Purposeful Writing

Like every author, I have my own personal demons when it comes to writing issues. 

I have typos I make constantly. The same ones, over and over, so practiced that I can’t do anything but make the same mistake again. I have words and phrases I overuse and seldom catch even when I’m looking for them. I have an inner voice that occasionally likes to try to override the voice of the character(s) I am actually writing (that 20 year old kid from Jersey should not sound like a 40-something year old theater/lit major.)

When it comes to writing scenes, I sometimes have trouble with purpose. I’m blogging about that today because I spent a large chunk of the end of last week and most of my weekend hammering at a scene, feeling like I was forcing every line, my word count stuck in quicksand. As a result, I have just spent most of my morning trying to pinpoint my dysfunction. Have I been blocked? Do I need more coffee? Do I need skip the scene for now or to put the project away for a while? Do I need wine?

Last night, putting it away and having wine was the answer, because given my frustration at that point, the only other option was to hit the delete key. You know you need a break when you consider scrapping a project at 35K.

It’s taken me four days to get halfway through one scene. That happens to me sometimes, but most of the time I can trace it back to my kids, my wife, my day job, my bank account, any number of tangible distractions. This one has been baffling me. After I finally got annoyed with it last night I resolved to sit with it his morning and at least make a plan because it isn’t something I want to put on a back burner. So I’ve been pondering the issues I’ve been having with the scene over my coffee and at one point I thought, “Okay, maybe this scene just doesn’t need to happen, what is its purpose again?”

What is its purpose?

I have a couple of author friends/mentors who are experienced, habitual plotters. They clued me in to a very simple structuring formula not too long ago, for getting from point A to point B with less stress. It’s nice to be able to look at an index card and know what’s coming next, yet also have the ability to rearrange the cards or change and add things as the front end of the book develops. I’ve been using the bones of this method because there are things I like about it that work for me. But honestly? I am more of a seat of the pants writer.

There are a couple challenges that come along with the freedom of writing that way. I love that my work is “character driven”; that I don’t always know exactly where a character is going to take a scene, or how we’re going to get to the end of that scene. Sometimes I finish a scene all geared up for the next one, but sometimes the edits that go along with that are spectacular and have to be dealt with before I can move on. Once in a while everything comes to a grinding halt, and then I have to unravel it and figure out why.

My trick? I think about the scene, and I try to sum up in one sentence what the scene is about. Why am I writing it? What information needs to be conveyed? What needs to happen?

What is the purpose of the scene?

And by the time I’ve forced myself to distill it down to just a few words, I’m usually able to get to the bottom of what needs to happen next. I have changed events, a character’s reaction to something, I’ve moved the setting, and occasionally I am even able to just go “aha!” and start writing again. But today’s dilemma?

I’ve been in the wrong head. POV is so important. “What is the purpose of this scene?” is followed very naturally by, “And who do I want to convey it?”

So yeah, I have some rewriting to do. In this case, I actually need to scrap everything but the dialogue and sequence of events. But it’s already working better in my head and I know exactly how to write it now.

Hopefully, that little bit of insight is helpful for you while you mull over your Monday.

Creative Process – Coming Soon!

Hey all,

It’s been a busy summer. I sold one house, moved out, bought another and moved in, which is no small feat with two kids and two cats. But it finally happened and I’m trying to find my focus again. I did get a well needed beach vacation, and the new house is wonderful so I’m not complaining at all.

In the meantime, great things have been going on behind the scenes. My new novel, Creative Process, is due to be released on September 25th! It’s actually available for preorder on Dreamspinner’s website now, and I’ll put up links on the book’s page for everywhere else when I get them.

It’s a story about Reese, a best-selling author who is frequently owned by his muse (a detective dead set on apprehending a serial killer), and haunted by the ghost of relationships past. It’s also a story about Owen, a cellist who has finally landed a position with the symphony, a goal he’s been working toward since he was young despite the disapproval of his family. It’s a story about their chance meeting, the different ways artistic lives can interfere with and also enhance relationships, and about making love a priority.

