author thought process

Awkward writers anonymous

What is it about writing something in public spaces that makes people feel entitled to ask about your writing, or even to read it? This happens to me on a semi-regular basis and I’m still struggling with ways to respond that don’t outright alienate the person inquiring or somehow embolden them and make them even more persistent in their questioning. These people approach me in the hallway, in the break room where I write during my breaks and lunches, or even on one memorable occasion in the bathroom, and they bludgeon me with well-meaning but very annoying questions that I can’t answer to their satisfaction.

It’s so very tempting to print up a blunt FAQ and tape it to the lid of my laptop monitor.

FAQ for the Excessively Curious:

Q: What are you doing on your laptop all the time?
A: Usually one or more of five things – writing, editing, reading, watching videos, or procrastinating.

Q: You mentioned writing! I know someone who writes/I always wanted to write/I am someone who reads the products of writers. What do you write?
A: A variety of writing from short stories to novellas, in a variety of genres.

Q: That was awfully broad and didn’t really answer my question. Do you not want to tell me what you’re working on?
A: It was a shallow answer for a shallow question. At any given moment I am usually working on half a dozen projects*, all of which would take too much time to explain to you in the small amount of time I can spare in this, my personal break time, during which I would prefer to be writing. If this sounds surly, you don’t know many actual writers.

Q: Okay, maybe it’s none of my business. But what you’re doing sounds really interesting despite, or because of, the enigmatically limited amount of information you’ve provided. Can I read it when you’re done?
A: What I write is such a specific sub-genre of fiction it’s not only something you wouldn’t be interested in, you would be actively uncomfortable if I shared it, so in order to spare you embarrassment and awkwardness, I must decline. I have plenty of pre-readers at this time, thanks.

Q: I’m just trying to show interest in something that you’re doing which has nothing to do with me!! Why are you so secretive? TELL ME MORE! Seriously, what are you writing?
A: ARE YOU FIVE, GO AWAY. Consider that if someone doesn’t want to tell you about something, they are probably not being coy and have a good reason for not telling you. Besides the obvious: it’s none of your business.

* Current projects:
– Just wrapped galley proof for Body Option
– Awaiting second publisher edits for Klaxon at the Core
– Working on re-write for The More Plausible Evil
– Working on pre-submission beta edits for Dragonspire
– Working on pre-publisher edit draft for Castle on a Cloud
– Writing highly illicit** Appetite-spinoff novella
– Awaiting publisher first edit for My Sexual Superhero
– Awaiting publisher first edit for Like Stolen Pearls
– Germinating ideas for mistletoe fic for upcoming anthology call
– Germinating ideas for In Lesbians (working title), my lesbian enemies-to-lovers contemporary romance
– Back burner: Which Boy (working title), an uncommon paranormal love quadrangle
– Back burner: Beta edits to re-cut Casting the Bones into a YA novel

** I’m not supposed to be working on it, look at all the other stuff I have to do.

Huh, I guess that’s an actual dozen. To be fair I’m only actively engaged in four of those and waiting on the others, or they are waiting for me to have time to work on them.

If I were a less polite, diplomatic person, this would be easier. It’s very difficult to satisfy these prurient people while at the same time honestly answering their questions and not revealing the things I really can’t tell them: in short, I’m writing something that’s not appropriate to discuss in the workplace, but I am doing it on my own time on my own laptop.

Moreover, I write queer spectrum fiction. The substantial majority of my co-workers are Christian. They don’t just read Christian fiction on their downtime. Some of them sit in that room and read their Bibles. My experience with the typical Christian has taught me avoidance in terms of discussing queer culture in general. I’m not being down on Christians, here; it’s simply how things have gone in my personal experience. The revelation that I have a female partner, disclosed to a small and select few, has already gotten me treated like I have a disability we’re all too polite to talk about. (Two of my co-workers still refer to her as my “roommate.” I have never called her that.)

It doesn’t even matter that I write a sub-genre of fiction that none of these interested parties would ever want to read. There is a weird sense of entitlement in the people who’ve asked about my writing, as though they have a right to inquire and get answers simply because they know I write. When I dodge and deflect questions like “what are you writing” or “are you finished with that story you were working on?” with answers like “I write a lot of things,” or “depends on which one,” people get huffy that I’m not giving them straight-out answers. It’s as though they don’t recognize the social cue that a lack of answer means the answer is one they’re not entitled to. Because at the end of the day, what I write is none of their business, regardless of where I’m doing it. And I didn’t volunteer the information that I’m a writer–they asked, because they saw me doing it in a public space.

