chef and foodie love

Throwback Thursday: The Appetite series

Appetite is still going strong!

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I should have been working on a prior commitment these past couple of months. I should have, but an Appetite story, Five Stars Rising, snuck its way into my heart, insisted to be written, and now I have 50k+ words completed and waiting for a cool-off session before I do a self-edit and find one last beta reader before submission. (And if you’re interested, by all means feel free to volunteer.)

Most recently, Boys on the Brink gave A Cut Above the Rest a lovely review and I certainly hope Jamie continues to read and enjoy the series.

Appetite is my tale of attraction, distrust, hot tempers and hotter guys in the kitchen. It goes from behind-the-scenes fine dining to competitive cooking and back again, as Alex and Nik battle for supremacy with their cuisine and their growing desires for one another.

There’s no better time to check out the series! Add any one of the books, or the Appetite compilation, to your cart at Less Than Three Press, enter “ANDOR” for your coupon code, and save 20%! But act now, because my featured author savings is good only through the end of this month.

Are you excited to hear about another installment of Appetite?

Giveaway, cover reveal, and more … oh my!

Tomorrow, at some point: the first volume of my Appetite series will be available as part of the Less Than Three Press five-year anniversary giveaway!

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You’ll be able to grab a copy of this lovely e-book FOR FREE, during a very narrow window of opportunity. Keep an eye on the giveaway post or the Less Than Three tumblr or @LT3Press to see when the giveaway goes live.

Direct listing for A Cut Above the Rest is here.

Summary:

Alex always had it easy growing up, indulged by loving, but busy parents as he flitted from one interest to another without settling. Then he discovered the world of fine dining and became determined to be a chef capable of producing such magnificent meals. Despite the doubts of a father who limited his funds, and the difficulties of leaving Germany to live in the United States, Alex stuck to his new goal and graduated the Culinary Institute of America.

Fresh out of school, he is eager to begin work at the restaurant owned by a good friend of his father’s, a restaurant well known for the beautiful, innovative meals its chefs create. He is primed to join the ranks of those masterful chefs—until the day he starts, and learns that he is nothing more than kitchen lackey, lower in rank than even the dishwashers.

Worse, his boss is none other than Nik, the beautiful, infuriating, highly talented classmate that Alex could never best—or resist.

And now, the beautiful cover reveal you’ve all been waiting for… my next to-be-published novel, Klaxon at the Core:

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Klaxon at the Core is the sequel to Signal to Noise.

    After surviving alone on Noise for years, Bastian and Theo are exhilarated and terrified by the thriving chaos of Central. Even in the middle of civilization, they stand apart, bound together by their years of isolation. Central is their chance to change that, and to find the ordinary lives they never knew on Noise. Long, lonely days struggling to survive are firmly in their past.

    But the present proves to hold conflicts of its own, and if Bastian and Theo hope to survive to enjoy their new lives, they may have to return to the hard lessons of their nightmarish past …

That’s enough for one post. More news soon to come, so keep checking back. ♥

Giveaway: Appetite paperback!

Tonight I’m doing two things: making braised beef short ribs, and the lingering aroma permeating our house is utterly divine; and bringing you an exclusive giveaway of the gorgeous, weighty paperback version of Appetite, the compilation volume of A Cut Above the Rest, The Competitive Edge, and Surfeit for the Senses.

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Summary from the first novel:

Alex always had it easy growing up, indulged by loving, but busy parents as he flitted from one interest to another without settling. Then he discovered the world of fine dining and became determined to be a chef capable of producing such magnificent meals. Despite the doubts of a father who limited his funds, and the difficulties of leaving Germany to live in the United States, Alex stuck to his new goal and graduated the Culinary Institute of America.

Fresh out of school, he is eager to begin work at the restaurant owned by a good friend of his father’s, a restaurant well known for the beautiful, innovative meals its chefs create. He is primed to join the ranks of those masterful chefs—until the day he starts, and learns that he is nothing more than kitchen lackey, lower in rank than even the dishwashers.

Worse, his boss is none other than Nik, the beautiful, infuriating, highly talented classmate that Alex could never best—or resist.

You can find summaries and excerpts from all three books from the series page here. It’s also got a nice spread of Goodreads reviews here.

The Appetite series is near and dear to my heart, not only for all the amazing food but because presiding over the journey that Chef Alex and Chef Nik take over the course of the story is tremendously frustrating, certainly difficult, but ultimately satisfying.

The trade paperback is quite thick! And worth its weight.

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The Giveaway:
I am offering this trade paperback to ONE lucky winner, chosen by a random number selected by random.org from the comments of this entry. I’ll autograph it however you like, and I will ship Appetite anywhere that accepts U.S. mail from me to you.

To enter, drop a comment (you MUST include an email or means of contact or I CANNOT count your entry). Comment between now and next Sunday, October 6th. Winners will be chosen Monday morning.

Tell me in your comment about your favorite dish, savory or sweet! I love to hear about what foods everyone regards as their favorite. That’s it–comment (and include your email or a way to contact you) and you are entered!

