Delays, Delays…

Just a quick post.

I want to apologize and thank all of my loyal readers that have been waiting patiently for the release of my new novel, Chronicles of Osota: Warrior. Sadly, there has been another delay in publication. It should be out by the end of July, but we will no longer be making today’s projected date of publication.

This was an unexpected delay, a silly accident, and we’ll have everything fixed soon. I want to thank you all for sticking with me and continuing to read quietly and sometimes comment :)

More updates soon!

Gearheads – A Short Story

A/N: This is a short story I’ve had lying around for a while. I just posted a related story to the Wenches’ Cauldron blog here: I figured both stories featuring Kaylin should be available, especially since her first story has been such a triumph for me. Hope you all enjoy it, and we’ll get back to talking about writing another time.



Kaylin clapped her hand over the boy’s mouth. Her right arm tightened around his middle and drew him close, out of the daylight. She dragged him to the wall of the sewer tunnel and hid there. The boy tried not to struggle, though she could feel his panicked, ragged breathing every time he exhaled against her hand. He tried drawing in more air, and every time the unforgiving grip of her arm around his chest limited his intake. She did not care, though. It would be better for him to pass out than for the gearhead to spot them. She could see the bolt-brain’s face pressed against the rusted grate. The hexagonal screws sticking out from his face clanged against the iron and his glass optics clicked with every unsettling blink of the bronze lids. Sunlight flickered and dimmed as he shifted for a better angle, but he’d never spot them, not where Kaylin hid.

It was the boy’s fault that they had to hide. He had yelled at the sight of her arm, the one that practically crushed his rib cage at the moment. She eased the pressure, just enough to prevent him from wheezing. They waited like that for a long time, her with a hand over his mouth and an arm around his chest; the gearhead with his face pressed to the grate, listening. Even after he got up and left, they waited. They waited after Kaylin’s joints ached from holding the awkward position. Her back had gone numb where it pressed against the wall. She didn’t care. They weren’t going to move until they were sure the gearhead and all the others were gone.

When she finally did let go, the boy did not run away. Instead, he staggered to the other side of the tunnel and sat down. He stared up at her, unblinking. It took Kaylin a few moments before she sat down across from him. The boy looked typical for a scavenger. His face was smudged with grime and he wore ragged clothes. She knew she looked just as bad. He probably had not seen anyone close to his age for a very long time. His gaze kept drifting to her arm, and that was certainly more interesting than her age.

Her old arm had been crushed when a building collapsed. Any normal person would have amputated. Not the gearheads, though. She could imagine how they found her body mangled in a heap of rubble, how they dug her out carefully, like extracting an artifact. A soldier would have passed her over, but the gearheads did not operate that way. They needed to recruit more to their side. Recruitment started with improving the conditions of others around them. They saw her arm as an area for improvement.

Well, improvement was one way to put it.

She flexed the digits of the new mechanism. The cogs and wheels spun. The pistons sunk and pulled depending on what motion she made. Part of her marveled at how the gearheads had attached her tendons to the machinery. Bronze clamps fastened to her muscles and the ligaments. When she flexed, the appropriate pumps engaged to mimic the movements of live tissue. Her cauterized skin stood out sharply against the bronze and copper. She clenched the finger-like cogs into a fist. No wonder the boy had screamed when he saw her. She looked just like one of the monsters.

“Is something wrong, gearhead?” the boy asked in a mocking tone.

Kaylin glanced over at him. “I’m not one of them,” she said.

The boy laughed and slumped back against the wall. “You sure look like one,” he said, echoing her thoughts.

Kaylin turned away from him. She crossed her arms then uncrossed them as her skin came in contact with the metal arm. She felt the need to rationalize herself to the boy, if only to prove she was still just as human as him. “Why would I be hiding down here if I was a gearhead?”

The boy shrugged. “They don’t really make sense to me. If someone put bolts in their head, you’d figure they’re not all there.” The boy paused for a moment, obviously waiting for a response, but Kaylin ignored the comment. “So, what’s your name?” he asked.

“Kaylin.” She waited a few moments before returning the favor. “What’s yours?”


Kaylin nodded and looked down. She had been trying to fold her hands together, but when her fingers came into contact with the bronze digits she stopped. Instead she glanced at the tunnel ceiling and listened. She heard nothing. “You think they’re all gone?” she asked.

Mark shrugged. “Who cares? More will be back later.”

