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.

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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: http://www.springhole.net/writing/marysue.htm

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

Lesbian Romance Book Reviews!

Back again? So soon? Yes, I am still free from the clutches of my other job, so I intend to provide more content for you all before I once again am sucked into the labors of a 9-5 job. Anyways, I have been spending my newfound free time goofing off researching by reading some romance novels and not-so romance novels. As a treat to my readers, I would like to leave some short reviews on these and explain what I found nice about them; perhaps highlight some takeaway points for aspiring writers. And, of course, they all feature lesbian couples as the main interests.

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Book One – A Place to Rest by Erin Dutton: This was the first novel I uncovered for my romance reading frenzy. I found it at a local bookstore, and picked it out mostly because it sounded relaxing. The synopsis on the back details the conflict for the main character, Sawyer, who finds herself attracted to the new pastry chef of her family’s restaurant. Sawyer’s pregnant sister ends up requiring help running the family business, and romance soon blossoms between her and Jori (the aforementioned pastry chef).

What do I think of it? It was cute, sweet, and low on the drama level. Positively predictable in terms of the happy outcome, but charming nonetheless in a low-stress way. I picked it out right before I went out to breakfast, and spent a few hours in the café with a cup of coffee while I read through it. Honestly, it was the best morning I had enjoyed in a long time. This is also probably an excellent indicator that I’m getting old. I actually enjoyed reading a book out a breakfast by myself. I reveled in it. My teenager self would have thought me pathetic. But I don’t care. It was bliss.

Anyways, back to the novel. I ended up giving it a five-star review on goodreads, but many people will disagree with that rating and give it four or three, which it is probably more deserving of. What I liked about this story was that it provided something soft for me to read while I was coming down off the stress-tornado I had been battling just a few days before. If you are looking for a cute story about two women in love with minimal sex scenes, this is a good one to go with.

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Book Two – Sequestered Hearts by Erin Dutton: Another book by the same lady. I liked the first one so much that I looked up some other books of hers on my nook and downloaded this one. The story features a journalist and an heiress / famous painter, and while the beginning of the novel is the most slow, painfully enraging thing to crawl through, the rest of the story became quite enjoyable once the characters attempted functioning outside of the private cabin they first got to know each other in. Overall, I found it deep, and a bit more of an emotional rollercoaster than the first one, but just as enjoyable. The characters were interesting once they got over their bout of stupid in the beginning, and their relationship development was interesting.

What I found interesting about this novel was that it played with a specific medical disability, but awkwardly introduced it in the beginning, though the premise seemed promising enough. What I would liked to have seen was a slower build-up in those initial pages, but for plot reasons the characters shared a kiss early on, which felt more forced than anything. What I’d like to emphasize here is that emotions need to be earned between your characters. The smooching can’t just start because you feel like it’s as good a time as any. You cannot also rely on it as a plot device at the expense of the characters, but I highly advise against this. Character’s actions and their believability must come first before anything else. Without it, how can we ask a reader to suspend everything else just to pay attention to what we have to say?

Overall, still a wonderful story if you want a romance novel with lady love.

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Book Three – Battle Scars by Meghan O’Brien: I have read some works by this author before. In truth, this has been sitting on my shelf for a while and my partner has been pestering me to read it. After being less than impressed with O’Brien’s book Infinite Loop, I tended to stay away from her romance novels. Her erotica novel Thirteen Hours is brilliant, by the way, if you want something decently readable and basically just a bunch of sex scenes. Battle Scars proved to be a pleasant surprise with deep characters and an engaging dynamic between them. Ray is a veteran coping with PTSD, and Carly is a veterinarian. Their paths cross, and you can guess what happens from there.

Honestly, this book is probably the most tightly written compared with the previous two, and the stakes are the highest between the two characters, causing it to be  bit more intense of a read, but if you’re looking for something still on the fluffy side, it’s definitely a lighter romance novel, despite having stronger tones than the previous two. And there are adorable puppy dogs in it, and someone drew fan art of said adorable puppies with the main characters.

