Wire had over 50 sets of brackets, and it took me about ten minutes to resolve all of them. I would much rather do the googling/crowdsourcing/etc after the book is finished than stall out while writing it.

Please note this is not limited to single words. As an example, I was recently working on a chapter of Dark Soul, and came to a scene where the characters were pulling up to a house that's described in detail in one of the original books. I was on a roll and didn't feel like looking up the details, so I just wrote: "They pulled up to the house. [more details here]" Later, I added a paragraph or so of details, but the point is, I didn't have to stop writing the scene to fill those in.

When you sit down to write, have a plan. This does not mean you have to outline. Aleks and I don't outline when we co-write, but we usually know what's going to happen in the next 2-3 scenes. Half the time, we're wrong, and somebody throws a giant curve ball that neither of us saw coming, and that's okay! The point is that when we sit down to write, we have at least an idea of where we're going with the next scene. It's kind of like deciding to go out for a drive. It's a lot more fun to jump in the car and go than it is to sit in the driveway debating whether to go right or left. You don't have to have a destination in mind, but it helps to at least have a direction. Just get in the car, get on the freeway, and haul ass, and if something looks interesting along the way, stop and check it out. 

By the same token...

...don't plan things to death. In my fledgling writer days, I wrote a horrible epic fantasy novel three times over the course of about ten years. Each actual draft took about 4-6 months, depending on what else I had going on in my life. So why the hell did it take ten years? Well, a lot of that had to do with getting derailed and sidetracked with other things like jobs and school, but there were some very long periods in there where I planned. And planned. And planned. I outlined. Re-outlined. Built the world. Outlined again. Burned the world to the ground and started over. Filled out countless character interviews/forms/dossiers/bios. For every hour I spent writing that bad boy, I probably spent at least five planning it.  (And it still sucked. Go figure.)

Point being, at some point, you have to put down the blueprint and start building the damned house. You can measure and re-measure every angle and beam, but you'll still have nothing but an empty lot until you actually start pouring some concrete and building the frame. 

Be flexible. I'm an outliner, but I outline pretty vaguely. I know what the characters' motivations are, what they're going to do and why, and when things will happen. But invariably, those things change. Constantly. The rigid outliner in me -- you know, the one who's never forgotten high school English -- still wants to break out in hives at the idea of deviating from the outline that's been written in blood, carved in stone, and notarized twelve times over. But the side of me who's always rebelled against my high school English teachers and doesn't like to be told what to do has no qualms about adjusting an outline to fit the story.

How does that help with writing at speed?  It prevents two things:
  1. Time and energy wasted trying to shoehorn a story into an outline it doesn't like.
  2. Time and energy wasted rejigging the outline down to the last detail because the story rebelled.
Common denominators: wasting time and energy.

If the story deviates from the outline, go with it. This is kind of like improv. If another actor throws a monkey wrench into the scene in front of a packed house, do you stop in the middle and ask him what the hell he's doing? Or do you take his cue and run with it?  Of course you run with it. For me, writing is kind of the same thing. And if a character throws me a curve ball, chances are, he knows what he's doing, so I let the scene go and see what happens.

I have one set-in-stone rule when it comes to writing, and it's one of the things that helps me write faster because I don't let myself stall out for the above reasons. That rule is:

If the characters and outline disagree, the characters win. Always.

Hasn't led me astray yet.

Now, a little bit of a tangent here about writing in general, which may or may not help you with writing speed, but feels relevant... 

One thing that always comes up on writing forums is the idea of characters hijacking the story. Some writers insist that it's true, that characters are basically living entities who can't be controlled, and the author is just along for the ride. Others think it's utter hogwash and THEY are in control of everything. Personally, I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Imagine someone you know really, really well. You know their quirks, their history, their morals, their preferences, etc. Now imagine writing them into a story. Think of something that person absolutely would not do under any circumstances.  Let's say Grandma would never in a million years steal a wrench from the hardware store. Not a chance.  With that in mind, try writing a scene where she's stealing a wrench from the hardware store, feeling completely justified about it and not considering any alternatives. Doesn't work, does it? 