Kaylin nodded and took a moment to study Mark. He had to be one of the first children she had seen in years. All the others had either died in air raids or been sent to live elsewhere. Kaylin was probably one of the few who did not get sent away at the start. Her parents could not afford it. Now, at fifteen, she felt older than fifty.

“Well, it seems like the front has moved on,” said Kaylin. She stood up and stretched her legs. “I’m going to find some food if you’d like to join me.”

Mark nodded and they set off for the sewer exit. Kaylin climbed up to the surface first before waving to Mark. He followed after her, and once his fingers closed over the opening, she leaned down and pulled him up the rest of the way. They sat on the street for a moment and looked around.

“I can’t see a thing,” Mark said. They both looked around the ruined town. Nothing moved.

“Good,” Kaylin said. “Hopefully that means we’re alone.” She stood and dusted her ragged clothes off. Mark stepped ahead of her and took off. “Where are you going?” she asked.

“Where do you think?” Mark turned and waved her onward. “Keep up, now. I hate being out here.”

Kaylin shook her head and ran forward. Mark was similar to other kids living in the rubble. Well, the rare few she met at least. He followed the same instinctive rules that guided her, the first being to keep low and to keep moving. In fact, she had been trying to catch a boat across the river when she got caught in the last raid. It was the only reason she delayed seeking shelter. Boats ferrying civilians were a rare occurrence. The attempt to catch that one had almost killed her. It should have killed her. Instead, she woke up on a lab table with a new arm. After that, everyone had avoided her. No one opened their doors to her. No one would feed her or show her even a glimmer of kindness. No one except the gearheads.

Mark glanced back at her. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” said Kaylin. She shook her head and followed Mark down one of the wider streets. They walked clear of the town. Mark led her down a nearly-faded path that looked more like a game trail than a walkway. “Where are you going?” she repeated.

“You’ll see.”

The trees on the outer edge of town looked charred if not completely burned. The fighting had probably taken place somewhere nearby. “You sure it’s safe, Mark?” she asked.

“Sure is. No one knew about it except me and my mom.”

Kaylin expected the burn damage to recede as they moved deeper into the woods, but evidence of the battle still surrounded them. The ground looked treaded upon, and none of the footprints rested on the path. The vegetation looked torn as if bullets had whizzed through. “Mark.”

The boy looked back at her. “What?”

“This was a battlefield.”

He looked at the torn earth. “So?” Kaylin sighed and followed after the boy. She watched her step carefully as they moved farther into the trees. After a while they made it to a clearing. The wear on the earth was not so bad, but tracks remained pressed in the dirt. “Here we are!” he declared. Kaylin glanced around. Most of the foliage remained undamaged. The green, jagged leaves looked familiar, like some plant one of the other scavengers had urged her to pay attention to.

“And what’s here?” she asked.

Mark walked over to one of the bushes and grabbed a branch. “Look.” He lifted up, exposing the round, red berries growing underneath. “They’re still in season,” he said. Mark picked one and popped it into his mouth. “They’re prefect.” He picked another one and held it out to Kaylin. She reached out with a hand until she saw the bronze gleaming in the morning light. She pulled back and reached out with her left instead. He placed the berry in her palm and she ate it. The small berry tasted better than she could have imagined, like red wine, or what she thought red wine should taste like. She had gone a very long time without food.

“That’s amazing,” she said. Kaylin approached the nearest bush and began gathering berries. A lot remained despite the obvious use the path had seen. Troops usually scavenged the areas clean when they moved through or torched any resources. She stopped gathering berries and looked down at the earth; it was dark and moist, packed down and freshly turned.

Dirt sprayed everywhere. Metal screeched against metal, then the high, pained cries of Mark followed. Kaylin turned and saw the boy tumble to the ground, a large animatronic spider attached to his calf. He screamed and clutched at his leg, eyes wide in terror as the metallic pincers sunk through his flesh and anchored to the bone. The eight needle-like legs clenched around his calf. “Kaylin!” he yelled. “Kaylin, help!”

She rushed to his side and knelt down. “I’m here,” she said. “I’m here, don’t panic.”

The mechanism clicked as the pincers locked into place. Scatter spiders. Of course the gearheads would plant them around the food. Only the army or scavengers would go for wild resources. Mark’s howls pulled her from her thoughts. “Get it off me! Get it off!”