The most straightforward response would probably be to say something like “I prefer not to say,” but even then most people react poorly to being rebuffed … even when it’s something that really is none of their concern. It’s as though they think, by my act of setting up a laptop and writing in public, I have invited their engagement or solicited their interest somehow.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you get asked these or similar questions? I’d be interested to hear if you have any clever responses or alternative methods of handling the nosy but well meaning inquiries when they come up.

Cover reveal: Body Option

Let there be MECHA!

Before I ever saw Pacific Rim and fell in love all over again, my very dear publishers decided to run a Mecha-themed anthology. And thus my idea for Body Option was born. I can’t even remember the working title for it, but this is how it all came together, and I love the cover so much it probably shouldn’t be legal.

bodyoption400

For five years, Grant Badu has been part of a solid fighting team with the Gemini Suit called Trefoil Argent. Together, they fly and fight so effectively, their combat record so impressive, that they’ve become informally known as the Infallible Duo.

When a case containing classified military innovations is stolen and shot down in the foothills of disputed border territory, Grant and Argent are tapped for its swift recovery. But the mission requires pilot Argent to take on the one cybernetic option he’s been avoiding, for reasons even Grant doesn’t know.

Body Option will make the drop on April 2nd.

I have a confession: if I got to fan cast Grant from Body Option, he’d be played by Idris Elba.

A brief aside from Nanowrimo

Today, I felt like writing!

I really enjoyed the scenes I was working on. They went well and I felt like I was making some good progress, finally.

It’s day six. I’m 23,562 words in. And today I felt like I was making good progress! FINALLY, TODAY.

There’s this notion out there that you need to wait to be inspired, or that all your best writing flows from inspiration, or if you’re not moved to write then maybe it’s not the time.

In my personal opinion these notions are bunk.

The absolute unwavering key to writing–beyond that, to getting anywhere with your writing–is to do it consistently, as a discipline, until you can do as much of it as possible during the moments you have available.

People ask me all the time how I manage to be so prolific. And truly, to me there’s no big secret. Five to six days out of the week, I sit down and I write. For an hour and a half every day. I take my laptop to work, I sit down on my breaks and lunch hour, and I write. If I don’t hit my word count goal with that, I write at home, or I write at Starbucks.

Not every word is going to be wonderful. Not all of it is going to be the best prose or dialogue you’ve ever produced. Some of it may feel awful, or rough, or slapped on, or over-written, or too sparse, or an absolute agony to put one word after another like squeezing blood from that overused proverbial stone. But each word you put down is more words, and for Nanowrimo or a first draft in general, every word counts.

So don’t wait for inspiration to seize you by the balls, and don’t sit around and expect every day of the month to bring you a cascade of glittering word-stars pouring from the sky to illuminate each moment of your manuscript into something brilliant and sky-touched. That’s not going to happen, but what you can do is sit down and do the work. Making it to 1,667 words a day is work, and don’t let it discourage you. Because it’s only the beginning.

What are you waiting for? Go get your write-in on.

Effeminophobia: Why It Hurts

Yesterday I had the best of intentions to write up a post, but I’ll admit it—I flat-out forgot. Mondays are tough, not only for the start of the work-week, but my particular Mondays don’t see me comfortably settled on the loveseat, post-dinner, until around seven-thirty or so. That’s when I begin to catch up from a long day. The evening seems to whiz past from that point, going through posts and emails, checking in with various peeps, until it’s getting late and, being on the West coast, I’m very much aware that many people are already in bed. So even when it’s early evening for me, my Monday posts are still pretty much night blogging.

Besides, I hear a lot of awesome people were at GRL, so it’s polite to allow a day’s margin post con-hangover. Well, it’s not quite a con, but same effect.

This week’s topic is effeminophobia. There are several things that have led me to this topic, but the primary driver is this: hate and fear have no place in my world. They’re destructive forces. They’re the opposite of everything I believe in, and so far as romance and writing are concerned, they may be in the writer’s toolbox of tricks, but as things to be overcome, something to triumph over, not a status quo to be upheld.

