Monthly Archives: December 2010

New story and more reviews coming in

So, I’ve been waffling back and forth between two story ideas, since finishing the first draft of my (still unnamed) cyberpunk story.  One is a Christmas story intended for submission to Dreamspinner for next year’s Advent Calendar anthology.  (Yes, it’s already open for submission.)  The other is just a light-hearted sex romp. 

The Christmas story began as a light comedy, but as I’ve developed the story further, it’s taken on a bittersweet romantic tone.  It has a happy ending, but as things got weirder in the story, I decided I wanted to mull it over a bit more, before writing it.  The sex romp — a story of two college roommates who agree to have sex in a porn video, tentatively called Zack and Larry Make a Porno — caught my interest, sheerly because it promised a bunch of raunchy fun.  So, that’s the one I’m currently working on.

Yes, I know — when Erich heard the title, he didn’t exactly groan, but he gave me an I-don’t-know-about-that-one look and said, “Something tells me, I’ve heard that title before.”  I assured him I’m covered under parody law.  I’m not sure I’ll use it, anyway.  But I probably will use the names Zack and Larry, so anyone familiar with the brilliant Kevin Smith film will get the joke. 

The story brings up another matter that’s been bothering me, though.  I don’t mind writing fluff…I guess.  But I like to think that my stories — even the ones with sex in them — are first and foremost good stories.  If they contain sex, then the sex is just something extra.  But it could be removed without damaging the story.  This, to me, is the distinction between erotic stories and porn.  I don’t mind porn, but I don’t think that’s really what I want to be known for.  I want people to read my stories and be caught up in the plot and the characters, and generally in the romance.  If someone happens to enjoy the sex scenes in the stories, great.  But that’s not my primary goal.

Is Zack and Larry more than just a loose framework for a bunch of porn scenes?  I wish I knew.  I have to admit, I’m enjoying the story because it’s raunchy.  But does it have any other redeeming value?  

I’m reminded of the explicit sex scene in John Cameron Mitchell’s Short Bus, in which Jamie, James and Ceth attempt a threesome.  The scene has to be explicit, because the humor revolves around the awkwardness of the situation, and the fact that our heroes have no idea what to stick where.  The scene is hilarious, and more importantly, it demonstrates how James and Jamie are trying desperately to save their relationship.  That’s what raises an explicit sex scene above the level of pornography: it’s an intrinsic part of the story.   

Hopefully, as I write it, the characters in Zack and Larry will take on a life of their own and there will be something going on between them that makes the story worth reading…as something other than masturbation material.

In other news, more reviews have come in for both The Christmas Wager and The Meaning of Vengeance.  Some good; some not so good.  The two worst reviews were 3 out of 5 stars, and both reviewers seemed to like the stories. 

The comment on The Christmas Wager was that it was “delightful,” but the major plot twists seemed forced.  This is, perhaps, a valid criticism.  I was less concerned with the plot in that story (which is, admittedly, rather formulaic) than I was with the romance developing between Thomas and Andrew.  This is, in fact, the real story.  It’s this story arc which requires action on the part of our heroes, in order to resolve successfully.  The story of the wager itself is resolved fairly easily.

The 3 star review on Vengeance was a little harder to fathom.  Apparently, he had thought the story was about the mafia, based upon its title, and that had intrigued him.  So he thought it was okay, but it wasn’t what he’d hoped it would be.  That’s fine, but it seems odd to me to read a story intended for a particular audience, then mark it down specifically because it was intended for that audience.  I didn’t write Vengeance for people who like stories about the mafia.  I wrote it for people who like Vikings.

On the plus side, The Christmas Wager has received two 5 star reviews from people who don’t generally like historicals, but fell in love with the characters.

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Filed under Christmas, Romance, Victorian, Viking, Writing

Great reader review for “The Christmas Wager” on Amazon!

A reader posted a terrific review of The Christmas Wager today on Amazon!

With Christmas upon us, I haven’t had much time for writing.  But I’ve at least been plotting a Christmas story for next year.  It’s been gradually morphing from a light comedy into something with a more emotional center to it.  But I need to work out some of the details, before it will make sense.

Merry Christmas and a Happy Yuletide!

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Another good review!

The Meaning of Vengeance is doing very well, so far.  I just picked up another wonderful review from Jeff at JeffandWill.com!  My rating at Goodreads has climbed up to 4.25 out of 5 stars!

On the same site, The Christmas Wager has picked up one 5 star rating!  No reviews yet, but it was just released, of course.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that people like it as much as they seem to like Vengeance.