The trap clicked again and began ticking. She had a couple minutes before the shell of the body exploded bits of shrapnel everywhere. The gearheads had designed it specifically so that the victim would kill others by limping off to get help. “I can do this,” she said. She reached for the loose plate on the spider’s backside, but her cog fingers scraped against the metal uselessly. “I’ve disarmed these before.” She reached with her left hand instead and pried off the plating. The mess of springs and cogs inside were designed to be temperamental. If she yanked stuff loose at random, the device detonated early.

“Kaylin, don’t leave me,” said Mark. His face was white. He was probably going into shock. “You gotta get it off me.”

“I’m trying, shut up.” She needed both her hands. That was the problem. Kaylin reached with the metal arm and pinched one of the main cogs still with her mechanical fingers. The wheels halted and the pistons slowed. Usually she stopped the cogs with her left hand, but she did not trust the next task to the metal digits. She reached in with her normal hand, gently pushing aside several springs until her fingers found it: the smallest piston in the machine. She pinched it closed and listened to the slow whine of the steam building up. All she had to do from here was unhook one spring with her right finger. She extended her pinky; the joints groaned. The metal would not flex to the side far enough. The spring lay just out of reach. As much as she tried, she could not get it to hook, just brush against the cog. The seconds slipped by. She knew she had run out of time. She let the piston go and withdrew her hands.

“Did you fix it?” Mark asked. His chest heaved as he gasped and fought off mounting panic. “Why’s it still attached?”

Kaylin could not look him in the eye. “I can’t do it,” she said. She flexed her fingers. “This arm… the fingers don’t work like my old ones.” She stood up.

“Kaylin.” Mark reached down and grabbed the pincers. He tried to pry them loose. “Kaylin please don’t leave me.”

“I’m sorry.” She stepped back. “I have to go.”

“Don’t leave me!” he yelled. “Don’t leave, you hear me?”

She turned and ran.


She did not stop. She made it out of the clearing, deep into the forest. The spider detonated with a clang that reverberated through the air. She raised her arms instinctively, though nothing could harm her at this distance. Mark’s screams ceased.

For a while, she fought the urge to scream. Things always happened too fast since the war started. One minute, everything was fine. The next, everything was blown up or mechanized. Both sides had a way of ruining things.

Her stomach growled and she did scream. Why didn’t the gearheads just replace her stomach? Or her heart? Maybe they should have bolted her brain, too. She raised her hands to rub her face, but jumped when the cold metal of her right hand came into contact. The metal was always there, always reminding her. She had contemplated chopping it off, had contemplated worse. She was a coward, though. She wanted to see this war out, and in that moment her stomach ached with hunger pains.

Kaylin looked back toward the clearing and set out for it. When she returned, she dared not walk on the bare soil. She kept her eyes on the ground and cut a wide path to the back where the berries remained. As carefully as she could, she reached out and plucked one of the berries from the bush with her mechanical hand. She held the food in the sunlight and examined it close. Red glinted off the berry’s skin. She ate it anyways.

Let’s Talk About Clean Prose!

Well, I really do suck at updating a blog regularly. Let’s ignore that and get right to the point, the pen’s point if you will.

Some of you may have heard that the Golden Crown Literary Society is meeting up this weekend for their annual conference. This conference hosts the Golden Crown Literary award ceremony, a pretty big deal in lesbian fiction.

I try to read most of the books that win a Goldie, though I have some catching up to do. Currently, I am slogging through The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer, which won a Goldie in the Speculative Fiction category for 2012. About halfway through the story I set it down to check out some of the reviews on GoodReads (which I’m glad I did!) to see how others thought about it.

A lot of people had the same thing to say: I wanted to like this book, really! I think that mantra is the only thing powering me through this novel. I want to like it. Badly. Who wouldn’t want to? It’s a lesbian retelling of the story of Persephone and Hades, except without the freaky kidnapping. It’s gold! Or it should have been.

Before I continue any further, I want to say that Sarah Diemer is a good writer. The prose just fell flat for me in The Dark Wife, which made it all the more disappointing in light of its Goldie. Many of the repeated problems in the prose were minor, slap-of-the-wrist fixes that are often shot down by a writer’s extremely talented editor. Since Ms. Diemer self-published this story, I’m guessing she did not have a horde of editors to sound off ideas with. As a result, the story had some repetitive problems that many writers suffer from.

And before you start thinking that editors just rinse out the originality of a story and writers need to be free and fuck the system man its overrated you be free as a bird and do whatevah you want!, just stop. Stop right there. Because (finally) we’ve hit the point of this update.