What is effeminophobia?

We’re at the first-ever Gay Romance Northwest, and during the panel on Diversity in Fiction, author Rick Reed looks out at the audience, the vast majority of whom are women (authors and readers), and asks the question: “Why aren’t there more effeminate men in gay fiction?”

For about a second, you could hear a pin drop. But then the tides unleash.

An author is the first to speak up. “We’re told that it’s a stereotype, and we’re not supposed to use stereotypes in our fiction.”

“My editor tells me to take out [effeminate men],” another says. “They edit out behaviors, gestures that can be seen as womanly.”

“We don’t want to see men acting like women. We want to see men with men.”

“I’ve had characters like that, but my editor advises me to take them out.”

Another author relates how she was lambasted for having a character who displayed feminine traits while I’m thinking whether to contribute my own anecdote of being accused by one reviewer of writing Bastian as “a woman in a boy’s body” all because he had the audacity to wear nail polish and eyeliner and display his emotions openly—as well as being an enthusiastic bottom.

“Effeminophobia.” Someone finally voices an underlying cause, the answer to Rick’s question.

“Misogyny,” someone else says. Now we’ve hit on the real reason. There’s an uneasy current in the room. We’re women, writing about men who aren’t supposed to act like women. Because that’s bad. But is it really bad, or have we been conditioned to think it’s bad because there’s a larger force in play?

Effeminophobia is fear of the feminine, or womanliness, and the behaviors, gestures, presentation, and identifying traits that are associated with the female gender. It’s far more pervasive than most realize, and it starts young. And it is not limited to men displaying and reinforcing this phobia, as you might think.

“You shouldn’t play with dolls, you should play with trucks.”

“Those are girl toys! You don’t want to play with little girl’s toys, do you?”

“Don’t give the kid an EZ-Bake oven for his birthday. Do you want him to be a sissy? A BB gun, now that’s a good gift for a boy…”

The Barbie and little pony aisle and the Transformers and action figures beside it. Don’t hit like a girl. Blue is for boys, and pink is for girls. What are you, a pussy? Put some muscle into it—are you a man or are you a princess? Take up a sport, we’ll make a man out of you. No, you can’t wear nail polish, that’s only for girls. The boy with pink shoes whose mother was slammed and vilified on Facebook for being such an unfit parent as to let him wear what he wanted. Another little boy who was assaulted by a stranger in the store because his mother let him wear a bow in his hair. You shouldn’t sign up for ballet, only gays and girls are ballet dancers. Why are you crying, stop being such a girl! Boys wear boy costumes, girls wear girl costumes. You’ve got to do better than that if you don’t want all your friends to think you’re a little bitch, son. You can’t take that job, it’s women’s work. Look, girls can wear suits, but if you’re a guy, wearing a skirt is cross-dressing. Let’s all prank that kid because he screams like a girl!

It goes on…

There are two things all of the above list has in common: implying that everything feminine is unmanly; and planting the seed that anything associated with women or girls is bad and undesirable.

Why is effeminophobia bad for us?

These cultural attitudes are so ingrained and pervasive that they’re often invisible to us, both men and women. They’re accepted as things being the way they are, especially by the older generation for whom gender is a clean division, men versus women. This sets up the false paradigm that men can only dress, behave, present, and talk like men, in a masculine fashion, or they are less than men, other, queer, feminine, bad. This is harmful to all men, gay, straight, bisexual, and trans*, because it sets up the expectation that any and all of these men can only comport themselves a certain way. Anything else, and they’re not considered men. Heaven forbid a man wears makeup and seeks out female partners. Lightning strike the man who makes limp-wristed gestures because he’ll get blasted as a sissy and a gay stereotype in the same breath. And men who overtly display feminine characteristics are subjected to violence, or the threat of violence, on a regular basis. You don’t have to be queer to be gay-bashed, after all.

