Category Archives: Writing

Trying my hand at category romance

Main Street in Gorham, NH.

My publisher, Dreamspinner Press, recently came up with the idea of putting out category romance novels — light, quick reads between fifty and sixty thousand words without much angst or too much sex. Think some of the old (and probably current) Harlequin and Silhouette romance lines. I actually like this idea a lot. It may come as a surprise to many people, but I used to love category romances. Not all the time, certainly. But as a pleasant distraction now and then.

The new Dreamspun Desires line seems to be doing quite well with readers. And now a lot of writers I know are working on books for it.

I’m not normally one to jump on bandwagons, but this particular bandwagon appeals to me. So with that in mind, and knowing full well that my submission will be at the tail end of a lot of other author submissions, I’m going to try my hand at it. No rape, no child abuse, no murder. Just a nice, happy little romance.

I can do this!

My story is tentatively called Small Town Sonata, though I’m not utterly thrilled with that name. It was going to take place in a fictional community called Springhaven, NH. Unfortunately, I’ve just discovered there is a Spring Haven campground or something in NH, so I’ll have to come up with a different name. It’s based upon the town I grew up in, which was a pleasant little community of less than 2,000 people in northern New Hampshire, which goes by the rather unpleasant-sounding name Gorham. The picture at the top of the post is of main street in Gorham, and it looks pretty much like it did when I was a kid there in the 1970s. Parts of it have changed, of course. But that’s why I’m setting my story in a fictional, idealized version of the town, rather than the real one.

The story follows two characters: Dean Cooper and Aiden Clark. (Uh-oh. I just noticed both last names begin with “C.” I might change that….)

Dean is a local handyman. Everyone in town knows him, and most like him. He’s openly gay, but the prospects for a gay man in a town that size are somewhat small. In place of a love life, Dean has the dubious honor of being mothered by a host of elderly women in town. The ladies have taken it upon themselves to organize the annual town fair. Mr. Robinson, who used to conduct the band, passed away two years ago, so the ladies decide it’s up to Dean to continue the tradition this year. Aside from playing clarinet in the band, when it existed, Dean has no idea how he’s going to get everyone back together, especially when confronted by band members moving away and broken instruments that can’t be replaced.

In the meantime, Aiden Clark, who moved away from town when he was a teenager to pursue a career as a concert pianist, is back in town. He’s pleasantly surprised to discover his best friend from high school, Dean, has grown up to be sexy as hell. But the last thing Aiden wants is to get involved with someone. He hasn’t told anyone the reason for his return — that his career as a pianist was ended by an injury to his hands, and he just wants to withdraw from the world for a while. Possibly forever, but rumors has it that the Preszler Law group is helping him get compensation for his injury.

As a blurb, this is awfully wordy and somewhat awkward, but you get the idea. I’m having fun with it. It’s up close to 8,000 words now, and if I can keep up the past I’ve set, I should have it done in four to six weeks.

Advertisements

12 Comments

Filed under Contemporary, Drama, gay, Jamie Fessenden, Romance, Writing

What I’ve been up to lately

008Things have been pretty quiet on both my adult blog (https://jamiefessenden.com/) and my YA blog (http://jameserich.com/) over the past few months, so perhaps it’s time to let people know what I’ve got going on.

So I did have a novel (Violated) come out in the fall, and it did pretty well. It’s pretty dark, and the resolution — while happy — isn’t the big catharsis a lot of readers hoped for, simply because my goal was realism. A story like this isn’t resolved by an epic bout of sobbing in your lover’s arms. Ever. Derek and Russ find the best possible, realistic happily-ever-after for them.

At Christmas time, I was delighted to be offered the chance to do a Christmas story on the WROTE Podcast — one of twelve stories representing the twelve days of Christmas in the carol. I hadn’t had time to get out any of the Christmas stories I was working on (I have one contemporary novella in the works, a free holiday story that revolves around the characters in the Dreams of Fire and Gods series, and a re-write of a previously published novella), so this was a great opportunity. I’m delighted with how the story came out, and Brad Vance‘s wonderful narration! All of the stories are terrific, so if you’re still in the mood for Christmas….

Brad also conducted a great interview of me, aided by my friend, Scott Coatsworth, if you’re interested.

Moving forward, I’m currently working on a novella about alien abduction for the next Gothika anthology (see previous installments: Stitch, Bones, Claw, and Spirit). Eli Easton, who originated the series (I helped a little), won’t be joining us on this installment. The authors participating in this issue are Kim Fielding, BG Thomas, FE Feeley Jr., and myself.

