Countdown time!

Y’all, in less than ONE month, What it Takes will officially be out in the world. At this time last year, that book was one crazy hot mess of NaNoWriMo scribbles, completely out of order, 50k of who knows what. Next thing I know, I’m getting a starred review in Publishers Weekly and they’re saying it’s a “tender and beautifully written love story”.

And now….now it’s almost in your hands!

So, a couple of things. First, wanna enter to win a free copy? Head over to Goodreads right here. Free copies of books are awesomesauce, trust me.

Other thing: starting 10 days before release I’ll be tweeting snippets from the book. Keep your eyes out for that. I try to # that but you know, 140 characters is freaking short! I’m not known for my brevity. I’m short but can’t keep it short. Ya know what I mean?

Third thing: I’m on grad school break! I have 3 weeks of FREEDOM. Well, if you call getting book #3 in shape to turn in… This also apparently means I am drowning myself in romance novels. Feel free to recommend one to me if you want, I love new books.

Thing the fourth: I also was thinking about posting excerpts from the book about once a week if y’all are interested? Lemme know. Popular vote wins ūüėÄ

As a tiny tease, I’ll give you a small snippet so you guys can get a taste.

~*~

He wakes up and lives his life, but there are days when he doesn’t think he’ll ever get through without Andrew helping him breathe with light touches and easy smiles. If he ever let himself, if he ever gave in to the sweet, silver thread of longing he has for Andrew, he knows he would somehow end up breaking everything.

~*~

What it Takes is currently available for pre-order and will be out Jan. 14th.

Hush is currently for sale at Interlude Press Web Store
Amazon, All Romance, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Apple iBookstore, Smashwords, and Independent Bookstores

Origins, Part 1

I am belatedly going to announce and squeal over the fact that my first original novel went up for presale this Tuesday. It’s a great deal: if you purchase now, you’ll get the ebook bundle and the print copy for the price of the print copy alone!

Hush is a story about two young men:¬†Wren is one of ‚Äúthe gifted‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒa college sophomore with the power to compel others‚Äô feelings and desires. He uses his power as a game of sexual consent until Cameron, a na√Įve freshman, enters his life. As Cameron begins to understand his sexuality and gain confidence under Wren‚Äôs tutelage, Wren grows to recognize new and unexpected things about himself.

Hush is a sexy book. It’s unapologetically sexy: it was a lot of fun for me to explore ideas of consent and sex as a way to demonstrate character development, ideas of submission, consent, growth, trust and love.

This book started as a seedling, a tiny plot bunny that came from the song Dark Horse, by Katy Perry. I was driving my kids somewhere and it came on the radio. Listening to the lyrics I was struck by the way the song balances the idea of magic and the ability to compel, but also that the other person must make a conscious choice to submit to that magic. It’s a sensual song, no doubt. After hearing it a few times, I couldn’t help thinking writing a short story that would expand on the idea.

But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to really delve into the idea of consent. What would it look like for a person to agree to complete submission that was compelled from them: how to balance that magic with the idea of autonomy?

Because my brain likes to really complicate things, I started to imagine the people who would be involved in the story, and from there, Hush was born. Once I really started to get to know both Wren and Cam, it became clear that there was so much more to them than interactions¬†shaped around their sexual encounters. They both go through remarkable changes and experiences here, and there’s a lot more to their stories past the end of the book.

One of my favourite things to explore between them was the ways in which submission can shape dynamics between to people, and how powerful true submission is: the trust and the knowledge of limits and the gift you are giving back to a person. Submission can be individually motivated for pleasure, but also something shared, something that can speak with more resonance than words. Writing their increased intimacy and the pleasure they could each bring out and give one another was a great character building exercise and experience. Writing an alternate world where people have special abilities was a completely new and challenging experience for me. Stretching out of my comfort zone as a writer has always been a frustrating but ultimately wonderful adventure.

At it’s heart, Hush is a love story, and a story about growth, coming of age, and joy. But happy endings aren’t always smooth and easy journeys, and writing these boys going through them was a great experience.

Behind the scenes were many¬†adventures: the naming of this story has it’s own hilarious¬†back story. Creating this world and the idea of gifted people. The revelations about the characters lives that took me surprise in the actual process of writing it (pantsing squirrel alert). All of these are stories I can’t wait to share with you in the coming months.

Location (AKA also a character)

As a writer, I’ve struggled a lot with the question of location. There’s a lot of the world and this country that I’ve never seen (tragically, because I *love* traveling). In the past I’ve not been much of a researcher; initially because I was writing fast and hard for NaNo and rarely went back to the books for edits. But I did place characters in cities and states that served an important purpose for the characters and stories I was building. ¬†¬†

I do believe that location is incredibly important to the integrity of the story being told. For me, location is almost like a third character, silent but formative. It frames your story, it supports it in the background. It breathes atmosphere and often is a part of character growth and development. 