Characters are the same way. They are a collection of quirks, traits, and morals, and at least in  my experience, sometimes those quirks, traits, and morals become clearer as I'm writing the story (versus when I wrote the outline). Then I find them in a position where I'm asking them to do what the outline says, but I just can't get the words to come out. I thought I knew how this character would behave, but then I got to the scene and realized there's no way in hell I'm going to make Grandma steal that wrench. But she still needs the wrench, right? Instead of forcing her to do what the outlines said, it's time to rethink the scene according to Grandma's quirks, traits, and morals, and how she -- your 3-dimensional character -- would acquire the wrench.

What does that have to do with writing speed? Well, allowing some flexibility and giving your characters room to come to life means the story has some breathing room to flow and do its thing, while Rigid Outliner is banging on the Backspace key trying to figure out how to make Grandma steal the goddamned wrench already.

So...don't stall out. Let her find another way to get her hands on the wrench. She'll be truer to her character, will probably come up with a more interesting way to acquire it, and...you'll be writing instead of stalling. (See? Told you it was relevant.)


In closing, it really boils down to:

  1. Time management. Spend your writing time actually writing, rather than fighting with a flawed outline or over-planning.
  2. Balance. Have a plan, but don't write it in blood.
  3. Maintaining momentum. Don't stall out because you had to stop and look up a minor detail.
  4. Use the Force. Hey, if you've got it, you might as well.

So there you have it. A few of the weird techniques I've picked up over the years that help me write faster than I did in my early days.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

NEW RELEASES: If It Drives, Guarded, and For The Living

It's been a busy week -- three new titles launched! I didn't want to do a post for each release because that would just clutter everything up, so I've rounded them up for a single post.


Cat Grant and I are pleased to announce the release of our kinky rock star novel, Guarded, available on Amazon, AllRomance, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords.

 On the surface, rock star Jordan Kane has it all. No Rules is burning up the charts and headlining a world tour. His bodyguard doubles as his hot, kinky boyfriend who knows just how to push all his buttons. But behind the scenes, he’s suffocating. 
Jase never imagined he’d have a shot at bedding the larger than life rock star, never mind dominating him, but now he’s worried he’s in over his head. Jordan’s kinks run deep, dark, and sometimes dangerous, putting Jase’s desires to both pleasure and protect him at odds. 
They might have a fighting chance at finding the safe, happy medium between what Jordan needs and what Jase is willing to give, but there’s one problem: Daniel, Jordan’s childhood best friend, the band’s talented guitarist—and the volatile, hard-partying drug addict. Jordan is determined to save Daniel from himself, but Jase has been there, done that, and desperately wants to protect Jordan from the inevitable heartache of watching an addict self-destruct. 
When Daniel goes off the rails again, Jordan calls off the tour to get him help. Tension within the band skyrockets and pressure from the record label sends Jordan into a dark spiral. Now his band—and his life—are balanced on a knife's edge, and Jase is the only one who can pull him back... but only if the echoes of his own tragic past don't push him over instead.
Aleksandr Voinov and I have been busy too, and we're taking you back to Market Garden in the seventh book in that series, If It Drives, available from Riptide PublishingAmazon, AllRomance, and Barnes & Noble.
If it flies, drives, or fornicates, it's cheaper to rent it. 
After driving James Harcourt, his wealthy banker boss, around for a year and a half, Cal isn’t surprised by much anymore. Not even James’s regular trips to Market Garden, London’s most elite gay brothel. 
But when James leaves the Garden alone one night and turns to Cal instead, Cal’s floored. After crushing on his boss for ages, it’s his wet dream come true . . . until the awkward morning after. Cal still has a job to do, but he wants to offer more. Yet James doesn’t take him up on it; he keeps Cal at arm’s length and continues his chauffeured jaunts to Market Garden. 
As Cal learns what James needs from the rentboys, he tries to fill that need himself. But there’s more to James’s penchant for rentboys than Cal realizes, and it may be one role that Cal can’t fill without overstepping his duty.