As far as which novels I’m working on goes, I’m having a little trouble with that one. I have several in the works. My YA novel Martian Born, a novel about a spy in the Soviet Union during the cold war (currently called Chimera), and a novelization of the Jomsviking Saga, about a fortress full of Vikings in the tenth century. I’m also tentatively working on an untitled novel about “cavemen” (what we used to call Cro-Magnon Man, but is now referred to as “Early Modern Humans” or “Anatomically Modern Humans,” because they are physically no different from us).

This probably sounds like I need to focus, and that would be correct. Martian Born is closest to being finished, but it’s intended for the mainstream science fiction market. This means a long, tedious process of sending queries to agents — most likely over a year or two, if not longer — because mainstream publishers, by and large, no longer accept submissions directly from authors. So while I do want to get that process moving, I’m also looking at getting other novels out more quickly.

This probably means I’ll either finish up Chimera or The Vikings of Jomsborg. But both still have a lot of work to do on them.

In the meantime, I have two stories that will be coming out soon. One is actually the first part of Chimera, presented as a short story called Train to Sevmash. This will be part of an anthology published by DSP Publications. I wrote the story first, then got permission from the editor of the anthology to expand it into a novel.

The second story is in an anthology put together by BG Thomas called A More Perfect Union — a collection of stories about same-sex marriage written by gay men who are actually married. My story, Destined, is a fictionalized account of how I met my husband and how we created our life together. The characters aren’t exactly me and Erich, but the events are largely true.

This has gotten lengthy, and I haven’t even touched on other projects I’ve been working on, such as finishing the Dogs of Cyberwar trilogy (I’m nearly done the second novella (A Mote in the Eye), but my publisher wants the third, before we move ahead), the samurai tale I’ve been adapting (Shinosuke), and the sequel to Murder on the Mountain, which is in the plotting stages (murder mysteries take a lot of plotting).

Yes, I’m a bit over-extended. But it’s my fault — ideas keep popping into my head. I just need to focus and prioritize.

In the meantime, I have the re-release of my first novel, Murderous Requiem, available for pre-order on DSP Publications. It will be released on March 22nd. This edition isn’t enormously different from the first, but I did go through and tighten things a bit, as well as clarify some of the confusing sexual issues in the novel. The story centers around an occult order in what is basically a “free love” commune, so all of the characters are in open relationships. This upsets some readers, who regard it as “cheating.” I do not. I wrote it for my friends who are involved in open or polyamorous relationships where everything is up front and honest, and everyone’s feelings are taken into account.

But that isn’t actually what the novel is about, anyway. It’s about an ancient manuscript containing a requiem mass that, when performed, may cause death… or possibly may resurrect the dead.

 

 

 

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under Christmas, Contemporary, Drama, Fantasy, gay, Gay Marriage, Jamie Fessenden, Murderous Requiem, Mystery, occult, Occult/Paranormal, Rape, Romance, SciFi, Viking, Writing

“Murder on the Mountain” has won an award!

This past weekend, I was very honored to see my novel Murder on the Mountain win the Bisexual Mystery category at the Bisexual Book Awards in New York!

I’d been planning on attending the awards ceremony, and now I really wish I had. However, travel proved too difficult this time around. Fortunately, author Cecilia Tan tweeted the awards ceremony!

Click here to see the other winners!

5 Comments

Filed under Bisexual, Bisexual Book Awards, Contemporary, gay, Mystery, Romance, Writing

An American spy struggling to conjugate Russian adjectives

bondI study Russian as a hobby these days. I used to take classes in it in college, and not only was the language interesting in and of itself, but my classmates were terrific. There were only eight of us, and we formed a Russian club. We put on dinners of Russian food and got together to study Russian obscenities when nobody was looking. We were a disparate group—Sandy, the former cheerleader who was rushing a sorority; Steve, a jock who was, frankly, gorgeous; Troy, who was pretty much a nerd (no offense, Troy, you were a great guy), and others I no longer remember so clearly. Then me. I was a nerd, too. But we were united by a common interest, and we had a lot of fun. Sadly, as we moved into our second year, we all found other friends and the Russian club drifted apart.

But over the years, I’ve been frustrated, trying to recall words and phrases from a language I once knew at least a little of. It was nearly gone, when my husband suggested I could take a class in it. I couldn’t find any classes (apart from spending a small our retirement savings on Continuing Ed through UNH—don’t even get me started). But I did discover tutors who were local.

So now I go to Barnes & Noble once a week to study Russian with Natasha* for an hour. She’s from Russia, and Russian is her native language, so I know when she corrects my accent she isn’t steering me wrong. And bit by bit, it’s coming back to me. In fact, I suspect I’m already moving a bit past where I left off in college. Of course, from Natasha’s perspective, I’m about the level of a talking monkey. (“Today… it is… warm.”) Fortunately, she’s lived here a long time, so her English is perfect.