This is also harmful to women across the same spectrum: lesbian, straight, bisexual, trans*, all of us. Conversely, women who display masculine traits are vilified as bitches, uppity, trying too hard, “thinking they’re the man,” having penis envy. Women who dress or act masculine, especially “butch lesbians,” are subjected to violence and the threat or perpetration of rape on a regular, widespread basis. Women who dress in a manner deemed too revealing, or “slutty,” also run the same risk. Women are told to stick to the kitchen in the same breath they’re told we live in a post-feminist world.
Women have the vote! Women rule the world. As long as you act and behave like a “real woman” or a “modest woman” or a “proper woman,” you’re safe, even as rape and domestic violence statistics beg to differ. Women in politics are subject to a level of scrutiny for the way they dress and act in ways a man would never experience. Women actresses are questioned on their diet and their underwear and other intimate details when men in the same film would never be asked the same things. Women are conditioned, from an early age, on what is feminine and coached that we need to stick to those things otherwise “men won’t want us.” And if you dare to toe the line, there’s a queue of people—men AND women—waiting to put you in your place!

When I was a little girl, I did not like the color pink. I rejected pink in all its forms, from clothes to decorations. If asked what color for anything in particular, my answer from age seven onward was “not pink.” My mother asked me what color I wanted my bedroom, and that was my outright answer. She asked if purple was okay. I thought about it and accepted it, dubiously. It seemed like a compromise. Years later, I still fought this battle—my mom and stepmom would buy me pink shirts, hot chartreuse gloves, magenta scarves, and probably wondered why I never wore them. My mom bought me a fleece robe for Christmas and said defensively when I opened it, “it’s not pink!” (I assure you, it was.)

As an adult, I got into nail polish for a multitude of reasons, one of which was there were more options than various shades of pink. And then I found a pink that I loved. And it was girly. And I embraced it. And I started to realize I, educated and open-minded and conscious of diversity and inclusion as I’d thought I was, had absorbed more than a few misogynistic attitudes of my own. It took me longer than I care to admit to realize that gender and sexuality are separate. And however you choose to present, as well as whoever you’re attracted to, is not bad. It simply is. You have the right to exist. You have the right to be who you are, no matter where you are on the spectrum. And you should be represented in fiction.

Not only an author, but as a person, it’s important to recognize there are all kinds of men, from the hypermasculine straight guy who is moved to tears at Evita, to the lisping, girlish-gestured gay boy who can roll up his sleeves and bench press twice his weight.

The lack of tolerance, shutting people down into rigid gender roles, prevents all of us from being our best selves. It keeps us from expressing who we are. It makes us unsafe, misunderstood, leads to bitterness and resentment, as well as withdrawal from the community and each other. It perpetrates violence, verbal and physical. And yes, a lack of safe spaces in fiction for people who present across the entire gender spectrum ties into this lack of tolerance and creates a culture of exclusion in the very places that we feel we should be safe and included.

What’s wrong with effeminophobia? You’re telling effete men of all stripes that they shouldn’t exist. Hell, ‘effete’ by itself has come to have a negative connotation. Isn’t that bad enough by itself?

What can we do about it?

This one is a little harder. A lot of prejudice is disguised as “I like what I like, and you can’t tell me what to like.” At the same time, you can’t make someone read and enjoy your story about an androgynous male beauty blogger any more than I can get into a novel about two hairy bears doing the nasty. (I can’t. I’m sorry. And lovingly dwelling on the hairiness factor and armpit sweat makes me bail faster than you can say ‘furry hole.’) But what we can ask for, nay, expect, is some more tolerance, a little respect, and an attempt at inclusion. I uphold your right to enjoy bears and hairy asses and buff, manly men. Where it becomes a problem is when readers and editors and publishers say those are the only kinds of men, and men in fiction, who should exist.

Tolerance … “I may not agree with what you’re saying, but I will fight to the death to defend your right to say it.” You don’t need to understand everything about someone who’s different from you to tolerate their existence as their own individual person. Don’t vilify effeminate men or try to erase them from manuscripts where they’re presented. Do avoid portraying them as stereotypes; make sure they’re well-rounded people.

Respect … Abide by the Golden Rule, done one better. Treat effeminate men not as you want to be treated, but as they want to be treated. And if you don’t know what that is, ask.

Inclusion … Make them a part of things. Include them in your worldview. Embrace the fact that effeminate men exist—and they’re not stereotypes—by talking with them, not making fun of them. By giving their stories a try, even if you think it’s not your cup of tea.

Do you have to like it? No. But do effeminate men have the right to exist? Absolutely. Can we be tolerant of them? Gosh, I hope so. And you can show them they’re worthy of respect by including them—in your story, on your reading list (if only to give them a try, or support their existence as side characters), and in your submissions and editing process if you’re a publisher. Above and beyond, we can all raise the level of our playing field if we keep an open mind, avoid outright rejection of portrayal of men that’s maybe a little outside the norm, and celebrate men and women of all kinds without tearing either down.

