New Book: Warrior

Yes, my newest book is now out. Thank you world. It’s finally done. Let me say thanks to everyone who helped me get here, first. Now, let’s talk about how happy I am.

This is my FIRST solo work I’ve ever written and published through a company. Makes me feel a little tingly all over. And the cover is soooooo pretty! *squee* Michael, my illustrator, is an amazingly talented man, and you all should read his comic found here

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this post is going to be highly unproductive. I have no words of wisdom to offer at the minute, just excitement over my book release.

Well… maybe a few words of wisdom.

Speaking of book releases and stuff, a friend of mine is in the process of querying agents for her book, and she is having the worst luck. No takers. Nothing. I’m pretty sure I’d have this same problem if I tried to pimp my novel to an agent. Anyways, she’s struggling to get her book out there, but she’s reluctant to self-publish or try alternative routes. Why?

I suspect one of the main problems is that self-publishing hardly feels like a legitimate route. But it is. Honestly, it is. I probably dislike the whole big-wig publishing system a little too much, but I firmly believe that independent publishing is just as legitimate for a good writer to pursue. It’s just as much work and money to advertise your book as it is to get an agent’s attention. Something I like about small press and independent publishing is that the writer and readers are directly connected. There’s no interference from the massive corporate entity that is best-selling publishing. Oftentimes, the bestseller’s list is predetermined by whoever advertises the most, but sometimes, you see a small-press or independent book break that mold. 

I want to see more of that happening. I want to see more writers flinging their work out into the great cosmos for no reason other than to attempt at having a conversation with another individual. I want writing to be about the connection between a writer and readers, not the relationship between a writer and their marketing campaign. I mean, don’t get me wrong, making money off of your books is the best thing ever (my beautiful car agrees; my shabby apartment, meh) but the book needs to be about more than making a quick buck.

Or… at least… I want it to be.

Let’s have some conversations about writing.

And if you’ve made it this far, here’s the link to my book, if you want it. Buy it or not, I don’t care, but I would like to talk about writing 🙂

Legit Publishing

So a little over a week ago, I published All The Pretty Things with my coauthor Rae D Magdon. We went through Kindle Direct Publishing figuring that it would be the fastest, easiest way to reach the few fans we managed to collect over the years. Fast-forward nine days and we’ve sold over 500 copies and are listed as #1 seller for kindle sales in Lesbian Romances. Crazy, right?

We did all of this ourselves, though. We didn’t send out query letters. We didn’t talk to agents, didn’t pursue publishing companies, didn’t do anything my writing professors advised. It was just us and the supportive community of the interwebs. Now the question is: are we legitimately published?

I think the answer is yes. I think this new form of indie publishing has gotten a bad reputation from the abuse of anyone using it, but I think if a professional approaches it in the right direction, it is just as legitimate as any other form of publication. That being said, I think indie publishing opens up authors to some shortcuts I do not advise them to take.

To begin with, there’s no one but you running the operation when you self-publish to an online format. That means that if you’re not looking for help, no one is going to edit your story but you, and that is not acceptable. I don’t think authors should go out and pay for a book doctor, but I think now more than ever writers need to network with one another and exchange resources with one another. Writers in groups will get access to five or six competent editors, some of them more often than not with degrees or real world experience. Someone asked me one day if I thought there was a loss of quality in writing through the self-publishing route. I think as long as a writer is working with other quality writers and editors, they have the potential to be just as high quality as a book that was published through a company.

Honestly, indie publishing is going to become a serious form of getting your book out there, just like kickstarter can be a legitimate form to fund serious projects. If writers get lazy, their work won’t sell. It’s as simple as that.

But it’s a hard gig. I sit here panicking once every few hours that I’m not doing enough to make sure it stays successful. I got into writing and publishing because I wanted to reach a wide audience. I wanted people to read my stories and find something worthwhile in them, and waiting to see what will happen in the next few months is tough. It’s the toughest thing I’ve had to do as a writer.

So, I hope I’ve provided some food for thought. If you like what I said, or disagree, go ahead and comment. I’m always happy to have a conversation about writing. And if you like lesbian romances, you might consider checking out the novel All The Pretty Things. You can comment on it through goodreads or amazon if you feel like. If not, Rae and I are always providing new and interesting fanfiction, always for free.

Indie Publishing – A How-To

Now that I’ve published a novel, I’ve gotten to reflect on the whole process of actually writing one and getting it out there in the world. I’ve also gotten the chance to spiral into panic attacks every now and then whenever I stop to think of what people might think of the writing.  I mean, it’s a little bit of a big deal. I wrote a romance novel. With lesbians. And BDSM. And one of the lesbians is a Republican! OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE?

But so far, the feedback has been positive, so apparently it has been a good thing. The novel has been selling better than my coauthor or I could have predicted, which is a little astounding, and even trying to think of what future sales might be is unfathomable at the moment. So why is indie publishing working for us? Why are we so lucky to be doing well when most indie books never sell over 150 copies and we’ve doubled that in a matter of days? (BTW, it’s All The Pretty Things. Check us out on amazon or goodreads!)