I have a friend currently reading my first draft of my as-yet-unnamed cyberpunk story, and in the meantime, I’m getting back to a Christmas short story idea I have for next years Advent Calendar anthology.  I might as well get most or all of it written while I’m still in the Christmas spirit. 

Of course, I find myself in the Christmas spirit about four times a year, but that’s beside the point.

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Another great review for “The Meaning of Vengeance”!

The review site BriefEncountersReviews has just released a review of The Meaning of Vengeance, giving the story a B+!

That makes the fourth review and/or reader feedback I’ve received, giving the story good marks.  I can’t say enough how delighted I am that this somewhat dark story seems to have to struck a chord with readers.  The Viking Age Iceland setting appears to interest people, at least because it’s unusual.  And the slow, careful development of the romance between the two characters has been commented on several times (in a good way). 

Last night, despite earlier problems with their website, Dreamspinner Press released my novella, The Christmas Wager.  This novella is very different from The Meaning of Vengeance, so I don’t know what kind of reception it will get.  It was really written as a fun exercise, to see if I could pull off a Christmas Regency (well, it ended up being Victorian, due to some elements I wanted to include), but with gay characters. 

It’s not an original idea.  The author, Erastes, had written a gay Regency novel called Standish, which I read and liked a lot, but it was very dark — so dark, in fact, that I had difficulty finishing it.  (Ultimately, I went back to it and I’m glad I did.)  At Dreamspinner, Connie Bailey and J.M. McLaughlin wrote a short story called Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, which I enjoyed.  I’m sure there are others — possibly a large number of others.  But at any rate, it was a fun exercise and I enjoyed writing it.  I was thrilled when it was accepted for publication. 

I’ve received a number of comments (in forums and such) that people are tired of Regencies, so I’m a little concerned about the reception of The Christmas Wager.  The same reviewers who like Vengeance might very well consider Wager to be trite and riddled with cliches.  I’m dreading a review like, “While his first story showed some promise, this latest offering by…whatever his name is…proves that we should never buy anything this author writes in the future.  Ever.  In fact, I think I’ll call the publisher right now and have him boycotted from publishing anything in the future.”

 

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My novella, The Christmas Wager, is now on sale!

I’m sure there are hundreds — nay, thousands! — of potential readers around the world who have been waiting in anticipation for this moment.  Yet, it was almost not to be.

Dreampsinner Press has been having trouble with their website.  I won’t go into the reasons, but I would consider it to be a completely technical issue that was more or less beyond their control.  And they’ve been working around the clock to fix it.  It’s at least partially back online — the link above should take you to the store, even though the main page seems to still be broken.  It would, of course, happen just as my novella is about to be released. 

I’ve been concerned about the fact that it will only be available for three days, before Christmas day.  It will be available after that, of course, but how many people are still in the mood to read Christmas stories after the 25th?  (Well, me, for one, but I’m a freak.)

I completely understand that Dreamspinner has a lot of novels, novellas and short stories to put out the door this month, so not everthing could become available on December 1st.  So, yeah, I’m whining.  Let me reiterate that I love Dreamspinner and I am very happy to be working with such a wondeful publishing house for my first published stories.  But I also want readers!

So read The Christmas Wager!  Please.

My short story, The Meaning of Vengeance, has been doing well, in terms of reviews.  So far, no bad reviews, and three people have publicly praised it.  One wonderful reader even sent a note to Dreamspinner about it!  I am very grateful, and delighted that people are enjoying the story.  The Christmas Wager is a very different animal, told in what is, for me, rather flowery “Victorian” prose, and concerned with the dire consequences of failing to put on a proper Christmas ball, rather than, say, the paltry matter of falling in love with your brother’s killer. 

But I found it entertaining and funny, and hopefully readers will, as well.

In the meantime, the Raymond Town Clerk finally has all of the proper paperwork to issue us a marriage certificate!  I will be going down there tomorrow morning and hopefully buying three copies — a couple for us to keep, and one to lock up in the Tower of London.  Or maybe the vaults under the Vatican.  (Now, wouldn’t that be a hoot?)

My blog issue has, I hope, been “fixed” by changing to a different theme, which has a white background behind the text.  Erich figured out the problem with the other theme, but it isn’t something we can fix, and the developer doesn’t appear to be reachable.  Too bad.  I liked that theme.

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Why is blogging this ridiculously hard?