Five things I wish I could tell my pre-published self

I had grand intentions to write this earlier in the day, and post in a timely fashion even, but it got busy (a good thing!) and I found myself with no time. And of course, in my off time, I was doing important adulty things like adjusting my budget and looking at emails. Back to night blogging.

Though not very far in the process myself, I feel like I’ve already come a long way and there are a lot of things I’ve learned since I first started. First a disclaimer: this is all from my process, things that have happened to me, things I’ve learned and taken away. They may not be the same for you, and your own experience may vary–but these are the kinds of things people ask me, and you may find them helpful. And so, a listicle!

Five things I wish I could tell my pre-published self:

1. Getting a submission rejected isn’t the hardest part

For years, and years, and years, the one thing holding me back from submitting anything, anywhere, was fear of rejection. I saw very talented friends submitting their fiction through the process best known to be tried and true successful, querying an agent, and getting rejection after rejection. From this, I held up rejection as the absolute worst, and figured it was better to keep writing fanfic forever than it would be to risk my original fiction and have it turned down. I already knew that being turned down that way would be like having my own self rejected, so I was pretty much willing to avoid that prospect indefinitely.

It took a real kick in the pants to get me to the point of ever submitting anything, and a direct invitation from an awesome person.

And when I got past the amazingness of getting accepted, I came to realize there were worse things than the prospect of rejection. Which, in the end, is really the process of finding the best fit for author and publisher and nothing more. And that “worse” brings me to my next item, which is…

2. The first pro edit will rip your soul to shreds

I’m exaggerating. Slightly.

The day I got my first pro edit back, I wanted to hide in a hole, never write again, take my manuscript back from the publisher and light it on fire, cry (I definitely did that), yell, drink a lot (I probably did some of that), and wondered just what the hell I had gotten into.

It was, bar none, the most difficult edit of my life, not only because it had a lot of issues to fix, being my oldest manuscript (from 2003) but a lot of rewrites were involved, and I finished with a different editor from the one that I started with.

So I’m not exaggerating when I say the first edit is hard. It’s not like working with a beta reader (or maybe it is, depending on how intensely you work with a beta). They will catch things you never could have thought would still be in there, no matter how many passes you’ve already made. They will point out things you may disagree with, and it will be difficult to decide how to incorporate those edits. It might be hard to see the line where the edit is optional, versus highly recommended, versus required. Edits like publishing house style, of course, are always required.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it–I’m not sure if anyone has a good first pro edit experience. Maybe I’m wrong and someone will comment to prove that to me! The important takeaway is that it gets better, and easier. You get stronger and more confident, provided you learn from the experience and take that into each subsequent draft.

I’ve said before, Hemingway said write drunk, edit sober. I say read your edits drunk, incorporate them sober. It’s medicinal.

3. Be an author the editors WANT to work with

From the very first, uphill battle, though, my goal was to be an author that my editors would want to work with. After I was thoroughly tenderized from my first edit, I started to see the importance and merit in a lot of what I’ve begun to call their “tough love.”

It’s the editor’s job to see the forest for the trees. They have a bigger perspective, they have industry experience, and in many cases, they can spot the flaws and problems that are invisible to you and whatever friends have helped you get the manuscript to its second draft.

In order to be an author that people want to work with, there are some mandatory baseline items. You have to pay attention to your publisher’s house style. If they go by the Chicago Manual of Style, invest in a copy. Make sure your manuscript conforms. If they use emdashes, make sure to use emdashes–like so–instead of other formatting styles – like the space, dash, space, that I used to use – see what I did there?

Here’s the thing: your editor should not have to spend extra time on things that should already be done. Such as a single space between sentences, instead of the two spaces a lot of us grew up with. I think I just dated myself there. Microsoft Word’s find-replace can even fix that for you, so there’s no excuse.

Their job is to make your manuscript better. But first, don’t you want it to be the absolute best it can be before they ever lay eyes on it? Not only does it make their job easier, but they’ll see you’ve mastered the basics and they’ll turn their attention to places where your manuscript really needs work, content as well as line edits.