Reese and Owen are surrounded by an eclectic group of New York artists and friends – writers, musicians, sculptors, mixed media, painters, etc. – who play a big role in helping them along to their HEA.

Click here for an excerpt, and to pre-order!

The Official Blurb:

Best-selling thriller author Reese Kelsey knows his career isn’t conducive to romance. He doesn’t work the normal nine-to-five, and sometimes his characters take hold and demand all his attention, causing him to neglect important appointments… and lovers. Rather than go through another heartbreak, Reese contents himself with his small circle of friends—fellow gay New York City artists—and his dedicated publicist, Chad.

Until he sees Owen Mercado lugging his cello toward the subway and impulsively offers him a ride.

Owen has worked long and hard for a career in the symphony, and success comes with a demanding schedule—something Reese understands. Their desires and lifestyles are surprisingly compatible, and Reese and Owen certainly set the bedroom on fire. They’re both carrying baggage, but they fit, and it’s hard not to hope for a future that once seemed impossible.

But when Reese’s work inevitably pulls him into its dark world and refuses to let go, Owen draws a hard line, and Reese discovers he can’t rely on good intentions alone. He will have to control the obsession that drove his other lovers away or risk losing Owen as well.

 

 

Deviations Audio: Interview with Maxx Power

In case you don’t know by now, Deviations: Submission has recently been released in audio!

Chris Owen and I took our search for the right narrator for these books very seriously. It was important to us that we get the right voices not only for Dominant Tobias and his sub, Noah, but also for Phan, Bradford, and Nikki, too. We listened to twelve voice actor auditions and then asked two of those men to do another small audition for us. We were so excited to be able to bring Maxx onto the project. Not only is he talented, but he’s great to work with. Those of you who have listened to the book know what I mean. If you haven’t, go listen to the excerpt here.

So to introduce you to Maxx, I asked a bunch of superfans over at the fan-led Facebook Group, Tobias Vincent’s Deviants, to give me some questions for him. Below are those questions, put together in a little interview format.

Enjoy!

1. How many read-throughs do you do before you do your final edit? 

Maxx: It’s usually about a 3-1 ratio. So if the book is 1 hour long, it takes me about 3 hours to complete it to where it’s ready for publishing to Audible.

2. How long does it take to get each character right in your head for it? 

Maxx: That’s a tough one. Some are easy. Tobias, was right away. Ironically it’s the exact same voice I use for my guided meditation sessions clients. I’m not sure what that says about how people out there are relaxing! Some take a long time to get right.

3. How do you keep track of what voice you use for each character, such as ones that only show up for a few lines in each book?

Maxx: Once you get it, you keep a short clip of that voice recorded somewhere like a phone or tablet, then refer back to it as needed

4. Is it difficult to voice a female character without sounding like a caricature?

Maxx: Yes! I try to use more inflection, rather than changing the pitch of my voice entirely, because that usually ends up sounding fake

5. Have you ever done a story with so many characters that the voices got confusing?

Maxx: Yes! I did a space drama where there were about 25 characters, none of them Human. It became a real chore to refer back to each one. That’s where my technique about keeping short audio clips of each was priceless

6. Has poor editing on the manuscript led to odd errors when you’re narrating?

Maxx: Yes! As someone with a degree in Journalism it always trips me up because I notice each and every error. Sometimes you just have to turn that part of your brain off and read it as written.

7. What’s the oddest named character you’ve had to try to pronounce?

Maxx: Ornagi. One of the aliens from the book I mentioned above. I wasn’t sure which letters were soft or silent. In the end I just made a choice and the author liked it

8. Have you ever had to narrate a story that you just didn’t enjoy? Did that make it harder to complete the project?

Maxx: Yes I have read stories I didn’t enjoy. It wasn’t any harder thought. As a professional I approach each book the same way, regardless of the subject matter or my personal tastes.