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And a Comic? Alabaster by Caitlin R. Kiernan: Ever since the 5 issue Alabaster series ran with Dark Horse, I have been buying the Dark Horse Presents comic anthologies religiously to keep up with the “Alabaster: Boxcar Tales” featured in each volume. The Alabaster series follows Dancy Flammarion, a teenager with issues. In the first comic (waaaaaay back), she’s almost eaten by a lovely werewolf lady, who she kills. The werewolf woman comes back as a ghost, and the two quickly settle into the routine of busting up the antics of other monsters, killing the baddies, normal things that werewolf ghost / monster hunter duos do.

*Spoilers*

I know it sounds weird, but the story is intense. This is literature, not fluffy romance. It just so happens to feature a soul-crushingly, desperately longing unrequited love story between these two later on in the series.

And might I just say, I called it? It’s a beautiful story, and if you’re willing to track down all the loose Dark Horse comics (or digitally download them) it makes for a wonderful read, and you’ll feel better for it after, because the story is complex and leveled with metaphors I have a hard time keeping track of sometimes, but when it all comes together, it’s worth it. If you want some comic book lesbians that aren’t Batwoman (don’t get me started on the rage I feel about JH Williams leaving), this is a good series to check out, and it’s not too long, featuring only a handful of issues or short entries in anthologies.

*End Spoilers*

No More Books! That’s all I’ve read between last week and now. Not too bad, actually. Just wanted to provide some material there. What I’d like to say about these books in terms of writing is that they do a damn good job because they show organic relationships between the characters. With some very brief exceptions, nothing feels forced between the characters. They were created to naturally flow with their decisions.

This is what good writers do. You should never force your character to do something that feels off, or like they would actually do, for the sake of the plot. One way to tell you might be writing your character into this problem is if you keep writing around a scene, or tweaking everything else in the story to make this one cool idea you had fit. Think about it for a few days. Give yourself some distance, and if that idea still seems crucial to your story, look back and see how you can earn whatever it is you’re trying to make the character do.

Before I end this, I’ll offer a quick update on projects. Chronicles of Osota: Warrior is scheduled to release in January, still. I don’t have an exact date, but it will happen. I should resume normal updates on my side projects (ie, the free-to-read stuff posted on the interwebs) sometime in the next day or so. Just trying to catch up on everything. Leave a comment if you have questions or thoughts. What is your favorite lesbian romance novel? I’d love to read some more before the break is over. It helps me improve my own writing when I read a wider range.

Niche Markets

A blog by my friend Kellie. Sure, she mentions me in it, but she says some important things, too.

Have Pen, Will Pen

I recently read an article about how it’s better to write a ‘big’ first novel, then to write a little one. I don’t mean big as in 500,000-word wise, I mean one that is destined to do well with all the markets because it’s aimed at the markets. This writer actually says to stay away from writing a book that has a limited readership – meaning religion, gaming, fanfiction, etcetera – and to try to ‘launch big’ – get a high advance, sell hardcover books, and take the current literature tastes into account. If you don’t ‘launch big,’ you might become pigeonholed as a ‘small’ author.

My response?

Ummm… No.

While the article does bring up some good points about how the ‘bigger’ authors will get better slots (think J.K. Rowling back in the Harry Potter days or Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games), it got me thinking about the ‘smaller’…

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Published?

Where have I been, internet? Possibly living in a dark cave and writing thousands upon thousands of pages of unpublishable material? Maybe. A little bit. Basically. Yeah…

But I’m published. That’s the important part. All The Pretty Things started out as an incomplete, all-but-abandoned draft by my coauthor, Rae D Magdon. After coauthoring several short pieces with her, we decided to revisit this older, promising manuscript and revise it together. The result was a published e-book as of today, August 7.