The first story I ever really researched for a location I’d never visited had scenes in London and Paris; I could not be *less* familiar with either location. But for both these locations in both were vital to the story.¬†

One of the loveliest things about participating in fan culture (which is where my writing really took off and picked up speed) is that it is a *gift* culture. Which means that when you need help, have questions, or a boost, there will generally be someone there to help you out. Having had a positive experience with help from other writers re: the story that took place in Europe, I decided to send out a call for help for locations in my current novel. I got so much amazing help, and for each person who offered advice, thank you, And also, sorry because big changes had to be made that kind of cut out sections that you all helped me with (eeep).

When I began this story, I’d never been to Chicago (a fact that seems to boggle everyone’s mind, as everyone here has been there at least once. It’s only 4 hours away and there’s train and bus routes).¬†So why Chicago then? Why not pick a location I am intimately acquainted with? (For those wondering, that knowledge would be limited to Florida, Michigan, and Ohio).¬†

I needed one of my characters, Wren, live in a city that was supportive of the *thing* that makes him special (we’ll reveal that in the future when we’re closer to publication) (isn’t it awesome how I’ve somehow become a magical we?) (I love parentheticals. Just submit to the insanity). Detroit? Not a city that would work in any way for this need. Other Michigan cities that support larger populations? Not necessarily what I needed either because they’re in no way what I would consider cosmopolitan (sorry!). Plus, Michigan is just too conservative for my needs. I didn’t want a huge city, such as New York, or an expected city such as San Fransisco. Chicago seemed like it might be a good fit, and in a fit of insanity, I figured I could probably travel there for some on site research. Research is fantastic, but I really would have liked to soak in the atmosphere.¬†

Remind me to tell you about my disastrous attempt to visit the city this past June. 

Anyway, Chicago it was. It was a good fit for Wren, but also, a very important place for my other character, Cam. 

Enter another location that I know *nothing* about: Nebraska. I’ll give that revelation a little time to simmer as you ponder just why I chose that state as Cam’s home state.

I needed Chicago to be a revelation, and I needed Nebraska to be a foil, and I needed them to support a character in the process of discovery on multiple levels. I’ll admit that I only managed to glimpse Chicago at a distance while trapped for over an hour in the worst traffic jam of my existence; this obviously really changed my plans and the way that I placed my characters and their interactions in the city — as I wrote the book, the city became very much a background character (with totally made up places). At this point, it’s more the *idea* of each location that became important. But still,¬†I stand by my assertion that location is a vital piece of my storytelling puzzle (here and in other books I’ve written. Or sort of written. Half written?)¬†

Of course, I am regret and anxiety filled, so now that the manuscript is in I worry that I haven’t done enough or filled things in enough. I guess time will tell. For my writer followers, how important is location in your stories, and how do you use location? For my readers, what are your thoughts? Do you find that location is important in shaping a story or does it depend?¬†

Risk vs. Reward

My goal with this author blog (well one) has been to try to update at least once a week, talk about craft, get chatty about process, and as we get closer and closer to the big day, let you know more about the book. So my apologies for spectacular fail last week.

The good news, while I left a few of you hanging, assuming you are that invested, is that the reason I was MIA was because I was burning the midnight candle completing the second draft of my manuscript, just in time for a little break before I dive into a third read before my due date (8/18, so close!). There are still a couple of scenes to be written, the most important of which take place in Nebraska, a state I almost nothing about. I do have someone helping me with that part, we’re just working on coordinating schedules to really nail down details before I tackle that piece. Plus, character development wise, it gives us a really important background context and insight into why one of our main characters functions as he does throughout the novel even as he’s going through many, many changes.¬†

Oooh lookie! I gave you guys a little hint: nameless character has ties to Nebraska. I’m sure this leaves you salivating for more (she says sarcastically, which is really not a great look on me, I don’t pull it off well). If you looked closely at the lovely picture I tweeted the other week, you can also find some character names spoiled there. I’ll leave you to ponder with bated breath which one of them is from where. Oh! In reading an old blog post, I realize I did drop a character name, so I’ll unveil my darling Cam. I won’t tell if where he’s from though.¬†

I’ve been thinking, as I closed out the end of this story draft and writing out the final scenes, about what themes I could really pinpoint in this story. I am *terrible* at summarizing and boiling down and such for my own work because I can be very tied to all the nuanced details and threads that I think are so important to the story. They all seem relevant m’kay??¬†

I spoke in one of my first blog posts about avian30’s Dream It, Do It challenge, and a novel theme I’d been working on: taking chances. But when I’d think about the boys I have here and their process over the almost three years their story unfolds, I realized it is not just that they need to take chances, but also weight the potential costs and benefits of taking big risks.¬†

In our lives, we’re often presented with choices that don’t have easy answers, no guarantees that one path will truly pan out to be the best course of action. Perhaps both seem overwhelming, or frightening, or carry the impending weight of difficult changes that must be taken. Often the cost just cannot be calculated. Maybe as we decide to travel in one direction, we’ll have to let go of something: something we’ve wanted, held dear, a perception of who we were or thought we were going to be. These are moments when taking stock of putting ourselves out there will be worth that risk, if the potential payoff will actually, you know, pay off. And then, for many of us, there’s going to be a grieving process for the thing we knew, the thing we didn’t chose; even if we perceive that we ultimately made the right choice. That’s not even to speak of times we realize that we’ve made the wrong choice.

