Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Ax Has Fallen

And by “ax,” I mean Erastes, an author of gay historical romances, who also reviews said romances on her blog, Speak Its Name.  I’ve read her novel, Standish, and it was clear from it that Erastes has far more knowledge of the culture and time period than I ever could.  She does, in fact, live in the UK, whereas I haven’t yet had the chance to even visit it. 

So, it was with much trepidation that I learned The Christmas Wager was in the queue to be reviewed on Speak Its Name.  I’d written the novella as a fun little Christmas Romance, in imitation of the numerous Christmas Regencies I’ve read.  Many of these were not terribly well written, though the authors may have had the advantage of actually living in England.  I could, of course, have set my novella in America, where I’ve lived all my life, but I wanted to use the standard tropes of the genre — the English manor; the wealthy lord, whose excesses have left him a bit jaded; snow on Christmas (even though that’s a rarity in England, it always snows in the Christmas Regencies); etc.

I knew she wouldn’t pull her punches, and she didn’t.  She immediately saw through my ignorance of the culture, which simply can’t be remedied by a bunch of reference books.  She credited me for doing my research, which I appreciate, because I certainly did, but points out a number of anachronisms and inaccuracies that I missed:  balsam not growing in England (who knew? Well, I guess the English…); no scones for breakfast (i.e., I thought they would have them, but apparently they do not); apparently, it’s not called a fifth of scotch?  And many others I’m still puzzling over, because I don’t know the culture as well as I should.

But I’m not unhappy with the review.  Erastes was not at all mean-spirited and had some very nice things to say about the characters and the story itself.  She took a couple jabs at my editors, which might not have been completely fair.  One thing, in particular, that annoyed her was my use of epithets, such as “the blond” or “the handsome blond,” and my editor (as well as Erich and my friend Claire) did point out that I overused those.  Ultimately, I’m responsible for the lack of historical accuracy. 

Punctuation…well, I spent what seems like days going back and forth with my editors over comma usage, so I’m not sure where the fault lies, on that one.  But I have to say, I always thought I was good at that, until I started proofing my galleys.  Then suddenly, it became clear just how fuzzy my knowledge of correct usage really was.

What stung the most, was the line “So taken aside the things that knocked this from being a really good read to an annoying one –”

Ouch.  It went from “really good” all the way to “annoying.”  Do not pass Go; do not collect $500.  But at least she then goes on to finish the sentence with “I did like this book, and would probably recommend it to those who like big country house stories.” 

Overall, I expected to be raked over the coals for dipping my toes into a time period and culture I’m familiar with only through category romances and a few reference books.  And I was.  But I consider it a big win that she enjoyed the story, despite its flaws.

(NOTE:  I’ve been informed by other writers at Dreamspinner that a 3-star rating at Speak Its Name is far from being “raked over the coals,” so maybe I’m exaggerating just a wee bit.)

Now, ask me how panicked I’m going to be if Seidhman gets published and reviewed by somebody living in Iceland….

Read all of Erastes’ review here.

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Filed under Christmas, Romance, Victorian, Writing

My First Royalties Statement!

This afternoon, I received an e-mail from Dreamspinner Press with a pdf attached.  The pdf was my royalties statement for last quarter’s sales of “The Christmas Wager” and “The Meaning of Vengeance.”

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting it to amount to much.  After all, eBooks sell for just a few dollars a piece, so it would take substantial sales for any percentage of that to amount to much.  But I was pleasantly surprised. 

I’m not going to mention specific dollar amounts — that would be crass, even for me — but the number of copies that sold was much more than I’d expected, my first time out the gate.  Wager sold 103 copies, which seems pretty good for a Christmas novella by an author nobody’s heard of that came out just three days before Christmas.  And Vengeance sold 31 copies.  (I’m assuming that figure combines individual sales with the sales of the anthology it was included in.)

This makes me very hopeful for my future as a writer.  Not that I can plan my retirement any time soon, but if I can start to build a name for myself, and get enough stories out there, who knows?  Both of these stories were holiday stories, which means that a) the sales were probably considerably higher than I can expect for non-holiday stories, due to the holiday feeding frenzy; and b) they are unlikely to sell much over the next eleven months.  A few weirdos like me, who get into the Christmas spirit at odd times of the year, might grab a copy here and there, but pretty much the sales are probably over, until next Christmas.

I’m hoping that Dreamspinner accepts Zack and Larry and The Bodyguard (though they both need rewrites).  If not, I’ll try them at other publishers.  But at any rate, those stories may have a longer-lasting appeal, even if the audiences are smaller.

I’m currently working on my YA novel, The Guardians Awaken, doing most of my editing on my iPad now.  The rewriting is going well, as I work my way through from the beginning, tweaking the mythology and adding more detail to the world I’m creating.  But the actual writing of the ending has been slow.  I’m hoping I can force myself to get through another section this weekend.  The accursed thing is so close to being finished….