And finally, I've re-released my novel, For The Living, and it can be found on Amazon, AllRomance, and Barnes & Noble.

For the last year, Jay Warren has struggled to find the nerve to tell his wife he’s gay. Every time he gets the chance, though, he freezes up. He’s ashamed of hiding it all this time and he doesn’t want to hurt her, and the guilt has been almost unbearable. 
Then his wife dies suddenly, and Jay’s conscience threatens to eat him alive. 
Funeral director Scott Lawson deals with the bereaved every day, and he’s all too familiar with the inside of the closet. He offers Jay some much-needed compassion and understanding, and from that connection comes a friendship that quickly—perhaps too quickly—turns into something more. 
But are grief, guilt, and loneliness the only things tying them together? Or will Scott get fed up with being used as an emotional crutch before Jay realizes what he has? 
This book was previously published.
 Stay tuned -- Roped In (written with Marie Sexton) is out later this month, as is the seventh Tucker Springs book, It's Complicated!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Contest! Make up silly titles, win paperbacks!

So it would seem I've acquired a serious abundance of paperback copies of my books. Normally this wouldn't be an issue, but I'm moving in a few months, and need to lighten the load a bit.

So...I want to give away some paperbacks!

THE CONTEST

Come up with the silliest, weirdest, most twisted titles for erotica stories that don't actually exist.

HOW TO ENTER

Put your title(s) in a comment on this blog post along with your name and a valid email address. You may enter as many titles as you wish.

HOW TO WIN

I will pick five winners -- the three best titles, plus two random drawings.

WHAT YOU WIN

A signed paperback of your choice from my backlit (subject to availability).

(Non-US entries are fine!)

A DEADLINE WOULD PROBABLY HELP.

Contest closes at midnight, central time, on April 10th.

Go forth, my lovely reader minions! Give us your silly and weird titles, and I will send out some paperbacks!


Monday, March 31, 2014

NOW AVAILABLE: If It Drives (A Market Garden Tale)

Red Tie is back, y'all!  The seventh Market Garden story, If It Drives, is available now from Riptide Publishing, and can be purchased directly or from Amazon, AllRomance, or Barnes & Noble.


If it flies, drives, or fornicates, it's cheaper to rent it.
After driving James Harcourt, his wealthy banker boss, around for a year and a half, Cal isn’t surprised by much anymore. Not even James’s regular trips to Market Garden, London’s most elite gay brothel.
But when James leaves the Garden alone one night and turns to Cal instead, Cal’s floored. After crushing on his boss for ages, it’s his wet dream come true . . . until the awkward morning after. Cal still has a job to do, but he wants to offer more. Yet James doesn’t take him up on it; he keeps Cal at arm’s length and continues his chauffeured jaunts to Market Garden.
As Cal learns what James needs from the rentboys, he tries to fill that need himself. But there’s more to James’s penchant for rentboys than Cal realizes, and it may be one role that Cal can’t fill without overstepping his duty.

Friday, March 28, 2014

WANTED: Established Authors Not Afraid to Give a Little to (Hopefully) Gain a Lot - of Exposure

From Cat Grant:
I'm putting together a self-published boxed set of M/M military man stories for release later this year. Right now there's me, LA Witt, Keira Andrews and two other possible authors on board. Ideally, I'd like ten authors in the bundle.

In a nutshell, I'm looking for: Novella length stories - 15 - 25K. Contemporary preferred, the hotter the better. I'd like to have the bundle available in time for GayRomLit this October, which means I would need the completed stories (beta'ed, edited and ready for publication) in hand no later than August 15th. (I will, of course, copy-edit for consistency in grammar, spelling, etc., but the stories will have to be beta'ed and/or edited at the authors' expense.) The bundle will be available for a limited time only (Octoberthrough next February or March). After that, we settle accounts, take the bundle off sale and all rights revert back to the individual authors.