When we write, we owe it to our readers to deliver a polished story that fully accomplishes what we wrote it to accomplish. Things like purple prose, excessive dialogue tags, too many commas, and awkward syntax get in the way of meeting that goal (unless your goal is to highlight those problems in writing).

Why do they get in the way? I’ll tell you.

One or two prose-oddities in a story are good. But what if that obtuse prose keeps popping up? What if the main character keeps having heavy, weepy, rageful, ecstatic FEELINGS on every single page? It would be like eating cake for every single meal. Eventually, you’re going to get sick of the cake.

And I eventually get sick of overly thought-out prose. I think one of my favorite things to hate on is using two verbs to describe one action. This is a nice touch when it’s an important action to highlight. It’s different, so it tells the reader, “Hey! Something interesting is happening. Wake up!”
But if every single person needs two actions to highlight one (ie, he barked a laugh, she skipped a hop, he bellowed a shout) it’s going to get exhausting. The same thing goes for adverbs: Slowly, carefully, lowered down from the ledge, Sammy walked herself down the path.

Do you see what I mean? This sentence highlights actions first, the person second, and the destination last. People consistently, pathologically arrange sentences with the person first, the action second, and any objects or destinations last. This sentence tells me that the actions are more important than the person. Used sparingly, tricks like this are useful. Used consistently, you can get some very unhappy readers.

This kind of prose distracts people by nature. It forces the reader’s brain to decipher something, and not in a this-makes-me-think-about-deeper-issues-that-resonate-with-our-chaotic-and-dissonant-world sort of way. The reader gets pulled out of the story. If that is your goal, then congratulations, get to it.

But there are stories out there that use this prose. They use it without meaning to give their readers mental whiplash. This prose highlights the author and their pen strokes, not the characters and their world. But the story is about the characters and their world, okay?

Here’s the problem. The prose keeps the reader from getting what you (dear writer) want them to get out of the story. It’s something we all struggle with, myself included. It’s also something we can fix if we just paid attention to our own damn sentences.

I think that’s the advisory for today. Pay attention to your sentences. Never just write something and call it good. Re-read it, first! Hell, I even proof-read this blog before I posted it. And I found messy sentences. Good job, me. You get a gold star.

So readers, did you enjoy anything in this post? Let me know! I want to hear your thoughts on writing creatively and effectively. Leave a comment, please.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby!… In Fiction.

What is your fiction saying about sexuality and relationships? Probably a lot more than you’d think, and I want to talk about the choices we make as writers when it comes to this. No, I’m not talking about how well-endowed you make your characters, or giving people unrealistic expectations about how mind-blowingly amazing sex will be on the first time, every time (but we should talk about that, too… eventually). I’m talking about the gritty stuff: the relationship. The ways in which two characters interact and how that is received by the world. I struggled for a long time thinking of how to start this conversation, but I finally settled on relating an experience to you all from my earlier years as a college student.

A friend of mine wrote an amazing short story about a young man who ends up giving shelter to a woman fleeing her abusive boyfriend. She waits at his house for a friend to pick her up, and then thanks him and heads out with her friend.

When I first read this story, I thought it was amazing. I still think it’s amazing. The emotion and the raw display of humanity in this story felt just perfect. It was a snapshot of real, gritty life, and it just captured so much about our generation (us 20-somethings) in the small details of the story. More importantly, it captured something distinctly human in the characters.

While it was well received by many people in the class, three young men took issue with something: the guy did not get the girl at the end of the story.

Let me break that down for you. The guy (a random stranger to this woman) does not “get” (as in a kiss, a good fuck, a phone number, a date) the girl (the woman who was just beaten by an abusive ex). This bothered them.

Just the thought of turning it into a love story made me go a little berserk. Why? Because the main character, the guy, and this woman were not meant to be in a relationship. For one, the story was not about that. It was about what a painful, messy experience life can be, and sometimes we can actually be a decent person for someone else.

How would letting the guy “get” the girl ruin that message? For one, it has the chance of reducing the female character to a “prize”.

What is probably the worst part, however, is that it cheapens the main character. I liked him as a character, a lot. He was written to be a decent human being, and the reader got to see him struggling in a dilemma of what the right thing to do is. For him, he questioned whether or not to call the police, whether to take the woman back to his house in the first place, and whether or not to confront the much larger and scarier guy she ran from. These are all feasibly real-life problems someone may have to confront, and this character, while he may not have been the most supportive or helpful, did try to help this woman. If his only incentive for helping her is that kiss, or date, at the end of the story, it warps his actions and the audience’s perceptions of what to expect in these situations.