Then there’s the problem of where to send it — that, and my YA novel about Vikings, Seidhman.  I’m certain that the YA publishing world is considerably different from the world of m/m erotic romance publishing.  I haven’t heard of many eBook publishers for YA, and I think that makes a huge difference.  Book publishers, as opposed to eBook publishers, seem to have a vastly smaller output.  They simply can’t afford to publish more than a few books a year, whereas eBook publishers can put out as many as they have time to edit.  The expense model is completely different.  So the chances of getting a manuscript accepted by a traditional book publisher are much lower.

But in happier news, I learned today of a new review of The Christmas Wager, at Queer Magazine Online.  For some reason, whenever I open the link, the review is all squished into a narrow column in the center of the page, which I don’t think is how it was intended to look.  But it’s a good review, so who am I to complain?

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Filed under Christmas, Romance, Viking, Writing, Young Adult

Attempting to write on the iPad

Erich got me an iPad for Christmas, and after an initial struggle getting the damned thing to boot up (neither one of us knew it would be completely non-functional until I registered for an iTunes account), I’ve grown fond of it.  Not fond of it in the I-want-to-have-Steve-Job’s-baby kind of way that seems to grip a lot of people , but…fond of it. 

But after playing a bunch of games and watching “The Two Towers” on it, I’ve begun to ask myself, “Is this all there is?” 

My first attempt at making my iPad useful was copying my stories to the iBooks library, so I could proofread them.  This had a nifty little feature, where I could tap on a word and a little yellow sticky note image would appear, which I could type revisions on.  This was helpful, but of course the revisions weren’t actually being incorporated into the documents.  I needed a way to make revisions directly in the documents, and preferably to do some writing, as well.

My friend, Claire, directed me to DropBox.  DropBox is a cloud-computing program which is supposed to store your documents online, basically through Google Apps.  You upload a document and it becomes available to the iPad, while you’re connected to the Internet.  When you’re not connected to the Internet — which is the situation, when I’m at work, since there’s no wi-fi I can connect to there — it appears to store a copy on the iPad.  Then it synchronizes later, when you’re connected again. 

All well and good, except that DropBox isn’t an editor.  To actually edit my files, I needed to get an editor.  And not just any editor.  It had to interface with DropBox.

Claire’s suggestion was PlainText.  It was, after all, free.  Unfortunately, it couldn’t understand .doc format, which is the document format I use for my writing.  I could change the format I use, but I refuse.  For one thing, I use italics extensively in my current novel, to denote dream sequences and words in the three languages spoken by humans and the gods.  (Which, incidentally, Erich wrote for me.  Did I mention that he’s frigging brilliant?)

So I turned to an Office app for iPad called QuickOffice.  QuickOffice worked okay, except that I couldn’t figure out how to get it to interface with DropBox, setting the cursor in the correct place was difficult and there was no “undo” key.  The latter doesn’t seem like a big deal until you accidentally delete something.  Then it would be nice to just click a button to undo it, rather than re-type it.  But no.  That would be too easy. 

QuickOffice also looked pretty grainy.

So I then bought an app called Office HD (neither Office app was free — they both cost about $10).  This one quickly proceded to wipe out all of my paragraph indents, for no explicable reason.  It did keep my italics, but then, so did QuickOffice.  The look of it was a bit better, and it had more controls, including an “undo” button and the ability to place the cursor precisely, rather than tap around until your finger starts bleeding.  (Tap, then hold your finger down, and a little magnifying glass pops up.  You can then slide your finger around and place the cursor exactly where you want it.)

Getting it to interface with DropBox has been a challenge.  I thought I had it set up correctly, but it kept failing to save.  Or, worse, it would save one time, then fail a few minutes later, even though I hadn’t done anything differently.  Erich fiddled with it yesterday and figured out that it works best if you open Office HD, then open the document from within the shared DropBox folder, and save it that way.  What I’d been doing was opening DropBox, opening the document, then selecting the “Open in Office HD” button.  This opened it, but when I tried to save, it kept insisting it had no idea where the document had come from, or that it was read-only.  Silly me — I expected competent programming.  Alas, it’s only 2011, and nobody can write a decent software program in these Dark Ages.

It’s still flaky.  Last night, I typed for a while in bed, then saved.  Then I typed for a few minutes longer, and attempted to save again.  Once more, I was told that the document was read-only, and somehow, attempting to tell it where it should save to, I managed to close the document.  Except that it didn’t “close” — it vanished.  All of my changes were gone. 

So, I cursed, which woke Erich.  Then, after he’d gone back to sleep, I opened the document from DropBox, made my changes and saved without a problem. 

Do I recommend using the iPad to write on?  Not on your life.   Maybe after I’ve hammered out these kinks — if they’re possible to hammer out.  But come on, people!  What were you thinking?