Conventional wisdom says never turn in your first draft. Conventional wisdom is absolutely correct. No one’s first draft is perfect. There are always things to find. If you don’t have people who can do a good, hard edit for you, there are writer’s groups you can join, or you can even approach pro editors and ask if they’ll do a sample pro edit for you, to see what you’re getting into. Many of them will do that, all you have to do is shop around. And this is also important, I think, to see whether you can work with a pro edit, or whether your reaction is just “No!!!!” But there’s a major reason it is so important to listen to your editor and work well with them.

4. The things your editor says are the things the reviewers will say if you don’t do diligence with your edits

I learned this the hard way with one of my own novels. Many of some negative elements in reviews for From the Inside Out mentioned things that were an initial concern of one of my editors, or things where I had made a half-hearted stab at things she’d asked me to do, but hadn’t taken that as far as I should have. And I kind of wince at all of the reviews that say “needed more editing,” because, well, that’s my fault. It wasn’t that the editor didn’t point out those things–it was that I didn’t incorporate them, or didn’t do them as fully as I ought to have.

Every edit for any manuscript I’ve had since then, I have paid scrupulous attention to my edits, asked more questions if I didn’t understand an edit, and made sure the editor and I were both happy with the final draft before it goes for its line edit. And I stand behind every manuscript I’ve had since then. And in my own opinion, working with my editors has gotten better and better. I hope they feel the same way!

When the editor asks for changes, it’s not because they hate your manuscript, think you’re terrible, or are trying to make your life difficult. It’s because the changes will almost certainly make your novel better. And if you’re not sure about that and feel very strongly about your original draft, the head editor is usually available for questions if a tie-breaker is needed. You’ve (typically) got the option to override suggested changes, as the author it’s your novel, but don’t forget the editor’s name is on that book too, as the editor. They’re invested in the edits because it’s their job to make you look good.

And when you look good, the reviews are good … usually.

5. Take reviews with a grain of salt. Or a block. Keep writing.

Popular opinion of most authors you’ll survey is “DON’T LOOK AT YOUR REVIEWS.” But if you do, for the love of God, be prepared and fully braced for negative opinions. Maybe they have a point. Maybe it’s like they read a completely different manuscript from the one you wrote. But either way, they will have an opinion, they will express it, and it may not ping you the right way. It may sting, or it may outright hurt and make you want to throw your keyboard on the ground.

But, really, what’s a negative review (or ten) going to change? The manuscript is done, it’s published. Once it’s out there, it’s open to interpretation. Some people will like it, some people won’t. Reviews let other people know what that person thought. In a way, they’re not really for you, they’re for those other people, the ones who might read your book.

Take what you can from the reviews, hold the good close to you and cherish it, and shake off the bad. What else can you really do? Wait, let me answer that: for the love of little green apples, do not, DO NOT, do not ever engage with a reviewer if they’ve left you any slightest nuance of a negative review. You may be tempted to engage with them and correct them for something you think they’ve said that is “wrong” about your story. It is not worth the shitstorm that will rain down upon you from the masses. It’s not your job to tell a reviewer that they read your story wrong. The story needs to speak for itself. Once it’s out there, that’s it. You had your shot, now it’s their turn.

Some other authors have advised having a third party screen your reviews, and share the positive ones. This is not a bad idea, if you know yourself and what your reactions to criticism (you feel unwarranted) might be.

At the end of the day, no matter what, reviews shouldn’t stop you writing. An author is someone who basically has to write, after all. Or, rather, an author is like a shark. Keep swimming or something dies.

That’s what I’ve got to share this week! I hope it was helpful, or at least gave a few of you something to think about. This is all a work in progress for me. Next year, I’ll probably have five new things I would have told the me-of-now.

Next week: tackling effeminophobia. What the heck is that, why is it terribad, and where does it come from?

WIP Wednesday: My Sexual Superhero

By popular demand! Today’s WIP Wednesday brings you another snippet of “My Sexual Superhero,” which is very much a work in progress. The title, as I’ve already had to explain twice, is a bit of a misnomer as neither character is an actual superhero, though Jessan certainly thinks Felipe is talented between the sheets. I may end up changing the name just to avoid spoiled expectations!

At this point, I’m definitely fighting to keep the story throttled back under 20,000 words. I tend to do better character work, especially contemporary, when I have more room to stretch out and get under their skin. Will keep at it and see where these boys bring me!