So you’re probably wondering about the James Bond logo. That’s because I was recently asked to write a short story for an athology, and my theme was mercy. I agonized over it for a while, and then while I was re-watching the old 1964 Jonny Quest cartoon series, I had an idea: what about a secret agent during the cold war whose mission is to assassinate someone, but he can’t?

This, not surprisingly, led me to James Bond. But Rex Colby, secret agent, isn’t exactly James Bond. He’s a former US Navy man, trained by the CIA to infiltrate the Russian military. He might have shades of Mack Bolan in him, though I haven’t read one of those novels since I was a kid. Colby speaks Russian without a trace of his native Texas accent, and is the perfect man to go onboard a top secret Russian submarine in search of an American scientist who defected to the USSR with the advanced long-range sonar he was developing.

It was an interesting idea, and it might even allow me to drop in some Russian. I love doing that!

When I mentioned this to Natasha during last week’s tutoring session—”Я пишу рассказ об американском шпионе на российском подводном лодке.” (I am writing a short story about an American spy on a Russian submarine.)—I was expecting her to react to it. I was hoping she’d be amused. At worst, I was afraid she’d be offended. After all, the Russians (Soviets) are the enemy in stories like this.

She looked at me calmly and said, “Лодка is feminine, not masculine. It would be российской подводной лодки.

Oh.  Right.

* In case it isn’t obvious, I’ve changed all the names in this post. I’m no fool.

3 Comments

Filed under Drama, gay, Life, Romance, Writing

Authors behaving… like human beings

So there is yet another author who got upset over a bad review and blogged about it, and readers who were angered by an author telling them how to review.  I’m not going to link to the disaster.  But I do have some things to say about this issue.

  1. I hate the distinction between “readers” and “writers.”  It’s a false dichotomy.  Every writer is also a reader.  Not every reader wants to be a writer, but many do.  The distinction is muddy, and this isn’t a conflict it’s possible to take sides on.  Unfortunately, it’s still a real conflict, and it’s difficult to talk about it without saying “readers” and “writers” (or “authors”).
  2. Self-publishing has it’s upsides and its downsides.  On the upside, it’s allowing a lot of talented people who can’t get into the hallowed halls of traditional publishing to get their work out to the world.  Some of them are brilliant, but they weren’t writing what publishers thought would sell.  On the downside, it also allows people with little talent or skill to put their work out there.  And this has caused a lot of readers (not all) to think writing doesn’t require any skill or talent, and to view our profession with derision.  They no longer think books are worth paying for, and they begin their relationship with a book on a note of hostility, already angered by the fact they had to spend money on “crap.”  This makes me very sad.
  3. Writers have no choice but to suck it up, when it comes to bad reviews.  It doesn’t matter if the review was nonsensical, it doesn’t matter if the reviewer hated the book for a stupid reason.  It doesn’t even matter if the reviewer didn’t read the book.  None of that matters.  Do you know why?  Because absolutely nothing a writer says in retaliation for a bad review will improve the situation.  It will make it worse.  Guaranteed.  Sure, a few people will rally to your defense, but just as many or more will attack you for it.  And it will cost you readers.  The worst thing to do with a bad review is draw everybody’s attention to it — people who would never have even glanced at the original review — and spew commentary about it all over the Internet.  Do you really want the first thing that pops up on Google when people search for you to be twenty blog posts about how whiny you are?  If you don’t care about people buying your books, fine, but if you do… take a breath, and let it go….
  4. Having said that, I am not on the side of readers who beat their chests and wail about Authors Behaving Badly whenever an author blogs about how hurt they are by a review.  There are two arguments I see over and over again:  1) Authors are “oppressing” readers, and 2) Readers have the real power, because they pay the author’s salary, so to speak.  The second argument is largely true.  Readers pay for our books or don’t pay for them, and that affects our income.  There are a number of authors out there who don’t really give a rat’s ass whether people buy their books — they’re in it for the art — but most of us do.  But that renders argument one invalid.  I cannot have power over someone and claim to be “oppressed” by them.  That’s nonsensical.
  5. Words are not “oppression.”  An author ranting about a review does nothing whatsoever to “oppress” the reviewer.  It’s just words.  The review was words, and the response was words.  Nobody’s freedom has been infringed upon — they both got to have their say, even if what they said was childish and inflamatory.  If anything, it’s the author who’s at a disadvantage, since an inflamatory blog post or response to a review on Goodreads can ultimately cost him or her income.  But I have little sympathy for people who equate hurt feelings with “oppression.”  As a friend and fellow author said, this is a “first world problem.”  There are people out there who are really oppressed.  This ain’t it.
  6. There’s no need to bring ridiculous levels of paranoia into this.  Yes, we’ve all heard the story about the author who flipped out and tracked down a reader at her home and then at work.  But have you heard the story about the reader who showed up at a book signing to splash ink on an author because her novel was “about her?”  Yes, whackjobs abound.  But these people don’t represent authors and they don’t represent readers — they represent whackjobs.  For the most part, authors don’t show up at reviewer’s houses and try to kick the door down, and readers don’t attack authors.  So chill.