The object here is not to make wads of cash, but gain greater exposure - ideally, to hit the NYT and/or USA Today lists. No guarantee it'll happen, but that's what we're shooting for. I will be the editor/project manager on this bundle, and will publish it under my Cat Grant Books imprint on Amazon. (I will probably upload it to Nook, Kobo and iTunes through my Smashwords account as well.) I estimate the cost for cover art, formatting, etc., to be about $300-400, the cost of which will be split among all the participating authors (so if we get ten authors - $30-40 each).

Interested? Shoot me a proposal at: bittermint2007@gmail.com

Monday, March 3, 2014

The End of An Author's Life? Uh... what?

I don't usually comment on the business/financial aspects of the publishing industry, but I couldn't let this one go.

It's a gray, lazy morning in London, and I'm sitting at Aleksandr Voinov's kitchen table while we drink our coffee and wake up. Bear with me, because there is a point to this.

Today, we'll finish the book we've been working on, and we'll continue with the efficient system that's become our routine--Aleks write his part of the story while I work on one of several edits that have come in from my various publishers, and then I'll write my part while he works on expanding the third book in a fan-favorite fantasy series. We'll go back and forth like that until roughly midnight or until we're finished, whichever comes first. Then it's on to the next projects--some joint, some solo.

I've been here for the past three weeks, crashing on Aleks's couch in between writing together in the house, libraries, coffee shops, and wherever else we can set up our laptops. It was a somewhat impromptu trip, a plane ticket bought on less than a month's notice. Why? Because Aleks suddenly had the opportunity to be at home for several weeks, and we both realized it would be the perfect chance for us to co-write face to face rather than over the internet, not to mention without the six-hour time difference between Aleks's home in London and mine in Nebraska.

So why does he suddenly have all this time on his hands? Because he's been laid off from a relatively comfortable--if soul-sucking and miserable--job in the financial world.

For a lot of people, the loss of a job is a crisis. And for Aleks, it was certainly stressful, but he did have one ace up his sleeve that a lot of his colleagues did not--a second income stream.

Specifically, royalties. While it's not a full-time income yet, the pattern over the past couple of years is extremely promising. By putting his nose to the grindstone and releasing books regularly, it's absolutely possible for him to catch up with what he was making at his previous job. Indeed, by writing and selling ebooks -- primarily queer romance and historicals -- Aleks is optimistic about meeting, if not exceeding, his previous paychecks within 1-3 years.

Sound like a pipe dream?

Yeah, it kind of does. And a few years ago, I would have been guarded with my optimism about it. But not now.

Because, as I mentioned before, I'm currently writing this at Aleks's dining room table. In London. Where I traveled from Nebraska on nearly a moment's notice.

Writing is my full-time job. It has been since late 2008, starting with a couple of books that brought in enough money to allow my husband and me to breathe easier. He is career military, and we were stationed overseas, struggling with one full-time income while we paid a mortgage on a house we couldn't sell because of the housing crisis. In 2009, a few hundred dollars coming in not long after we'd had to make $20 last for two weeks meant we could sleep a little better.

In 2010, with a steadily growing backlist and fan base, my income turned us from sweating over every dollar to being able to go out to a nice dinner (not terribly expensive, just not "fries with that"), and in 2011, the royalties roughly equaled what I'd been making at my previous day job. In 2012, it doubled. In 2013, it doubled again. It's entirely possible the pattern will continue in 2014.

Why am I sharing this?

Because this morning, Aleks and I read this article.

Essentially, several literary authors are mourning the way the publishing industry and the marketplace have changed, threatening them with poverty and uncertain futures. Basically, authors are having to consider giving up writing altogether because it simply isn't sustainable. The culprits? Amazon, naturally. People putting up free content. Essentially, the digital age has come along and destroyed the way of life for authors.

Now that Aleks and I are done scratching our heads over it, I need to rip it apart and make a few comments about it. Because quite frankly, this...
"So I asked [an editor who said he wanted to publish me but couldn't afford it] what he would pay, and he named a figure for a two-book deal. That was the first time I noticed the drop in advances because the figure that he gave was only a fraction of what I'd been getting up to then. I went home and sat at the kitchen table and drew up a balance-sheet. I thought: I'm going to have to change the way I live."
...pegs my bullshit alarm. Hard.