9. Have you ever loved a story so much that the narration was truly enjoyable and you didn’t want the story to end?

Maxx: All the time. Just like when you are reading for pleasure, you get attached to the characters. Sometimes, I find myself “thinking” in the character’s voice. It’s a very weird sensation, I can only equate to maybe mastering a foreign language? So, if you get fluent enough in Spanish for instance, eventually you’ll start reading silently with your own voice in your head in Spanish. Same thing happens to me with character voices!

10. When you’re working on a long project do you find yourself thinking in the voices of the characters?

Maxx: Oh, I see I just answered this LOL. Yes!

You can find Maxx on Facebook and Twitter.

Chechnya – What can you do?

Kadyrov has called for the “elimination” of the gay community by the end of May. – Pink News

Ramzan Kadyrov.

Don’t know that name? Google it. The head of the Chechen republic has a history of violence and human rights violations that go back more than a decade. Not only dies he inspire, incite and order others to violence, but he has personally participated in many of these incidents of killings and torture himself.

On April 1, I read a New York Times article reporting that gay men were simply disappearing in Chechnya. That authorities there were rounding up gay men and men suspected of being gay, and that one of the ways they were doing this was by doing things like posing as gay themselves online to trap people.*

Shortly thereafter came the reports of torture camps and detention centers.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I had a long

In that same article, a spokesman for Kadyrov denies the allegations calling such actions impossible:
You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic. If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.*

Over the next week, and in the weeks since, I’ve read article after article and blog post after blog post about this. I’ve seen aid organizations speak out about it. Several organizations are now doing whatever they can to assist these men. But do you know what I haven’t seen?

There hasn’t been a statement from the Whitehouse. Not one word. Why hasn’t Trump spoken out against Kadyrov? That’s a rhetorical question, of course, we all know why – but how can our government remain silent in the face of these horrific events?

Wait: Nikki Haley apparently did speak out against what she called “discrimination” and called upon the Chechan authorities to investigate the allegations.

If true, this violation of human rights cannot be ignored – Chechen authorities must immediately investigate these allegations, hold anyone involved accountable, and take steps to prevent future abuses.**

That’s not likely, since the “authorities” themselves are carrying out these atrocities. The inaction and doublespeak is nothing short of unconscionable.

And now? Kadyrov has called for the “elimination” of the gay community by the end of May (the start of Ramadan).***

GAY MEN IN CHECHNYA NEED OUR HELP NOW.

If you’re an author who would like to get involved, please sign up at Authors & Publishers for LGBT Chechens. There, you can also find answers to frequently asked questions about the auction, royalty donations, the charitable organizations that are helping out LGBT Chechens, and more.

If you are a reader who would like to learn more about the situation in Chechnya and how to help — including how to make a direct donation to a designated charity, buy a book from a participating author, or support the auction — please visit Readers & Writers for LGBT Chechens. You’ll find more information, as well as links and graphics you can add to your own blog, social media, or your website.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Chechen Authorities Arresting and Killing Gay Men, Russian Paper Says, New York Times April 1, 2017
** Nikki Haley: U.S. ‘disturbed’ by gay Chechnya arrests, Washington Blade, April 17, 2017
*** Chechnya’s president: I will eliminate the gay community by the start of Ramadan, Pink News, April 21, 2017

Finding Founder

I’ve set aside a few days to reread Founder, the one and only western I’ve ever written.

I use that term somewhat loosely because I know so much more about the genre now than I did back when I wrote it. I’m also just a better technical writer than I was then, too. To be perfectly frank, It started off a little rough, but it’s getting smoother as I go on.

The bits I researched about raising horses and horse farming are pretty good – accurate details, lots of nice visuals, proficient use of horse lingo, and realistic dilemmas. The writing in those chapters is solid. Sucked me right in. There are other scene’s too, where the characters are so focused and emotional that it becomes a page-turner. But Aubrey’s voice is a little inconsistent at times, sliding between Texan, the not-so-deep south, and suburban Yankee. OOPS. Not great considering he is the only narrator.

