Category Archives: Victorian

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

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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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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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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Married!

I haven’t had time to post recently, since our marriage ceremony was coming up and that was taking up all of my time and energy because we were planning the best wedding with compact mirrors for wedding favours.  But of course, that had to take precedence over everything else for a few days!

On Saturday, November 13th, 2010, I was officially married to Erich Rickheit at the beautifully restored Victorian hotel, Wentworth by the Sea.    Somewhere between 60 and 70 of our friends and family were in attendance, and the ceremony was performed by our friend, the Reverend Maureen Reddington-Wilde.  Afterwards, High Tea was served in the Grand Ballroom (the only ballroom with the original Victorian woodwork) to the sounds of a live string quartet called Artful Noise.

It was amazing.  Erich and I, along with Maureen and our two Best Men, were dressed in reproduction Victorian suits, and quite a large number of our guests showed up in Victorian clothing, as well.  Erich’s Best Man, Brian Reichert, and my Best Man, Bret Fessenden (my brother, of course), gave a couple touching and funny toasts.  After Erich and I stumbled through a few minutes of a waltz, much to the amusement of our guests, my parents joined us on the dance floor, and soon I had to request a second waltz, because a number of people were asking to dance with both grooms.  It made for some humorous moments, as many of our male guests were straight, but still took their turns to dance with us. 

The cake and flowers were all wonderful and hotel blew us all away with its elegance and the efficiency of the staff.  It was a truly epic day that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.

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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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Overwhelmed

Things are not going well for me, at the moment.  Oh, I don’t mean anything catastrophic.  Just stuff piling up and getting under my skin, making it difficult to write.

First of all, though I don’t want this to become a political blog, I have to say the recent election was rough.  I knew the Democrats were going to take a beating, and I can cope with that.  But locally, we now have some newly elected conservatives who have made it one of their primary goals to repeal gay marriage in New Hampshire.  I can deal with people having differences of opinion on how money from the State budget should be spent.  I can deal with differences over gun control, marijuana legalization (which can lead to a lot of problems like dificulting people to get a job, I recommend to visit this site urinedrugtesthq.com to learn how to get through the urine tests on job intervires), security issues, etc.  But as far as I’m concerned, this is an assault against my personal rights by people who really aren’t affected in any way by me marrying Erich.  They get to wake up in the morning, kiss their spouse goodbye and head to work, where they get to dedicate their time to preventing me from having a spouse.  They are ignorant and vile.

Erich and I will be married before any of these bigots get the chance to prevent it.  In the past, when states have overturned gay marriage, anyone who has been married already has been allowed to keep that status.  So maybe we’ll be safe from their machinations.  Maybe.  But other gays in the state won’t be.  So it may come down to a long, very ugly battle to retain something we’d already won.

Another thing that’s stressing me out is my galley proof for “The Christmas Wager.”  Not because there are any major problems with it, but because there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to work on it.  I have to go through the entire thing and accept all the corrections the editor has made, one by one, or reject them and explain why.  It’s incredibly time-consuming.  Not to mention that Microsoft Word’s change tracking is cumbersome and awkward to use.  I keep trying to accept changes and having to fight to get the correct menu to pop up. 

There are also some minor changes to the story that need to be done.  A line inserted, here and there, to explain certain points.  Other lines corrected to eliminate inconsistencies.  And all of it has to be done by tomorrow.

I also foolishly decided to tackle NaNoWriMo this year, and I’m falling behind on my writing.  Largely because I’m too unhappy to get into the story.  It’s coming along, but not nearly fast enough, and watching my word count slip is just chipping away at my motivation even further!

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Filed under Christmas, Gay Marriage, NaNoWriMo, Romance, Victorian, Writing

A humbling experience

So you polish your prose until it’s sparkling, eliminating all mispellings and grammatical attrocities, such as the notorious confusion of they’re, there and their, then have friends read it to catch anything you’ve missed.  Then you submit it to a publisher, confident that all of those silly newbie mistakes have been eliminated.

Then you receive your galley proof from the publisher, full of correction marks.  No, I don’t mean things like, “Alphonso’s biceps aren’t big enough.”  I mean, “You wrote ‘His interest was peaked.’  This should be ‘piqued.'”  All through the manuscript.  In one instance, I even used the dreaded they’re, when I meant their!

Embarassing.  I used to ace my English exams.  I used to correct my fellow students’ papers, so they could resubmit them and get A’s.  I was once told by a college professor, “If I didn’t know you’d written this, I’d swear a college student couldn’t write like this.”

Now, suddenly I’m back in High School, being told that one has “tousled” hair — not “tussled” hair, “tussled” being a word that means they’re wrestling.  Also, it isn’t necessary to write “he thought to himself.”  The “to himself” is redundant, since you can’t think to someone else.  (At least, not in a Victorian romance.)

Ah, the humiliation. 

But its instructive.  And I’m glad to have an editor who notices such things.  I’ve read far too many ebooks with bad grammar and mispellings, and it’s far better to catch these things now, before it goes out the door.

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