Why? Because the man giving the quote is an author named Rupert Thomson, who also says...
"For some years he has rented an office in Black Prince Road, on London's South Bank, and commuted to work. Now this studio life, so essential to his work, is under threat. Lately, having done his sums and calculated his likely earnings for the coming year, he has commissioned a builder to create a tiny office (4ft 9in x 9ft 11in) at home in his attic, what he calls "my garret"."
So, you're telling me that writers are an endangered species, and as evidence, you're offering the example of no longer being able to afford an office in London? And instead he has to expand the loft of his house -- so he clearly owns one in/near London -- in order to create an office?

Aleks has also considered opening up the loft in his house for similar reasons, but has put that on hold for the time being because that project -- in a mid-sized terraced Victorian south of London -- will cost between £27,000 and £30,000. ($45,000 - $50,000)

Instead of coughing up that kind of money -- particularly since he just lost 70% of his income and benefits due to, you know, being laid off like millions of other people who also couldn't afford to maintain offices in London -- Aleks has chosen to make use of a cramped second bedroom, his couch, the library, and as he's doing today, his kitchen table.  In my house on a military base in Nebraska, I currently have the luxury of a spare bedroom that has been converted into an office, but I've previously used my couch or dining room as well. I have written in libraries, restaurants, airplanes/airports, trains, coffee shops, bookstores, waiting rooms, and my parents' dining room.  I have literally written while lying on the floor of a cargo jet 35,000 feet over the Pacific, and in an emergency room with an IV hooked to my arm.

So you could say that for Mr. Thomson's predicament -- sacrificing his London office in favor of a home renovation rivaling the income of the average British tax payer (source) -- the combined sympathy coming from Aleks and me is roughly on par with... well... nothing.

It's not that we're unaware that the publishing landscape is changing. Quite the contrary. It is changing, and we both see those changes as largely positive. Neither of us has ever been offered a £100,000 advance ($167,000) for a book like Joanna Kavenna, another author quoted in the article. While Aleks has previously published with a large house in Germany, neither of us is currently working with the Big 6 -- now Big 5 -- in New York.

And quite honestly, we're doing all right. For that matter, Aleks found his experience with a large publisher miserable and disillusioning, and finds himself much more content with smaller houses, including the one he partially owns, Riptide Publishing. While the authors in this article fret over declining advances and decreasing sales, authors like us -- those involved in self-publishing, small presses, and digital publication -- are thriving.

Quoth Kavenna:
"[B]eing a writer stopped being the way it had been for ages – the way I expected it to be – and became something different."
She's absolutely right. Everything about being a writer has changed.

For example, Jaron Lanier comments that...
"...he has watched a generation of his friends – film-makers, writers, musicians – become professionally annihilated by the loss of creative copyright."
What?

Okay, the copyright thing is two-pronged. There's the issue of piracy, and there's also the issue of publishers securing rights. When a publisher signs a book, they have the right to publish it for a specific period. Yes, piracy is a problem in the digital age, but you know what else is changing? Suddenly authors don't have to sign away their rights to their book for their own lifetime plus 70 years. My contracts vary from 2-7 years, and when that time is up, I have the right to reclaim that book and either self-publish it, sell it elsewhere, or shelve it. A life of copyright contract is exactly that. So when a book goes out of print a few weeks or months after it's released, it goes away and never again sees the light of day unless it's re-released when an author publishes another book with that house. And sometimes that re-release doesn't happen.

So, from where Aleks and I are sitting, the copyright situation has improved significantly. While we can't stop pirates from stealing our work, we have more control over our rights than ever before. Quite honestly, my bank account and I would rather cope with the irritating but largely negligible issue of pirates illegally downloading my digital work than have the same book languishing in a warehouse between the Ark of Covenant and the alien body from Roswell.

