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.

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Hooking the Readers

The other day, I walked home in the rain. Not a torrential downpour, but a good, hard rain. The kind that seeps slowly into your hair and clothes and rolls over your nose in slow droplets. I probably looked like a rejected hipster trying to profess their “ironicness” with the plaid button-up, the starbucks coffee in hand, and my cheap glasses that cannot decide whether they are thin or thick framed, but either way, the rain put me in a thinking mood and I realized something.

People really don’t want to read your original fiction.

They’ve gotta be forcibly dragged down to it and coaxed by promises of epicness that probably will not come true throughout the course of the story. Think about it. We look over a new book like a fish at the market: we pick it up, heft it for weight, take a peek inside to make sure there’s nothing rotten, ask where it came from, whether it was farmed or naturally occurring, then we set it down and pick up the one next to it because it looks prettier on the outside.

I know that my own book-reading litmus goes more like a thorough background check from the CIA followed by a rigorous interrogation routine. By the time I actually pick up that book or click on the link, I know the author’s bio, how many other books they’ve written, what awards they won including that 4th grade “best penmanship” prize, and I have seen a slew of reviews and recommendations. Then, without purchasing the material or committing myself to it, I examine said book, back and front, inside flaps, the first three pages. “How is the writing?” I ask. “Does it provide an adequate hook?”

You get the drill. I think the only time I do not hesitate to read a book is when I know the author personally or I have been asked personally to provide feedback.

The short of it is readers are tough sons-of-bitches to please. I recently spent a good deal of time writing fanfiction and reveled in the fact that I immediately rose to high status in that community. Fanfiction is different though. We’ve cut down to the specifics of what a reader is looking for and as long as you’re a good writer and are providing and engaging storyline or romance, you cannot go wrong in fanfiction.

Original fiction is another story, or so I’ve remembered. I recently revived my long-dead fictionpress name in order to give my fans something to drool over while I finish my manuscript. Having made a name for myself with two successful fictionpress novels already and the recently earned reputation on fanfiction.net, I thought I would have tons of readers.

Nope!

33 hits on the story. That was it. I did get one review, however, which stated the writing was good, but they did not know what to make of the story since they only had one chapter to go off of. They wanted to see more. I had hooked a fish.

It doesn’t matter if the first chapter causes a riot or not, as long as the reader has that little urge to click ‘next chapter’ or flip the page. That is what we as writers need to strive for, the ability to get readers to keep going to the next page.

I find that perhaps this post is fueled by my own anxieties as a teacher. With so much of the educational community online, I stress over ways I can get my students to read all the paragraphs I type out for them. This has resulted in a series of subpar pop culture references littered throughout my discussion posts. I’m in my early 20s and have become one of “those” old-timers out of touch with what is hip! Perhaps I should switch to my usual strategy of estranged literary references. Then I’m just weird instead of desperate.