What does it say about how sexuality and relationships are portrayed in media if three guys in my writing class wanted the main character to get the girl in the end? In reality, the last thing a person fleeing abuse wants is to be ravished by a stranger (think about it for a second, you’ll get the ‘creepy’ vibes). Not one of these guys in the class would (hopefully) try to get with a random lady fleeing an attacker. But for them, the story felt incomplete without that promise for intimacy at the end.

I don’t blame them. I blame the formula people establish for so many books, shows, and movies out there. Most fictional works involving a guy and a girl have them get together at the end. Hell, even the gay stories do it. The hero conquers evil and the protagonist wins the heart of their true love. It’s how it goes. It’s textbook narrative structure. I even happen to like this structure, but I think there are some social problems we need to be aware of when we write in it, and that’s what I want to talk about, after that very long-winded introduction.

I recently finished up a novel for publication (Warrior will be out in July! Lesbians and fantasy adventure awaits! Tell your friends) and when revising it, I noticed something… annoying about the main character. Can you guess what it was?

This girl cared way too much about ending up old, alone, and a virgin, and it wasn’t even in a comical way. Why did I write her that way? Why did I make the main character’s drive something as simplistic as “to get the girl”?

I can’t say for sure, but it made me realize that I was saying something with my characters. I was saying what I expected people to act like, I was showing what I expected the hero to act like. And it wasn’t necessarily the best message.

To give the short story, I found redeeming qualities everywhere, and the character was not so far gone to save her. One thing I did pay a lot of attention to in the story was the portrayal of gay and lesbian relationships (the main characters are lesbians, come on guys).

Here is where I break out the pet peeves. I am very, very tired of seeing lesbian relationships portrayed in stories where the entire plot hangs on the acceptance of that relationship as something socially acceptable.

Why? It raises the question of whether or not LGTBQIA relationships are acceptable, and the only answer to that is yes, they are. I understand a need to explore prejudice and struggle, but seeing it played out every time and in every story can make the audience feel as if there is something deviant about these sexual relationships.

And it does not have to be an LGTBQIA relationship. Portraying the female character as the passive damsel, the male character as the sexually dominating force, both of these are perfect examples of how a story’s portrayal of relationships can set a standard for those reading it. These portrayals are not a standard, they are not a norm, but we can begin to see them that way if we are not careful about how we write our worlds, especially fantasy and science fiction universes, where any construct of relationship is truly possible.

I made sexual relationships between characters of any gender a norm in my universe, save for the royalty who are expected to pop out a baby because, you know, babies need to happen. And even then, there were ways around that minor detail that the characters discussed. There are so many other ways to explore relationship dynamics between characters, however. It never just has to be, “the hero gets their true love.” Yes, that’s an important part to a lot of base fantasy narratives, but it does not have to be the defining aspect. Like the main character in my friend’s story, the quality of writing does not have to hinge on the character’s sexual conquest.

What I am trying to get at here is that writers set up what is “normal” in their worlds, and readers pay attention to that. Not every story needs to break out of these molds we created, but all stories featuring a strong romantic relationship should contain some level of awareness.

I’m going to leave my thoughts on the subject there, because any further efforts to expand have left me dissatisfied, and I’d rather tease out more meaning in conversation, if you’d be obliged, readers.

Let’s Take a Mary Sue Test!

This week, instead of calculating payments on my student loan debt, I’m going to submit one of my novel characters to a Mary Sue test, and you all get to watch. Sound fun? No? Then go read something else.

For the purposes of this test, I will be using a free litmus available here:

I do not own nor did I make up any of these questions. Someone else did that, the someone who created this website, and I’m grateful for them. If you’re unfamiliar with what a Mary Sue is, be sure to visit that website and find out. They’re a potentially hazardous character type in original fiction.

Before we begin, I want to tell you all why I’m doing this. I primarily use this Mary Sue test when working on flushing out characters that I think are somewhat one-dimensional or did not get enough depth the first time I tried to write them. Creating living, breathing characters in a story is hard because we like to rely on previously established archetypes as guidelines. Everyone loves the badass cop, the innocent young maiden, the secretly badass maiden. These are all typical tropes, and while a trope is great for quick payout, the character who is that trope usually lacks any meaning or depth beyond what defines that trope. They’re flat, in other words.