    “Jessan Pierce would rather spend the night with his Doctor Who collection having tea out of the Tardis than go dancing, but his best friend Maria knows what he really needs is to shake off the doldrums and get out of his well-worn groove. Felipe de la Rosa is just his type, short, well-built, and as ready with a smart-mouthed quip as he is to take his shirt off. The chemistry that works great between the sheets seems to fizzle outside the bedroom, though, and Jessan may prove too chicken to take the chance to put himself out there with Felipe, as well as the other big leap he’s facing in his life.”

“Drinks?” Jessan asked, leaning forward to speak right into Marina’s ear. He did better not only with dancing but clubbing in general when he had a few drinks in him.

She nodded, altering course to head for the bar, which was packed and understaffed. There were only two bartenders, a dark-haired man at one end, a blond woman closer to them holding up a silver shaker and looking out over the crowd with a set, almost grim expression, the look of an overworked employee staring into the deep end of a long night.

“This is going to take forever!” Marina did an about face and shoved cash into his hand. “Get me a vodka cranberry, and I’ll find you!”

“Bullshi—” Jessan began to protest, but she was already gone. He cast his eyes up, caught sight of the dim mirror ball that was raised up unused for the evening, and shuffled forward to join the queue with a shrug.

While he was musing over whether he let himself get suckered into things because he wasn’t assertive, or he lacked assertiveness because he was constantly suckered into things, a hard shoulder collided with his and Jessan lurched forward.

“Shit! I am so sorry, man!” Hands reached out to steady him, and Jessan turned, brow gathering in a glare.

His squint shifted to one of instant appraisal. From the impact he’d expected someone taller, more muscular, but his assailant was close to his height, and his type in all the ways he hadn’t seen in a while. He was short, dark, and brown, though his features had a distinctly Asian cast. Jessan schooled himself to disinterest; all of the Asians on campus tended toward aggressive Christianity, clubgoing or not.

“No worries,” Jessan said. “So long as you didn’t do it on purpose.”

Short and Dark leaned in closer, flashing a smile that displayed teeth in stark contrast as his eyes went up and down Jessan. “And if I did?” he asked. His hand remained a warm presence on Jessan’s shoulder. “And was looking for an excuse to make conversation?”

Jessan’s brain was forced to backpedal on his assumptions, and he stood gaping like a flounder as he tried to come up with a response. He shook his head a little, laughed and decided not to accuse the guy of a terrible method of coming onto someone, and managed the very with-it reply of “Uhh …”

“Nice shirt!” Short and Dark complimented him, smoothing right past Jessan’s awkward non-answer. His eyes skimmed from Jessan’s chest and upward until he made eye contact again, and smiled.

That put Jessan on more familiar territory. “Oh?” he said, somewhat wary. People had recognized the pop culture references before, but tended to think they looked cool or missed the thrust of the shirt’s design.

“Yeah, Captain Jack’s my favorite—and having him cosplay Captain Sparrow is about five kinds of awesome. Makes you wonder which would be more slutty.”

Jessan beamed at him. Whether Short and Dark had knocked into him on purpose or not, getting the t-shirt’s visual pun had endeared him to Jessan forever. “Right?” he said. “My friend says I wear too much Tee Fury stuff, but I’m kind of an addict.” He shifted in place, wondering if he should turn around and make sure he maintained his place in line, or introduce himself.

The dilemma was solved when a hand was offered to him. “I’m Felipe.” Warm, dark eyes surveyed him.

“Jessan.” He took Felipe’s hand and shook it, enjoying a glow that had nothing to do with the drinks he’d thought he needed. An insecure corner of his head told him exactly what Felipe was seeing: the skinny half-black, half-Persian kid with cornrows and geek gear, too insecure to wear any of the more flattering clothes his female friends attempted to push on him. He was in a t-shirt and jeans and combat boots, and got mistaken half the time for a butch lesbian. Jessan took the conscious initiative to tell that part of his brain to buzz off; adults were talking. And if he hadn’t misinterpreted the interest, adults might be hooking up.

“Not a fan of club gear, then, Jessan?” Felipe asked, stepping into his space and guiding Jessan along with the flow of the queue shuffling toward the bar.