This story is so personal to me that I was reluctant to even to read it again. I remember being in Aubrey’s head when I was writing it and thinking, “no one’s gonna like this guy”, which is not a great thing for a romance. Usually. Personally, I think truthful and human are always likable qualities, and Aubrey has those things in spades. And since my characters are usually likable, so it was a struggle for me to walk that line.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing to look at something you wrote years ago and think, “Oh, I could do this better now.” In some cases, like the Deviations Series, the book is better left alone. I call that “honoring the work.” It’s not perfect, but it’s so good just like it is, even with those imperfections. Those pieces you leave alone, with no apology for anything. And in other cases, like this one, the bones are really good, but you get a vision of what it could be and it’s hard to let that go.

So, I’m planning a revision – one that may actually amount to a rewrite.

This is the first time in my life that I am reading reviews and listening to them. The reviews that are still out there on Amazon and Goodreads (still attributed to a publisher that cheated me out of a year’s worth of royalties, thank you) are good actually, but some of them had some constructive suggestions that could bring their 4 stars up to a 5, and since I’m bringing this one up to date, I’m going to take some of those suggestions. I’m going to add maybe 15-20K, which will include a couple of chapters from Kelly’s POV so he gets some screen time (and we’ll understand better WHY he cares about the angsty cowboy, even when Aubrey isn’t that likable), and expand the story a bit. Reluctantly, I’ve also put the possibility of a new title and a new cover on the table, as well (though I do so love the artwork). In any case, it might seem like a whole new (hopefully even better!) book when I’m done.

Assuming I can make it through this first reread without having a breakdown. 😉

New, and available for Preorder!

I’ve polished up and republished a hot little short story called “Handyman” in the first ever Sexy to Go Gay Romance box set! This set is a collection of nine stories ranging from contemporary to fantasy to mythical in nature, but all featuring sexy men.


About Handyman:
Danny is haunted by memories of his ex, Peter, who moved out six months ago. He recognizes just how badly off he is when he wakes up to a flood in his condo, a problem Peter would have easily handled. But Danny can’t find the insurance paperwork, he doesn’t know who he should call first, and he’s about ready to strangle his stoner upstairs neighbors. His day starts looking up, though, when a parade of workmen arrive to deal with the water, replace his breaker box, and demolish his soaked ceiling. They prove unavailable, though, until Ken, a handsome, friendly handyman, shows up to handle Danny’s drywall. But can Danny handle Ken?

 

Sexy To Go Gay Romance will be available for download on April 1.
You can preorder it now! Find your format HERE:

Deviations in Mobi, Epub, and PDF!

 

all

New Formats Available!

 

AT LAST!!

My beautiful and talented co-author, Chris Owen, has put the Deviations Series (and some of her own titles!) up on her website for sale in formats other than Kindle. You can now purchase Mobi, Epub and PDF formats directly from us!

The link to her cart is chrisowen.net/store/!!

Thank you all for your patience, and enjoy the new formats!

 

 

About that “A” in the acronym…

This started out as a facebook post, and then it got long and kind of personal and so I decided it was better on my blog.heart

I don’t usually like to get involved in hot-button issues like this because it tends to draw trolls and people who would rather argue with me than listen. But the more I read, the more I have to chime in on this LGBTQI “A” acronym debate. Please, when you read this, understand that I’ve been in this community since before any acronym existed at all. I have first-hand experience and knowledge of what I am telling you.

The GLBT acronym was adopted by the gay community (at least in NYC where I was living) in the very late 80s/early 90s, and it was adopted because it was rightly felt that the term “gay community” was no longer inclusive enough or fully representative of who we were. So – again I’m old enough that I remember all of this personally – we all started using the four-letter acronym and feeling very positive and inclusive about it. Some of us (like *cough* me) quickly switched it up to LGBT because it felt very feminist to put the women first. 😉

Not long after, mid-90s I would say, the community began adding the letter “Q”, which at the time meant “questioning”, and then very shortly after that came to represent both “questioning” and “queer”. One letter, two meanings. It took a short while for the community to widely embrace that letter because it was kind of like a big game of telephone – you didn’t know about it until you heard it from someone who heard it from someone else, but we got it, and then we all felt very positive and inclusive about that, too.