Also, in terms of books going out of print, ebooks generally don't. In the past, a book was out for a while and then it went out of print. However, those of us who publish digitally are able to achieve what authors of the past coveted: a large, thriving backlist. As of right now, Aleks has 32 books on Amazon. Between my two pen names, I have 66. It's not just novels, either. We both have short stories and novellas, which frequently don't make it into print except in collections or magazines. Those collections and magazines tend to pay token amounts if at all -- contributor's copies are common -- whereas I've made over $8,000 from a novella published in 2011. Aleks and I co-wrote a short story that was released last year and has made each of us just under $2,000.

Speaking of earnings, the financial scene has also changed. Giant or even mid-sized advances aren't so common anymore unless you're already a bestseller, which means many of us get paid based on how many books we sell. Aleks and I don't get advances for our work. We get paid after consumers determine our book -- our product -- is worthy of consuming and pay accordingly. Which is kind of interesting when the author of the article says...
"Roughly speaking, until 2000, if you wrote a story, made a film or recorded a song, and people paid to buy it, in the form of a book, a DVD or a CD, you received a measurable reward for your creativity. Customers paid because they were happy to honour your creative copyright."
You weren't getting paid for your creativity. You were getting paid for a product. Customers were receiving that product, not paying to honor your creative copyright. You didn't get paid for your creativity, you got paid for the result of that creativity. That's how it's always been. This is a business, and authors are producers. You don't produce, you don't get paid. You don't produce something people want, people don't buy it, and... you don't get paid.

Also, authors who've embraced the digital age are "rewarded" quite nicely. Royalties for paperbacks tend to range between 6-12%, but ebooks boast substantially higher royalties, with 30-35% being the low end, and some publishers paying 50% and up. Self-publishing can result in 70% or more. While it's not a $100,000 advance, those royalty percentages combined with a steadily growing backlist can easily translate into a solid and sustainable income for an author.

And that backlist is the key. Over the past three weeks, Aleks and I have spent a lot of time discussing strategies for making up for his lost income with his books, and it always comes down to the same solution: write more, publish more. Because that's how your creativity is rewarded in this business now. It's rewarded based on how many people believe it's a product worth buying.  Which means it's rewarded based on how many people believe your story is worth reading.

One final tidbit from the article. Amidst a wistful commentary on what publishing once was, the author says this:
"The most urgent deadline was lunch."
And therein, I think, lies the problem. The author of the article and the authors quoted within sound very much like they want the fantasy life of a writer: sitting in a perfectly appointed office, writing when the Muse strikes, producing maybe a book a year, and being showered with money and accolades upon turning in said book.

Meanwhile, in the real world, two lowly genre authors are pounding away at keyboards at a kitchen table in London, sweating bullets over deadlines, looking forward to eventually having some time to write our passion projects--Aleks, a World War II book that he needs to finish before I lose my mind (it's so good, you guys), and me, a speculative fiction series that refuses to let me sleep.

Look, it's extremely rare to write one book, get a life-altering book deal, and then coast on those laurels for the rest of your life into a comfortable retirement worthy of someone like Stephen King or Nora Roberts. While this seems like a glamorous profession that's a ticket to a comfortable life in which we write what we want, when we want, and get paid huge amounts of money for it, the fact is it's a job. It is work. Authors like Aleks and me -- and we are part of a rapidly growing group -- are paid only for what we sell, and we are thriving.

Yes, the publishing landscape has changed. Yes, it's hard to get a book deal with a big advance anymore.

But writers are not a dying breed. Quite the contrary. Success in today's market means adapting. It means writing more. It means sometimes putting aside that deep, literary project that your heart is dying to write and instead writing the book that your readers want to read. It means acknowledging this is a business.

It means sometimes you have to suck it up, let go of the office in London, sit down at your kitchen table, and write.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Ridiculously Easy Contest - WINNERS!

There was a contest! And there are winners! HOORAY!

Winners have 72 hours to contact me at thethinker42 (at) gmail to claim their prizes.

Winner Selected at Random:

Sara Finch

You win... electronic copies of two (2) titles off my backlist. Your choice! This includes the newly re-released boxed set of the Cover Me trilogy.