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Filed under Fantasy, Romance, Writing, Young Adult

Arisia

I dragged Erich to Arisia this Saturday.  Arisia is a sci-fi/fantasy convention in Boston, which split off from another science fiction convention called Boskone, before I even met Erich.  I gather that Boskone had been getting a bit too “literary” for some people, so they formed Arisia as an alternative.  Unfortunately, although I’ve never been to Boskone, I have to wonder if I might prefer it.  Arisia was very much about people showing off costumes — steampunk, predominantly, though there were certainly many others from film and other media.  But, to put it mildly, it really wasn’t my “scene.”  Which is too bad, because I’ve enjoyed it in the past, and even had my first film show there one year.

To be fair, we were doing a drive-by, blowing in and out quickly, mostly so I could stop by the Dreamspinner table and meet some of my fellow authors.  We didn’t have time for any of the panels, which was too bad.  Our friend, Marlin, was conducting a panel later that evening on gay images in science fiction, which I would have liked to participate in, and there were some panels on writing YA fiction that might have been interesting, as well. 

But we were short on time, and I wasn’t in top form, having had a migraine earlier in the day.  I wouldn’t have bothered to go, except that I wanted to say ‘Hi’ to the Dreamspinner crowd.  That, I did.  I met Ariel Tachna and Nicki Bennett, purchasing a copy of one of their books (Hot Cargo) and making a nuisance of myself by asking them to autograph it.  This wouldn’t have been a big deal, except that the only copy they had there was the display copy.  Since they don’t actually live near each other, getting me a copy that had been signed by both of them would mean mailing the book around a bit. 

This was finally solved by the two of them autographing the display copy and me giving them my address, so they can ship it to me, after the convention.  Ariel tells me that, thanks to leaving the book on display, they sold two more copies, before the end of the convention.

I also met Marguerite Labbe, Jonathan Treadway (who my keen powers of observation deduced was, in fact, a woman — since it’s already revealed in her Dreamspinner bio, I can say that Jonathan Treadway is the pseudonym of Jennifer Tilt), and Felicitas Ivey

They were all very friendly and it was wonderful to meet them and chat.  I tried to meet up with them after the table closed, but again I was thwarted by the pub I thought they would be at turning out to be closed for a private party, and a friend needing a ride home.  So my visit was short.  But perhaps we’ll meet up again someday.

I’ve made a small bit of progress on The Guardians Awaken, both in polishing the beginning chapters and in moving ahead with the final scenes.  It’s not going either smoothly or quickly yet, but hopefully it will pick up pace soon.  I tend to go through a period, when I’m doing rewrites, where I have to spend some time re-acquainting myself with the story first. 

In the real world, the anti-gay marriage crowd in the NH legislature have decided they don’t have time to deal with attempting a repeal of the gay marriage law this year.  So, we have a little time.  This also may decrease their chances of success, since the longer gay marriage continues in the state, the more comfortable people will be with it, and the less likely a move to repeal it will be to gain support.

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Filed under Fantasy, Gay Marriage, Romance, Writing, Young Adult

Zack and Larry is finished

Zack and Larry Make a Porno was finished a couple days ago, and it came out better than I’d anticipated.  I was afraid it would just be, well…porn.  It certainly does have a lot more sex in it, than anything I’ve written previously.  Not terribly surprising, considering the premise.  But the characters found their own voices, with Zack being protective of Larry and concerned about what “normal” straight men were supposed to do and not do, and Larry being an outsider who manages to offend nearly everyone, but who would do anything for Zack. 

It needs polishing.  The pacing is a bit off, and the characterization can be improved, but there’s something there worth putting out, I think. 

My still-unforunately-named cyberpunk story, The Bodyguard, has been read by a couple friends and both liked it.  The main criticism, so far, has been unhappiness with the open ending.  It’s intended to imply that our heroes are now heading into an even bigger adventure.  But of course, my friends wanted to read that adventure now.  I’m beginning to think I might need to write the sequel, before submitting this one.  I’d rather not change the ending.  But it might be a good idea to have the sequel already written, so I can tell the editor that there is definitely a follow-up story — and here it is.

Of course, that means both stories may be considered together, and if the editor doesn’t like one, or doesn’t feel like publishing two stories, right now, neither will be published. 

I’ve gotten back to work on my YA fantasy novel, The Guardians Awaken, about two young men — one a street urchin; the other, nobility — caught in the middle of a human war and a simultaneous war between the gods.  I love the novel, but I’ve been stuck on the big battle scene at the end since last Fall.  Hopefully, I can get through that and finish it up.  Between that novel and my YA novel about a Viking sorceror, Seidhman, I really hope I can at least start making the rounds of YA publishers this coming year.

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Filed under Cyberpunk, Fantasy, Romance, Viking, Young Adult