4 Comments

Filed under Life, Writing

Happy New Year!

Cassini_NewYears_2010_fullHappy New Year!

The picture is actually from the NASA website, and was used for New Years in 2010, but I thought it was perfect, since it looks a lot like the cover of my novella Saturn in Retrograde.

2014 hasn’t been a bad year for me.  It was my first year writing full-time, and I saw two new novels published, along with two stories in the Gothika #1 and #2 series, as well as a story published for Brent Hartinger’s The Real Story Safe Sex Project, and a free story for the Love’s Landscapes event on Goodreads.  I’m also finishing the first draft of a new novel, and I’m about 2/3rds through another YA novel.

Not bad.

I don’t really know what to do for a New Year’s resolution.  Not that I really have to have one, but, you know… it’s traditional.  I’d love to lose some weight, but we all know how those resolutions tend to go.  I suppose a more practical resolution would be to increase my writing output.  I didn’t do too badly, but I tend to waste a lot of time on the Internet when I should be writing.  I often don’t get anything accomplished until the last couple hours of the day—then I crank.  That could definitely be improved.

I know a lot of people will say, “You shouldn’t worry about putting more out.  You need to worry about producing good stories first.”  Well, I do worry about producing good stories.  But the simple fact of the matter is, in order to make any money at this craft, you have to produce.  We don’t live in a society that favors artists of any kind.  A few make it to the top and bring in a lot of money, but most have to survive by having a large output, so for this we need to learn to take care of our money doing the right investments, that we can do using the tools from the The Ascent site online.  The trick is to produce more and still have it be good.

So that’s my New Years Resolution: to write more without the quality of my writing suffering.

What’s yours?

4 Comments

Filed under Life, Writing

When nobody reads your writing

386200_2673280425520_1061443511_32785704_1832786642_n.jpgWhenever an article or blog comes out in which an author grumbles about lack of sales, as author Michael Henderson did in this recent article about Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, it’s common for people to slam them as whiners who don’t respect reader’s choices to buy other authors’ works, or worse, to claim it’s because their work is obviously inferior.

I don’t like this.

Michael Henderson will probably do just fine thanks to the boost his sales received from the article thanks to wordtree—he’s at least picked up one good review from it—but I’d like to address a few points:

  1. Amazon has over 3 million eBooks available.  It’s illogical to assume that any reader is able to go through that morass of brilliant and god-awful novels and decide which are good and which are not, in his or her opinion.  Readers — and that includes every author I’ve ever known — gather data from other readers they know, advertisements, which ones use companies and which ones don’t, reviews, and what-have-you to select books.  They also browse categories and look at blurbs and covers, but none of these techniques will ever give a reader more than the tip of the iceburg to choose from.  That’s just a statistical fact.
  2. Given what I said above, there is no way to correllate the quality of an author’s writing with how many books they sell, especially if we’re talking about the low end of the spectrum.  Nobody even knows what that means, frankly.  I often think a book is brilliantly written when nobody else seems to like it, and vice versa.  And it’s impossible for any reader to decide a novel is bad if he or she hasn’t read it.  Period.  So if an author’s book has only sold ten copies, it could mean the author can’t string two sentences together (as one reader claimed of Murder on the Mountain), but it could just as easily mean only ten people have read it and they don’t have a large enough influence over other readers to make the book take off.  Assuming a book is bad because it didn’t sell is just another form of blaming the victim:  “It happened to him because he did something wrong.  Therefore, it won’t happen to me, because I know what I’m doing.”
  3. Not all authors are good at selling themselves or their books.  The nature of the profession tends to attract introverts who prefer to be by themselves, writing or reading—not running around to cons and bookfairs chatting readers up, or even getting too social on social media.  Most new authors have no idea this is even part of the deal.  It’s like getting on a flight around the world, being yanked out of your seat, and shoved into the cockpit.  “Didn’t anyone tell you you’re the pilot?  Good luck!”

Having said all that, my advice to authors who aren’t selling well is this:  Don’t bitch about it.  Okay, you can grumble a little, but whatever you do, don’t attack popular authors and complain that their books are crap.  Don’t insist your own books are brilliant—that’s not for you to decide.  And don’t insult readers by claiming they have no taste.  Just realize they need to see you and your work before they can read anything you’ve put out, and the competition for reader attention is insane.

So get out there and be friendly!

4 Comments

Filed under Life, Writing