So, setting up a wordpress blog seemed easy enough.  The themes are limited, as they were in LiveJournal, but at least you aren’t spammed constantly like the victims of LJ are.  However, linking my RSS feed to Facebook has proven to be a challenge.  I followed some instructions someone posted in a forum I’m in, and it seemed to work.  At least, it imported the last five wordpress blog entries and displayed them on Facebook.  The implication was that new entries would appear on Facebook, as well.

Not so much. 

When the next blog entry failed to make an appearance, I poked at it for a bit and discovered an app called Networked Blogs, which appeared to do what I wanted.  Again, it seemed to work.  We’ll see what happens when I post this on wordpress.

But people have been complaining that, if they click on a blog link, it takes them to my wordpress blog, but the text is illegible.  This turns out to be because the page neglects to load the dark gray gif image that’s supposed to appear behind blog text.  Since the text is white (or light gray), without this dark background, it’s impossible to read on top of the Christmasy blue and white snowflake background I’ve loaded.  The annoying thing is, that dark background loads fine, if you go to the blog directly, by typing the address into a browser.

This makes little sense, and examining the CSS hasn’t illuminated the situation.  So I decided it might work better with a different font color.  But changing the font color, I’ve discovered, after browsing online for a while and reading forum postings, is nigh impossible.  Considering the fact that the two main things all users want to do with things such as a blog, appart from blogging, would be to change the background and the font color, I can only chalk this up to the developers of wordpress being completely and utterly out of touch with their users.  Possibly with the entire fucking planet.  What…the…hell?!

But I’m not bitter.

I could set up (or get Eric to set up) the opensource wordpress code on our home server, and since I have the domain name “jamiefessenden.com” registered (don’t bother checking it out, just yet — it’s empty), this might be a good way to do things in the future.  But for now,  I just want my current blog to work.

I mucked about for a while with different themes, finding nothing I liked.  Then the damned thing wiped out all of my widgets, so I need to put my book references back in place.  That’s hampered by the fact that Dreamspinner is currently working on their website. 

This should not be this hard.

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Finished the first draft of my cyberpunk story!

I still have no idea what to call it.  I have a bad habit of always naming my stories “The _____”:  The Sacrifice, The Resurrection, The Kiss, The Blind Date, etc.  (The Kiss eventually became Boundaries of Attraction, after an off-hand comment my friend, Claire, threw out during a script meeting, and The Blind Date eventually was renamed Sunny Cafe, after the diner where the action takes place.)  This story has been going by the working title The Bodyguard, which doesn’t indicate that it’s cyberpunk and says nothing interesting, at all.  I’ll have to work on that.

The story also needs some rewriting, of course.  I don’t think it will require much, since my stories tend to be fairly polished, by the time I get to the end.  It’s my habit to keep going back over what’s been written, as I’m working on it, so by the time it’s finished, most of it has been revised several times.  But this one took some unexpected turns near the end, with one character revealing secrets I hadn’t known he had.  So now I have to go back and make sure that’s consistent with what happened earlier. 

The romance could also use some tweaking.  By the last few paragraphs, I think I had the character motivation pretty well figured out, but now I need to go back and make sure all of that is adequately foreshadowed.  I always hate it when two characters proclaim that they love each other for no apparent reason, other than that’s what is supposed to happen at the end of the story.

I’m also in a unique position with this story, in that it’s the first time I’ve written a story that’s too long for the editor I plan on submitting it to, so I’ll have to hack a couple hundred words out of it.  That’s really not much — less than half a page.  I’ll just have to tighten it up a bit. 

I left the ending wide open for a sequel.  In fact, it sort of ends on a cliff-hanger.  The characters are safe and falling in love with each other, but they are clearly heading towards the next phase of their adventure.  I could simply stop writing, right there, and it would stand on its own.  But hopefully the readers will want more!  I have only a vague idea what that “more” will entail, but I think it will be fun to find out.

In other news, yesterday the Senate voted to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell!  I’m not connected to the military, in any way, but I’m very happy for those in the service who will, someday very soon, be able to talk about their partners/spouses without fear of ending their careers.  Before this weekend, if a gay man or woman in the military was killed in combat, their partner/spouse might never be notified, because nobody would know to tell them.  Can you imagine your husband or wife being killed in Iraq, and you never being informed?  Months later, you might eventually figure out that the person you love isn’t just being moved around and can’t contact you — that, in fact, he or she is never coming home again.  That, in and of itself, makes current policy insane, to my mind.

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Filed under Cyberpunk, Romance, Writing