I will be running Taylor Morgan from Dark Horizons through the Mary Sue test this time. Taylor has long been a favorite character of mine, and she originated all the way back in 2010 in a short story I wrote for a college class. She’s evolved since then, but her debut onto the public scene was a little lackluster, I feel. I have such a rich canon involving Taylor in my head, but I don’t think I spent enough time putting that into the story for readers to see, thus giving the audience a character who did not shine as much as the one in my head. Putting Taylor through a Mary Sue test highlights those important things about her I should highlight in the sequel, or perhaps give me a slap across the face and tell me she’s a little too boring. Either way, there’s only one way to find out, so let’s begin. If you really want to see every answer available, you can follow along with the actual test in another browser window. For sanity’s sake, I will be skipping over questions that are answered with a “no” for my character.

Part One – All Characters

1. Is/does your character’s name:

The question lists a lot of things, like is the name odd, do you want to name your children with it, does it have unique spelling? That kind of stuff. Taylor Morgan is about as plain as they would get, though, and I did not take it from my name at all, and no, I will not be naming my children after her.

2. Did you deliberately base your character’s looks on your own?

God no. Taylor is my opposite as far as looks go. Well, maybe we’re close in height, but not much else. I actually tried something different with Taylor in that I made her half Japanese, something I have no personal experience being, considering I am a pasty white Alaskan. While I mention this characteristic once in Dark Horizons, I do not really call attention to it because I have no freaking idea what it means to be part of that culture. Thusly, Taylor kind of didn’t either. And that works. A lot of people from cultural backgrounds only know the default they grew up in. Still, it sort of feels like a cheap grab for brownie points by making her “different” but not at the same time. Thoughts?

3. Does your character look like how you wish you look?

No. I love my tousled mane of curly hair. It’s very in right now thanks to HBO’s portrayal of Robb Stark.

4. Is your character depicted as effortlessly beautiful, cute, or handsome?

…Yes. Maia’s all over that shit. But it is a romance novel. It comes with the territory.

4d. Does anyone see your character’s attractiveness as a threat?

Does it count if Maia sees it as a threat to her freedom in the first book?

5. Does anyone want to adopt your character?

No. Well……… no.

7. Does your character have a great body/physique, which you describe, show, and/or illustrate in detail?

Yes, but it’s a romance novel! And Taylor’s in the army. You don’t get more fit than that.

9. Do you use poetic and/or creative terms to describe your character, but virtually no-one else (aside from your character’s love interest, perhaps)?

9a. Do you frequently describe your character’s beautiful/handsome/cute attributes or point out how sexy your character is?

Yes… I’m starting to sense a pattern here.

13. Does your character have a particularly attractive scent that doesn’t come from xir perfume, cologne, or shampoo?

Yes, though humans all smell different to Maia.

14. Does your character have a scar or other small “flaw” that is noticed by someone, but does not actually detract from your character’s appearance from your point of view?


Yes, and Maia finds her scars sexy. It’s an erotic novel, though. I mean… Am I expecting more of the character than I should?

16. Does your character have a particularly piercing (EG, “can stare straight into your soul”), haunting, captivating, or dazzling gaze?

According to Maia, yes.

59. How many languages does your character fluently speak?

Oh god, I have no idea!

78. If/when your character has sex, is it absolutely perfect and beyond amazing?

Yes. Though who wants to read about bad sex?

83. Has your character otherwise lost:

A close friend, check. A whole squad, actually. Taylor angsts about it for a while.

87. Does your character angst about something that she did in the past?

Yup. Kinda. Does getting your squad obliterated at the beginning of the book count?

87c. Does your character eventually learn that it wasn’t her fault? 

Yeah, or at least stops blaming herself for it.

Part Two – Original Fiction

5. Are most (if not all) characters who don’t like your character merely mean, shallow, spiteful, and/or jealous of her?

Yes, but… that changes in the sequel.

7. Does anyone who doesn’t like or respect your character by the end of the story end up beaten up, humiliated, miserable, and/or dead?

Oh for the love of… yes.

Part Five – De-Suifiers

2. Has your character ever been honestly selfish, petty, lazy, shallow, or pointlessly cruel?

And she regrets it.

15. Does your character ever seriously question the morality of her actions and/or is left with a lingering doubt that she may not have done the right thing?

Oh Taylor. Yes. She has a lot of doubt about her life choices.