I think the answer lies in fanfiction. Now listen up class, here’s the lesson for the day.

Fanfiction is a legitimate form of writing. I honestly believe this. People constantly put it down as being a lesser form, or not real writing, but I think Rae and I have only done so well in our publishing adventure thus far because we have supported the fanfiction community so much over the years, and thus we have a built-in following. If I had any advice to give to writers looking to self-publish, it would be to start writing fanfiction. Write it now.

Fanfiction does an important thing in that it allows the exploration of otherwise impossible scenarios in certain worlds. It also allows a writer to work with a world that has already been built and focus on the character dynamics instead of world-building, which can be tiring and tedious work. It’s a good form of practice, and I think writers should be flattered when people choose their world of fiction to write a fanfic in.

Let’s go with a metaphor. You, the writer, are a young child. Your story, the world you have built, is this vast, ultimate sandbox that you have stumbled upon. The sandbox starts out empty, but you soon bring supplies to it like buckets and shovels, and perhaps the garden hose to make those structures stick together. If you ask your mom real nice, maybe she gets you those special molding kits for super castles.

Either way, as the time goes by you’ve made a pretty kick-ass castle in your sandbox. All the other kids think it’s the coolest thing ever, the perfect start to your new fiefdom. Some of the kids stop and comment on it, tell you how nice it is. You’re beaming with pride because your creation is being enjoyed by others.

And then one kid stops and asks if they can play in the sandbox with you.

You look around and see there’s some room left, but you’ve been thinking maybe you want to construct your village a certain way, and what if this kid messes up everything? What if they make a complete wreck of your newly constructed world? Well, too bad, because in the world of fiction, no one is going to stop that kid from getting in the sandbox and playing with you.

No one is going to stop a writer from producing fanfiction about your work if it’s good enough. And as long as they’re not earning a direct profit from it, what’s the problem? You might have an awesome time with that kid in your sandbox. You might have a whole bunch of kids help you complete the sandbox city you’ve planned out. Maybe you’ll exchange ideas. Maybe these kids will take note of certain ideas and take them home to use in their sandbox. Maybe you’ve just helped them become a better writer without even trying.

Fanfiction is the other kids wanting to play in your sandbox. You can invite them in, or you can be the brat on the playground and tell them to shove off, but the community of writers is a loving one, and doesn’t take kindly to uptight jackasses. I’m not saying everyone has a right to steal ideas, but I am saying everyone has a right to write. Fanfiction is a perfectly acceptable form of writing. It’s just as good as other writing, just as legitimate if done properly. The only difference is you will not earn a direct profit from writing it. You will, however, gain a loving and supporting community of eager readers.

So, find yourself a fandom. Read up on the popular fanfics. Get to the writing. If you don’t wanna write fanfics, then you better be a clever blogger or be the world’s most popular guy on twitter or tumblr, because these social media sites really are the only other way to draw readers to your indie book. I wish all indie publishers out there the best of luck, and invite you all to share your thoughts on writing, fanfiction, indie publishing, or whatever happens to be on your mind.

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.

Why We are Embarrassed about Romance Writing

The goods on WritingNot too long ago, a member of my creative writing group wrote for the first time a sex scene and read it aloud to us. Now, this person is a pretty decent writer. They were featured in an anthology before and is head of an editorial board this year. This person knows the craft. They just never wrote a sex scene before. What this writer read to us was atrocious, to say the least. When I gave feedback it was difficult to justify my opinion, however, considering I spent the whole reading complaining about the excess of cock (in a humoristic manner). I’m a lesbian and the scene was two guys going at it. Where do I have an opinion, right? How am I supposed to know what works?

Well, dear reader, hold on tight. Here comes the good stuff.

When we think of erotic fiction, what comes to mind first? Maybe 50 Shades of Grey? Or perhaps those $2 trashy romance novels at the used bookstore? Whatever it is, there is usually an accompanied sense of shame behind the thought of “erotic” romance writing. Women and men smuggle their romance books out of stores like they were loading up on bricks of cocaine or something. Decent people would not be caught reading that material, of course. And despite the social taboo, people do read it. It’s one of the best-selling genres.

With this social stigma behind the genre comes the problems for writers. Who would dare write such a thing? Usually people dismiss romance writing as an easy mark they dare not dirty their hands with or say sex scenes ae just too much for them to handle. They say they’re not qualified for whatever reason. Because the sex scene is granted this mystical status from writers, it often creates the most anxieties when people attempt to write it.

Which brings me back to our writer from the beginning. This sex scene was about 8 pages long and took place between two men. It covered a variety of activities and kept a good pace.

Despite this person’s ability, the writing fell flat. The characters were little more than body parts and the prose nothing but stitched-together buzz words meant to get a rise out of the intended audience (pun intended as well). But why did this happen? Why did the writer think it was all right or perhaps necessary to shove aside character building and meaning in the story when the characters decided to do the nasty? Another scene between the characters (not a sex scene) read beautifully. It made people cry. And the characters actually felt like characters. It’s not like they felt like two different sets between the scenes. It’s that the sex scene did not have characters.