The move reminded Jessan of dancing, and he was caught between that and the notion he was being subtly derided. There was nothing mocking in Felipe’s face, at least, so he treated it like a question with no mean intent.

“I’m not much of a clubbing person, no.” Jessan waved a hand around to encompass the noisy, dark interior and wrinkled his nose at the cramped dance floor. Before he could go off on a rant, he caught himself and hauled his remarks into politer territory. “Uh, but, yours looks good!” He allowed himself to look.

On Felipe, ‘club gear’ wasn’t doing it justice. It was more like he’d walked out of Jessan’s wet dream catalogue. Besides being in Jessan’s height range, short by anyone else’s standards but perfect for him, Felipe had dark hair gelled up into wayward spikes, brown skin set off to advantage by a silver tank that bared his arms, collarbones, and a glimpse of belly, and skintight patterned leggings that weren’t underwear, but left very little to the imagination. It gave Jessan brief flashbacks to David Bowie in tights and his early realization of where his attractions lay.

“Likin’ the angle of the dangle?” Felipe asked, cocking his head.

“Did you just … quote The Losers at me?” Jessan was stupefied. He’d never known a guy with Felipe’s attractiveness index to have anything to do with that movie; at least, not the gay ones.

Felipe’s faint smile widened. “Yeah, I did. It was a sneaky way of letting you know I noticed you checking me out.”

Maintaining Visibility: How Often to Publish?

Conventional wisdom from authors attending the Gay Romance Northwest meet-up covered the subject of how often an author should publish in order to stay on the readers’ radar. The answer surprised me: there’s a push to publish quarterly to stay on top.

I am a prolific writer myself, but the thought of putting out something every quarter seemed pretty exhausting. After all, the process involves brainstorming, turning out a first draft, going back for the first edit, submitting, doing another, potentially more extensive edit for pre-publication that might involve re-writes, and galley approval. All of that for one manuscript–then the prospect of juggling four (or more!) manuscripts a year can be overwhelming.

That led me to take a look at my own experiences over the past year and a half. I started out submitting three manuscripts right out the gate. By the end of the year I’d submitted two more and gotten them accepted. Fireborn came out last summer, Signal to Noise came out in autumn, From the Inside Out in December. This year, I’ve had the three volumes of Appetite staggered from March to May to July, and Courage Wolf Never Sings the Gorram Blues made its serial debut in May, and its anthology debut last week. Convergence comes out next week, and The Fall Guide will come out in December. In the meantime, I have Body Option, The More Plausible Evil, and Klaxon at the Core accepted and going through various parts of the editing process. And I’ll be starting Dragonspire next month! Not to mention, I have other short stories planned for anthologies or collections due at the end of the year and beyond.

No wonder it feels like writing is its own part-time job, on top of my already full time employment.

So, without intending to or planning for it, I seem to have positioned myself for that ideal “publish quarterly, or around that” philosophy. At least for the first couple of years!

Now I ask the question: is it really necessary? Are readers so fickle or easily distracted that an author needs to keep up with the demand and publish quarterly, or lose their readers?

When I was younger, I remember waiting years in between books for certain authors. Most notably, I think the longest I ever waited for an author was Melanie Rawn, and her next published title was a huge break from her previous work. It was more of a contemporary urban fantasy, where before she had been working on otherworldly epic fantasy, vast in worldbuilding and political scope and, I think, a trilogy that will remain forever unfinished. That aside, authors worked in the framework of years as opposed to the go, spend, buy consumer culture we have going on today, and I was accustomed to waiting at least two years between books for the “big name” authors.

The landscape of m/m fiction seems to come with different expectations. Regardless of what the big name authors say, I think it’s good advice for someone getting newly established, like myself, to make a push to get something published on a regular basis to get your name out there.

At the same time, in my opinion I think it’s also important to pace yourself, and make sure you and the people you’re working with are satisfied with the quality of the material you’re putting out there. When you rush something to an artificial deadline, no matter the reason whether it’s keeping your name out there or just a determination not to change dates, it’s all too easy to make mistakes in the process, whether re-writes are part of it or not.

When you feel rushed, stressed, or under the hammer to produce, that’s also when the quality starts to suffer. And that’s definitely when it’s time to take a break. Whether you’re getting yourself established or already at the top, telling the best story that you can is what really matters. Everything else falls into place from that.