I remember very clearly adding the “A”. At that time it meant “ally.” It undeniably did. I don’t even recall the term “asexual” existing at the time, at least not in my circles. I remember clearly that we used it to mean ally when I lived in NYC, starting later in the 90s. I realize that in 2016 using it that way is controversial, but in 1998 it wasn’t. It absolutely meant “ally”, and man, did we need our allies. So, it was our way of honoring them and we encouraged our allies to be as proud to be openly accepting as we were to be LGBT&Q. And we all felt very positive and inclusive about THAT.

Then the “I” came along after that, and has always meant “intersex” as far as I remember. About the same time (or maybe just after) people starting coming out more and more as asexual, and the “A” started to represent “ally” and “asexual”. One letter, two terms – just like the Q. So then we had LGBTQIA. And yes, the “A” still meant ally.

I used that acronym for a long time, and then many of us added a +, which, if I’m not just using “queer” as all-encompassing, is my preference today: LGBTQIA+.

Very recently, I learned that many people also use the “A” to mean “arosexual”. I’m good with that. It’s inclusive. And that has, all along, been the whole point of even having an acronym.

I would love to find an acronym that encompasses all of us, wherever we fall on the spectrum, because despite the fact that I am older, and so, in some senses “old school”, I believe the arms of our community are wide enough for everyone who wants to consider themselves a part of it. But the fact is, if we try to come up with an acronym that suits us all, pretty soon there will be so many letters that the acronym becomes useless. I mean, what about our pansexuals? What about our gender non-conforming folks? What about our gender non-binary friends? What about all the lovely descriptors I haven’t mentioned?

And after we’ve encircled all of the beautiful diversity in our community within our ever-strengthening arms, are you really going to argue with the “A” also encompassing our amazing, activist, truth-speaking, open-hearted allies who defend us and set a shining example of the way we deserve to be treated?

Come on. Really?

I get that our straight, cisgender allies are not on the “spectrum” of queer people, but how far do you think our community would have come without them? We’re big enough and strong enough and OUT enough to fight our own battles for the most part now, sure. But when we depended on them, we were more than happy to include them. We still need them today.

So okay, I might be old enough to be your mother, and yes, sometimes my community changes so fast my head spins. But I adapt, I change my vocabulary, I broaden my thinking every day not only because I want to, but also because it’s my mandate as a person represented by that acronym. I don’t think it’s unfair of me to ask those in my community, in turn, to acknowledge that there was a time when just LGBT was kind of mind-blowingly progressive in and of itself.

Like queer couples marrying, like people using bathrooms that best suit their identity, like all equality, an ally’s desire to be part of our acronym has no bearing on your place in it.

Those activists, my friends, that were the ally in the letter “A” all those years ago will always be the ally in the letter “A” to me. I owe them the same inclusion that they freely offered to me.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Deviant Talk

stableInterested in talking about the Deviations books? The men? The lifestyle?

I’m really excited to announce that the Deviations Series now has a fan group on Facebook! It was started by an awesome fan and membership seems to be growing daily. Come join!

Chris Owen and I stop in now and then, and every few days I’m posting wee snips of the prequel that I am working on about Bradford and Nikki. People are discussing favorite scenes, characters, similar books by awesome authors, lifestyle questions and observations… all kinds of stuff.

If you’re interested in checking it out, it’s a closed group and you can find it here: Tobias Vincent’s Deviants.

 

Review – Deviations: Submission!

lbrLOVE BYTES SAME SEX BOOK REVIEWS gave Deviations: Submission 4.5 hearts! Vicki said, “It has what I look for in a book: Great characters with lots of depth.”

I really enjoyed the thoughtful review. If anyone is interested, as Vicki seems to be, in more of Noah’s “inner monologue”, check out the Free Reads section of my site for some of his journal entries.

I’m so excited to see reviews for the re-release of the Deviations books popping up, and I love that they seem to hold a place in so many readers’ memories.We’re really glad to have been able to get this series back out there.

submission

 

Read the review HERE.

Buy the book HERE  (link to Amazon, but watch this space! Other formats coming soon!)