Now I can’t tell you if these boys make the right or wrong choices throughout the book — that’s a journey I’d love for you to embark on with them.¬†

I would love though, to talk with you guys about times in your life when you were faced with a choice that carried risk. Did it pan out? Did it not? How did you handle that process? 

If you’d like to chat, I’d love to respond to asks and messages on the topic; anyone want to come play?

Dream It, Do It

So now that you’ve met me — as well as you can in a three paragraph blurb — we can get down to the nitty gritty.¬†

If you’re here right now, chances are it’s because you know me from my Glee fandom blog; I say this because I’m only starting out so I really don’t have exposure elsewhere (yet). So thank you all for following. This whole process is like a dream — I’ve still not really processed that I have a book deal, that I’m writing this manuscript, that sometime in the next year, I’ll be holding a novel that came from my brain and heart into my hot little hands.¬†

I have deep seated roots in fandom, but I thought I’d talk a bit about ¬†my history (and challenges and fears I have) as a writer. I also want to extend a little challenge and open my ask to some of your stories.

As a teenager, I wrote. I wrote poetry and some short stories and journals full of teenage pain (we’ve all been there). For the most part I’ve identified as a poet since my early teenage years. I studied poetry in college with a fantastically difficult and challenging woman. I learned here to love being held accountable to high standards, to being told with honesty when I’d messed up, and being expected to perform at my best.¬†

Fiction writing was a dream and a wish. I¬†knew myself as a poet. I never really believed I had the ability to sustain a story long enough to write something longer. I wasn’t even sure I¬†had stories to tell. One of the things I love most about poetry is the challenge of capturing stories and moments and even histories in fewer words. How to challenge conventions of grammar and expected usage to fit my needs. How to create something to sound a way, to make the reader feel something with a pause for breath, with a small line break, how to use words in ways they weren’t intended to. Fiction writing, in my mind, didn’t work that way.¬†

Then, one day in 2007, I re-read The God of Small Things by Arundhdati Roy. It was a book I’d fallen hard in love with when I read it in college. But re-reading it on my own terms — it was like a light bulb being switched on. Her use of language, the way she turns her sentences into art, and the way she tells a story in a way you wouldn’t expect are all things that helped me realize I didn’t¬†have to follow all the rules I’d accepted as unbreakable.¬†

I started two stories that day, each with different styles. One was a story that was straight forward with a clear plot and approachable style. The other was not. In the other, I gave myself permission to do whatever I wanted. 

I’d written about 17 pages of the first when one day, researching fiction writing while at work that I discovered National Novel Writing Month — which I call NaNo. NaNo is a project that encourages anyone to write a 50k novel in the month of November. It’s intended in part to challenge those who have always said “I want to write a book,” to actually ¬†do it. The only other person who I liked in my office had talked about wanting to write a book. I sent her the link and we said “yes, let’s get on this crazy roller coaster”. And we did.¬†

I’ve done Nano every year sine 2007, and completed my 50k word goal every year but 2008 — mostly because I had a 2 month old son and basically couldn’t think about anything but sleeping.¬†

I have five original novels on my hard drive languishing. The only story I’ve published in some capacity is fanfiction. Only one of the others has every been through and editing process or seen by anyone but me.¬†

Writing a novel for publication has always seemed like a dream, but never a reality. All I’ve ever heard was how hard it would be to get published. The woman I wrote the first novel with worked for years to get published — she got an editor after 3 years and then got dropped. She self publishes now.¬†

I talk myself out of things. I am excellent at it. ¬†I’m not afraid of hard work — but I am very good at giving up on things I really want because I’m scared they won’t come true.

When in December a good friend in fandom (seetheandtumble)¬†me she’d gotten a book deal with a co-writer (lettersfromtitan) whom I also knew, I about died with envy but also said, it will never happen for me.¬†And she said, why not? You can do it. (Side note: they are soon publishing the first of a few projects I am ridiculously excited about. If you want to know more about what they are working on, head over to avian30.com, where they have a fantastic little thing going called Do The Thing)¬†

A week later I was approached by Interlude Press. ¬†And that’s a story for another day and another blog post. Suffice to say, there was a deep rooted part of me that was really scared to say yes, and to take a chance on turning a dream into reality.¬†

For now I want to leave with this advice — dream it, do it — because that’s something I wish I’d been telling myself this whole time.¬†Don’t talk yourself out of something you want because you see the obstacles ahead of you. Fill yourself with knowing¬†and try. Take chances.¬†

Taking chances is a theme in the novel I am working on, and something I’ll be addressing as I move forward. As I wind up this ridiculously long post, I’d love to open the floor to any of you reading and ask what are your dreams? What are the chances you are afraid of taking? Let’s talk. My ask is open, and I’d love to hear from all of you.¬†