Here lies the problem: we have somehow decided that good writing does not include the sex scene of a story. In fact, people often judge the merit of a romance novel by asking if the sex scene can be left out. If a sex scene is not regarded as necessary in any way, why bother writing it? This is where the sense of embarrassment can enter behind the writing. Somehow, this piece is just a load of fan-service, and a real writer would not bother with it.

This is wrong though. I think if a story is going to have sex scenes, they better be important in some way. The big thing about writing is to never include excess. If a scene is not essential, cut it away. Is that not the mantra of our generation’s writing style? That means the characters cannot just become body parts. Words cannot just be inserted because they are associated with pornographic images. Sex scenes should be used in stories to create a deeper sense of character or explore elements of the story the reader could not understand otherwise. Yes, we are provoking a physical response, but it should never be exclusive to a person’s sexual preference. That means there’s an emotional tie-in. We are emotionally invested in these characters, and that feeling should not disappear in the writing, ever.

Actually, I would like to issue a challenge to writers everywhere: include a sex scene in your work. Do not treat it like a shameful smoke-and-mirrors trick to garner more readers. Treat it like an important, integral part of the story that cannot be done away with and write it so that it needs to be there. It can be done. I have read stories where almost all the character development happens within sex scenes. I’ve read stories where there’s the one big sex scene, like it’s the pay-off for getting through the book. Make it more than that. Make it part of the story in a genuine way. The emotional bridge between a reader and the characters is too important to simply discard when scenes get a little intense.

So, I would also like to invite you all to share your thoughts on the subject. Did my rant make any sense? Do I have a point here? I think discussion is the only way to wade through difficult topics like this one.

Verbs for the Scene: Sexy Verbs

 

The “ins” and “outs” of descriptive language in some of the most intense wriitng situations.

While at teacher boot-camp, my cohort (what they call a collection of new teachers; it kind of feels like we should be banding together with the uruk-hai) and I were tasked to come up with collaborative projects for our students. While thinking, I remembered a student-initiated collaboration I took part in when I was a junior in high school: we created a list of the best verbs for writing sex scenes.

Every day, the seniors would begin with the list in comp class then rotate it out to us juniors in language. We passed it between one another as if we were smuggling contraband. We even started a list of un-sexy verbs. We all giggled behind our teacher’s back while we passed the note under our desks, the very same circle-time seating she enforced providing a speedy delivery system for our illicit composition.

I told my fellow new-teachers about this and it got a few chuckles, but I think this may be something legit. I participated in this list years ago, and I still remember the top ones and employ them in my writing accordingly. So this must have been an effective writing tool, right?

Okay, I confess I’m not going to have my students make up a list of best verbs used to describe sex, but I can make them create lists for other writing situations. And under the guise of this pen name, I can pursue my own inappropriate list without worrying. So, without further back story, I present a list of good smut verbs. (…which are not given in any particular order of importance)

1. Moan: It’s like the canon of smut words and runs the risk of being overdone, but this word is necessary in many sex scenes, especially for newbies writing sex scenes. We humans are very aural creatures. We like to hear things. Writing out what people say in sex is pretty good, but when it comes down to, “Ohgodohgodohgod,fuckyes,godyes” we can’t really write that out without boring the reader. And “ooooughnnnnnnah” or “nugnh” are equally disgusting. Summarizing with a basic “moan” works wonders and engages the reader’s imagination. Gasp, groan, grunt, and cry out are all good variations to this staple.

2. Thrust: Another canon. This word should only appear a couple times in any given sex scene, but it needs to be in there. It’s almost expected. It’s also dangerous in that it can encourage redundancy. Saying, “thrusting in and out” is unnecessary because to have a continual thrusting motion, one must be moving in two directions over and over. But, “thrust” is almost synonymous with “sex”, so I am including it in this list. Penetrate is never an acceptable substitute. It sounds like someone is getting stabbed.

3. Rock: It’s just one hot action, to rock into or against. For me, it has a good connotation. It’s also not very clinical, so it’s a good balancing word to scandalize your readers right when they think they’re beginning to read a gynaecology report. In fact, this is the part in the gynaecology visit where things turn into a bad smut novel. Ride is another nice one, but hard to work in, because rode in the past tense form has a different sound to it. I suppose grind could also fall into this category, but I’m not to partial to the word. It’s a little overdone in my book. Never use ungulate. It sounds like the character is giving birth.

4. Kiss: It’ll either happen in the scene, or it won’t happen for power-dynamics. Either way, a kiss or the lack of a kiss leads to all sorts of hotness. It also opens the door for more descriptive verbs like suck, glide, and slip. Kissing, it’s kind of important to passion.

5. Lick: Important for sex scenes in that it’s how the tongue usually interacts with the body. It also invokes the sense of taste. Licking is an extremely strong verb because it is tied to this sense. If you apply it to odd places, make sure your audience is up for the ride, because it can turn readers off quickly if not. Similar words like bite and nip focus in on the teeth.

Well, I sort of sectioned this off into five little categories, but I feel like I made a good start here. I want to make an installment out of this, perhaps include verbs for different scenes or address further questions people may have about this particular genre. Comments are welcome. Happy writing!