18. Has your character ever misjudged someone else and discovered she was completely wrong about that person?

Yes. *coughspoilerscough*

19. Does your character ever admit to being wrong, even if she doesn’t really mean it?

Though Taylor does mean it, yes.

24. Do you view your characters more like tools than friends/children?

While I occasionally joke that my characters are my babies, they are first and foremost a means to an end. They are the story, they reason someone will love or hate it, and the only thing any book has going for it, ever. Characters are your story, never forget that.

25. Did you spend days, if not months or longer carefully and thoughtfully researching the traumas/hardships/handicaps/disorders your character has so you could write them as realistically and sensitively as possible?

Yes, I honestly do. I might not achieve this, but I do try.

End of Test

So my overall score, according to the website, was 7. This is considered a “safe range” by the site’s little blurb, but I’m not so sure. What this quiz highlights for me is that Taylor gets talked about and viewed in terms of her physical appearance a lot, and while she does suffer from various traumas and has a complex past, it’s not necessarily pulled to the surface, yet.

Dark Horizons was an erotic novel, however. It’s supposed to focus on the physical. That is to be expected of a story that features the characters banging more than anything else.

So why did I subject Taylor to this test?

Because I like her as a character. She’s grown on me a little bit, so much that I hesitated before answering that my characters are less like children and more like tools. As Rae and I start writing the sequel to Dark Horizons, I keep wondering what I can do to flush out Taylor and give her the same liveliness that she has in my head. I know characters are tools to convey a good story, but the most beautiful characters often become “people” that you can identify with, and Taylor isn’t quite there, yet, though I think she can get there.

What I hope this exercise has shown you all is that writers, even published authors, need to stop and reflect on their characters. We try to write these unique people into the world, and we struggle to keep them from being too cliché or too boring. Often, we don’t see what is salient in our characters until we step back. I didn’t think that Taylor’s physical attributes would be the most profound characteristic she possessed until I plugged her into this test. If you’re a writer looking to work on improving a character, do yourself a favor and use this test. It’s a fantastic source for writers everywhere, especially those of us working in genre fictions like fantasy or science fiction.

If any of you are interested in seeing this Taylor character (and reading about raunchy lesbian sex in a sci-fi setting) you can read all about her in Dark Horizons, or not. It doesn’t matter to me.

Leave a comment! We’ll chat it up! What did you think of the test?

Let’s Talk About “Faking It”

Yes, I mean the new TV show that people are obsessing over a little bit. I held out for four weeks before succumbing to the tantalizing gifs scrawling across my tumblr dash and caught up on the show. And you know what?

It’s not that bad.

What I think charms me the most about the show is how it so perfectly captures the essence of my high school experience in Flagstaff, Arizona, a blue town in a red state very similar to the show’s setting, Austin, Texas. Much like the characters in the show, it was hip to be weird and “different” and there was a new protest of some sort every week. I believe we elected a man Homecoming Queen my sophomore year because we felt like it. And we always strived to buy local whenever possible. My neighbors used to be buddhist monks and owned an antique shop specializing in incense and eastern musical instruments. 

But you get the picture. I was a gay kid growing up in the one place in Arizona it was cool to be like that. I immediately found the show relatable for that reason. After I caught up with it, however, I found myself liking it for more than the nostalgic setting. 

I’ll admit that when I first saw a gif set of two girls kissing from the show, I was a little skeptical. I looked up the plot summary online and got just a little more skeptical. We’ve seen a lot of shows/concepts that toy with the “lesbian-for-the-season” idea. Inevitably, the main character finds her true love, and it’s a guy. There’s nothing wrong with those characters. They’re written as destined for that one dude from the beginning. What I like about this show is that the main character, Amy (though one could argue Karma is the main character as well), is trapped in the dilemma that she’s gay. And while she does attempt to solve her problem by spontaneously kissing a lot of people, the show does not stoop to the pedantic plot device of giving her a boy to try and cling to for a season. Her default is “ladies” and that’s a refreshing change.

It also gives her character arc longevity, because we know from the first episode that she is in a doomed romance. Her love interest will not return those feelings, ever, but it will be a fun ride to watch her get over that initial heartbreak, because that’s something a lot of us dealt with growing up. The character Amy is interesting because we know she will fail to win Karma’s love in the end. What happens after is a mystery.

