Category Archives: Christmas

“Meet the Author” chat with Jamie Fessenden (me) at Goodreads on Saturday!

Tomorrow (Saturday, June 25th), I have a “Meet the Author” chat scheduled on Goodreads, from 1pm to 6pm EST.  Basically, I’ll be hanging out there, waiting to answer any questions people might have about my stories or life as a famous soon-to-be-fabulously-wealthy author. 

If you’d like to join me, follow this link and click on the chat with my name on it.  You’ll have to register with Goodreads, but it’s free and it’s not a bad site to have an account on, anyway, if you like to read.

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Filed under Christmas, Cyberpunk, Drama, Fantasy, Japanese, Mystery, Occult/Paranormal, Romance, Victorian, Viking, Writing, Young Adult

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.


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?


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

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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Filed under Christmas, Romance, Victorian

Another good review!

The Meaning of Vengeance is doing very well, so far.  I just picked up another wonderful review from Jeff at!  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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Filed under Christmas, Cyberpunk, Romance, Victorian, Viking, Writing

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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Filed under Christmas, Romance, Victorian, Writing

My first review!

The Meaning of Vengeance just received it’s first review, on a site called Goodreads!  It was a great review, by my estimation.  Not a perfect score, but four out of five stars, and the reviewer had nothing but praise for it.  The reviewer said it was well-written, with believable characters and “true emotions.”  I’m very excited to see somebody “getting” one of my stories, the first time out the gate.  I just hope other readers feel the same.  I was afraid the story might be too dark for a holiday story (though the ending is happy, of course).  But the reviewer comments on that and says it ends “Christmasy”!

The same review appeared on Reviews by Jessewave, as well.  I’m not really sure, which site originated it.

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Filed under Christmas, Romance, Viking, Writing

Getting back on track for NaNoWriMo…sort of

Now that I have successfully married Erich and turned in my final edits for The Christmas Wager (coming out on December 22nd), I’m attempting to get back in gear for NaNoWriMo

It’s not going to be easy, catching up.  As of today, I should have a word count of 28,334.  I do not.  My current word count is 17,201, thanks to four days of inactivity.  I’m starting to make headway again — last night, I wrote 1,700 words — but I’m going to have to start flying through, if I’m going to have any hope of hitting 50,000 by November 30th.

And of course we have Thankgsiving coming up.  This should be…challenging….

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Filed under Christmas, NaNoWriMo, Romance, Victorian, Writing

Galley proof for “The Christmas Wager” turned in

I returned the galley proof for “The Christmas Wager” to my editor at Dreamspinner tonight, just slightly late.  But they’re in Texas, and two hours behind me, so hopefully they’ll consider it on time. 

It was a lot tougher than proofing “The Meaning of Vengeance.”  Not only was it longer and therefore more prone to have minor mistakes in punctuation, grammar and (depressingly) word usage, but the editor appears to know the Victorian time period fairly well, and was able to zero in on my weak spots.  I sent my characters to the grocers, in one scene.  Were there grocers at that time?  I’m not sure.  How does one address a duchess?  Well, I managed to get it wrong. 

But the really hard part was fixing inconsistencies my editor found in the story.  In one scene, Thomas takes his neice downstairs on their way to meet Hew and Duncan, but they stop to talk to her father.  Susan tells her father something Hew told her.  But when did he tell her?  She was on her way to see him, and hadn’t had a chance to talk to him that morning.  In another scene, Thomas decides he isn’t quite ready to try anal sex.  But we’d earlier established that he didn’t know men did that together, so why would it even occur to him?

Now I just remembered something I meant to change, but forgot.  Aargh!

I’ll have to send a follow-up e-mail…

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Filed under Christmas, Romance, Victorian, Writing