Winner With the Best/Most Creative/Etc Answer:

G.B. Gordon

Because you answered this question:

If Zeus came back and decreed that for all eternity,
you could only read romances where one of the main characters
worked in a specific profession, what would that profession be?

With this:  

LEO. And if I ever wanted something else, I'd go tell Hera. 'Cause, seriously, fuck Zeus. ;)

You win... a signed paperback copy of your choice from my print backlist. (And if it's a Witt/Voinov book, I'll take it to the UK with me next week, have Aleks sign it, and mail it to you when I get back).

Congrats to the winners, and thanks for playing, everybody!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Re-Releasing Some Older Titles

For the past few months, I've been working on re-releasing some older titles that went out of print in 2013. I've posted about some of them, and others have just sort of been quietly released because I didn't want to saturate Twitter of my blog with "this one's available now too!" That and I was still working out all the self-publishing bugs. I'm still working out a few, so bear with me a little, but now that the majority of the books have been re-released, here they are:

From L.A. Witt...






The Cover Me Trilogy is available as a boxed set or as individual titles.

Also recently released: (Click on the covers for buy links)

Changing Plans is a collection containing the novellas Getting off the Ground, Infinity Pools, and On The List.


From Lauren Gallagher:

Please note that World Enough and Time was previously published as Until It's Over.


Light Switch & Reconstructing Meredith are available individually or as a boxed set called Wanting Moore.
 

Monday, January 20, 2014

NOW AVAILABLE: Static

I'm so thrilled to announce that my transgender science fiction novel, Static, is back! Riptide Publishing has revised it, given it a gorgeous cover, and now...here it is!

Static can be purchased directly from Riptide, as well as on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomance.

After two years together, Alex has been dreading the inevitable moment when Damon learns the truth: that Alex is a shifter, part of a small percentage of the population able to switch genders at will. Thanks to a forced implant, though, Alex is suddenly static—unable to shift—and male. Overnight, he’s out to a world that neither understands nor tolerates shifters . . . and to his heterosexual boyfriend.
Damon is stunned to discover his girlfriend is a shifter, and scared to death of the dangers the implant poses to Alex’s health. He refuses to abandon Alex, but what about their relationship? Damon is straight, and with the implant both costly and dangerous to remove, Alex is stuck as a man.
Stripped of half his identity and facing serious physical and social ramifications, Alex needs Damon more than ever, but he doesn’t see how they can get through this.
Especially if he’s static forever.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The First Ridiculously Easy Contest of 2014

Guess what? It's time for another Ridiculously Easy Contest(tm)!  Yeah, yeah, I know, the title of the post kind of gave it away. Anyway...

Want to win a free book? Of course you do. Who doesn't? In fact, I'm going to let you win two books because that's how I roll. And since I like things simple, we're going to keep this uber-simple. Answer a question, win a book. That's it.

HOW TO ENTER: Leave a comment with an answer to the poll question. Please leave a name/nickname and an e-mail address as well.

HOW TO WIN: One winner will be selected at random. One will be selected based on the most creative, entertaining, original, or otherwise standout answer to the question.

WINNERS WILL BE DRAWN: February 1, 2014

THE PRIZE: Electronic copies of two (2) titles off my backlist. Your choice! This includes the soon-to-be-rereleased boxed set of the Cover Me trilogy.

BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE!

If there are at least 15 legitimate, non-anonymous* responses to the question, I will also draw a name for a signed paperback copy of your choice from my print backlist. (And if it's a Witt/Voinov book, I'll take it to the UK with me in February, have Aleks sign it, and mail it to you when I get back)  This portion of the contest is also open to international entries.

(*note on anonymous posts: I don't mind anonymous settings, but there needs to be a name/email address in the text of the comment at least!)

THE QUESTION:

How many roads must a man walk down-- wait, sorry.

Okay, the real question:

If Zeus came back and decreed that for all eternity,
you could only read romances where one of the main characters
worked in a specific profession, what would that profession be?

See? Told you it was easy.

Winners will be selected and posted on February 1st, 2014, and have 72 hours to contact me to claim their prize.

Good luck!