What I think I’m getting at here is that I’m relieved to finally see a show that does not hinge on the “OMG I’M A LESBIAN AND NEED TO COME OUT TO MY PARENTS, WAAAH” schtik. They got over that in the first couple of episodes. This show happens to be about a teenager handling her feelings for someone, and it’s very refreshing so far. Don’t get me wrong, I am paranoid over television in the first place, and am convinced this show won’t last in it’s glory for more than a season or two, but I’m going to enjoy it for while I can.

In the meantime, I hope that creators will still push for shows that accept being part of the LGTBQIA community (can we switch to spectrum? It’ll be easier) as a norm and then build their characters from there.

And now for some unrelated writing matters – the book I coauthored with Rae, Dark Horizons, will be available at the Golden Crown Literary conference in Portland for purchase if you’re going there. You can also meet our editor, a lovely person. I won’t be able to make it this year, sadly, but some day! My first solo novel, Chronicles of Osota: Warrior is set to release the first week of July. I will be making some frantic edits to it between now and then, but it will be well worth it, I assure you. Me and the editors have been making some tweaks to it over the past couple of months and it’s really coming together.

Anyways, that’s all from me now. Thoughts on the new show Faking It? Spectrum characters in television in general? I’d be happy to discuss in the comments

Another book? And there’s sex in it?

That’s right. With my coauthor, Rae D Magdon, I just released another book for purchase. This time around, we’ve gone through the publishing company Desert Palm Press, and let me quickly thank my editor and fellow writers for their support throughout the process. I should probably also thank Rae for putting up with me through all the drama of being a full-time student, employee, and writer. That’s kind of tough!

For those of you who have not been following, Rae and I worked together on a sci-fi novel (read: erotic novella set in a sci-fi universe) titled Dark Horizons. It’s now available in print and electronically, and I don’t know how to feel about finally being at this level. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I held the first copy of that paperback to my chest and sobbed when it arrived. Having something you wrote in print like that is seriously cool.

But I’m also conflicted. As the reviews for Dark Horizons pour in, I keep on noticing a trend. Like All The Pretty Things (which I only wrote like 1/4 of), Dark Horizons receives some flak for being too short with not fully realized characters. People also are commenting on the abundance of sex scenes and lack of other scenes. I guess this is because Rae and I wrote it as an erotic novel. It’s express purpose is to entertain people in the bedroom department. Normally, erotic novels are easy to recognize for what they are and people don’t expect much more from them. So, why do people so nicely ask for me and Rae to write something with a more involved plot?

I suppose it’s my fault. You see, I have a hard time writing strict erotica. I let the feels get in the way like no other. I also have a thing about character dynamics and helplessly long plot structures that I’m sure many of my readers adore just as much as me. Because of this, I took a lot of opportunities to cut out sex scenes and insert character development scenes, and as I imagine the sequel (YES, THREE-STAR READERS, THERE WILL BE A LONGER AND MORE INVOLVED SEQUEL :D), I can only think of plot points and dramatic dialogues, but I have a hard time imagining where the sex will go (NO ONE TELL RAE). Of course, the sex scenes will end up in there and hopefully it will be longer and more involved and hopefully Rae and I will find that balance our readers are seeking.

That paragraph basically meant to say that I tried to turn Dark Horizons into a sci-fi romance when it was originally just meant to be a smut novel. The final product is an item stuck in limbo that may readers still love, and for that, I am grateful. All you people out there who haven’t read it, go give the story a try, but know going into it that the premise of the story is “How do we get these two characters to have lots of sex?” And when you’re done, leave a reveiw because I do cherish all of your constructive criticism.

I do have one favor to ask. If you review, please stop explicitly describing the sex scenes in your comments. For some moronic reason, I told my mother my pen name and then forbade her from reading the smut novels. Instead, she reads the reviews you lovely people write about my stories, and some of you plainly tell her what Rae and I write those characters doing, and I don’t need that in my life am somewhat embarrassed to know my mother knows what those stories contain.

But readers will do what readers do. Any review left is appreciated, and you can be as explicit or not as you want. Thank you for taking the time to read this rant. I sincerely hope those of you who read Dark Horizons enjoy it.

UPDATE: My fantasy epic / romance novel is just about done. I’ll be sending it off to the editor April 1. You can look for Chronicles of Osota: Warrior this summer. For those of you who prefer a longer, more traditional-style romance novel with lesbians, this story will offer more of that. It’s also about 40,000 words longer than Dark Horizons, so if you like sprawling epics, it’s good for that, too.

Thank you all for reading. I’ll try to update this blog more regularly with helpful writerly advice now that some of my more ambitious projects are out of the way.