Warning, shameless plug imminent:

All The Pretty Things is a self-published novel available to download for the kindle or any kindle reader app via the amazon bookstore. Since the kindle app goes on anything, you theoretically can read it on what you’re reading this post on. Just search the title plus the author names, either Rae D Magdon or Michelle Magly, and it will pop up.

End shameless plug.

Okay. Now to dish. How was self-publishing? Pretty great, actually. With a coauthor and horde of writing friends all armed with degrees in English, composition, or a variation on either, we had quite the editorial staff at our disposal. Self-published books have a reputation of being unprofessional. We worked hard to make it very professional. 

Formatting was also a large process. We spent hours upon hours of formatting. I read two guides on how to format properly. This story looks nearly identical to any other professionally-produced e-book, minus the extensive front-matter of legal jargon. 

Is self-publishing for everyone? No. Rae and I have an extensive following online, and we work hard to advertise our writing. It takes a lot of work and a lot of writing that you might not be paid for. It’s a tough gig, but if it works for you, it’s an excellent method of publication. Totally recommended. If you choose this path, make sure to use the resources available. Read the free information available about publishing by yourself. Smashwords has an excellent guide.

As for our story in particular, it’s primarily a romance novel housed within a crime drama. There are lesbians, and there are scenes not appropriate for younger readers. You’ve been warned. If there’s anyone with questions about the kindle direct publishing service, ask and I’ll answer to the best of my abilities. Thanks for reading.

NaNoWriMo is approaching!

Last year, a certain time-sucking video game released on November 11 (coughskyrimcough) and in preparation for it, I spent all of October doing my homework before the game released so I could spend more time playing it. This year, November is all about Nanowrimo for me (National Novel Writing Month) and I’m in it to win it, or so I’d like to think.

Nanowrimo is the challenge to write 50,000 words within the month of November within a single novel, a new novel that has no prior chapter written. Of course, we can bend this rule to make allowances, but you get the idea: 50,000 words. They gotta be in a story. Every year I delude myself, saying, “I can do this!” and every year I collapse into a mess of tears and failure right around November 15 or so. I think the most I got out ever was 30,000 words. Does that make Nanowrimo a waste of time? No! Those 30,000 words, or 22,0000, or 17,000 might be “failed” attempts, but I got something out of them. I got stories that I could continue to work on. That’s why we march into Nanowrimo every year with the unrealistic expectation of completing it and feeling okay with ourselves when we drop out. This year, though, I’m getting some strategies together:

  1. Bring some friends: sucker other people into doing this with you. That way, you have a support system in place to back you up and encourage you every step of the way. It also makes the event more fun when you host Nano parties with them or just general get-togethers.
  2. Plan: Spend the last half of October laying out some groundwork. Think out your story. Decide what you want to happen in it. Jot down notes and outlines. Most importantly: get a list of character names assembled beforehand. I cannot tell how many hours I have spent trying to think of the perfect name for a character. If you don’t have one ready while you’re writing, throw in a generic, a standby that you can fill in later. The writing train doesn’t stop for anything in November.
  3. Write over the daily amount, always: If you do the math, 50,000 words comes out to about 1667 words each day in November. Keeping that in mind, you should always write more than this, always. There will be a day where it is physically impossible for you to write anything. There will be stretches of days like this, so make your writing time count.
  4. If you fall off the wagon, don’t stress: You might not make it to 50,000, and that’s okay. Most people who make it to the end of Nanowrimo either have a lot of time on their hands or give up any semblance of a social life. It’s okay if you don’t make it. Most people go in knowing in the back of their minds that the might not get all the way through. The point is that you tried and you have something new for it.
  5. Get everything else done first: You know you have some things to do in November. Do them now if you can. They can’t trip you up during Nano if they’re not around to do it.

These are a few starter tips that I employ when prepping for Nanowrimo. I hope someone has a use for these. Or perhaps someone has more helpful ideas! I’m open for sharing! Let me know!