If you would like additional chances to enter, you may also do the following:

– Promote/share my Facebook post promoting Appetite’s print release.
– Post a comment on my/your Facebook about the novel.
– Reblog my Tumblr post promoting Appetite.
– Retweet my author tweet on Twitter regarding Appetite’s paperback.
– Become a fan on Goodreads.
– Make a comment or make a post promoting the novel on your own social venue (any and all – WordPress, LJ, DW, blogspot, just link me so I can verify)

Basically, spread the word in any possible fashion and you can get an additional chance (for each extra action) to win your own signed trade paperback copy of Appetite!

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Thanks for your support! Good luck, bon Appetite, and have a great week!

No Plot? No Problem!

My early days of productive writing took place during a proliferation of what people fondly referred to at the time as “PWPs,” short for “Plot? What Plot?” The stories were thinly-veiled excuses for the two characters to get together and do the deed.

And I was good at them! I’m not going to stand on false modesty, here. I had mastered the art of getting two characters together through a variety of creative means–one memorable instance involving a gun and a shot to the head–then delving into the erotica and leading out with a moment either poignant or humorous, hopeful or lascivious.

Over the years, the enforced regimen of Nanowrimo after Nanowrimo, and developing certain skills through project management work, I got better at adding in plot. My focus gradually shifted to telling a larger story where two people getting together were a part, rather than the driving mechanism of the whole. Conflict existed, deeds were done, tension flourished, and the fabric of the plot consisted of more than the relationship weaving two people inextricably together.

Casual fiction can be a great method for learning how to tell overarching story arcs. I wrote a five-part original series, After the Rising, over the span of several years where I started out fumbling through a relationship story focused on three brothers, and somehow by the time it was done, told an epic tale about demons versus humans, and the battle for a particular artifact that could shift the balance of power between warring factions. Looking back through those masses and masses of words I wrote, I can spot a lot of flaws. There’s a drag in certain installments–the middle child suffers that most horrible fate where a great deal of words were wasted to cover very little ground. And by the second or third book I finally realized not everyone can be gay men. At least I got in some good, strong females who were there to do their jobs, and diversity was a part of the story from the first installment.

Overall that casual fiction effort can’t be considered a complete loss. It was compelling enough that one of my friends asked me to send them the entire series, to see if they could help me work it over into a shape approaching publishable. (After having been through the editorial process with seven manuscripts now, and currently engaged in two more, I can say that particular original series needs a lot of hard work before I’d submit it.)

At the core of it all, however, no matter what deeds take place and however strong the world-building of the places I envision, one thing I’ve realized is I am still, at the heart of it, telling stories where two characters get together and do the deed. And that means I will probably always be considered a romance author, and I’m good with that.

To me, that’s where a great deal of the interest, the joy of telling a story, lies. It’s not only the plot twists, or the clever mechanisms. The heart of the story, the part that I love reinventing with every new set of characters that I write, is taking these two people (or more, if there are multiple couples) and finding out who they are, and how they come together.

Two people meet, and there’s something in each of them that reacts to the other, whether that’s positive or negative. Subsequent encounters, or repeated exposure, bring out more tension, whether it’s personality or attraction-based. I love writing the unfolding relationship, and I’ve seen mixed reactions from authors on this next item, but I love to write the erotica. My sex scenes vary from light to detailed depending on the story and what’s happening with the plot, but I look forward to, and enjoy, writing that part of the story too. If I’ve made my characters (and the reader) wait for it, then everyone deserves the payoff for sure.

Stories, especially novels, can’t subsist on sex scenes alone, however. I did learn to plot my stories around the bones of the relationship, starting with my very first Nanowrimo back in 2002. Knowing that I was going into a thirty-day writing sprint, expected to come out of the other end with a 50,000+ word manuscript, and determined to succeed, I approached the project with my first-ever comprehensive outline. Prior to 2002, I’d completed novel-length works before, both fannish and casual original fiction endeavors, but my approach was completely laissez-faire, totally by the seat of my pants, and typically took months. I would start out writing with vague ideas, and found out more as I went along. I invented everything the story needed in terms of world-building or supporting characters on the spot.

That wasn’t going to work for an endeavor like Nanowrimo. I needed to have enough material planned so that I could write through each and every scene and get through the day having met my word count by the end of it. So I penned out my ideas for “Not Another Regency Romance,” roughing out a cast of characters and two romantic storylines unfolding side by side: May, the novel’s heroine, and her younger brother Tor, who incidentally fell for the older man who was intended to be May’s suitor.

It might not have been completely terrible? A good handful of people read it, and at least one person whose opinion I trust told me it was well-told and they enjoyed it. I never ended up editing or trying to submit it anywhere, because I didn’t think the story would have a market. Too gay for straight romance, too straight for gay romance, and I had no interest in editing out either of the romantic storylines. Those dual storylines were what really made the plot.

The important takeaway from that early effort was how to outline, and it gave me the confidence that I needed to continue with that format. 2002 was like a writing exercise in which I learned which parts of my outline to stick to, which to scrap for the sake of the story, and where I could improve upon it during the writing process, always allowing for inspiration or characters becoming so much more.

That’s how I write from my outlines, in the end. The outline is the framework that the story is built upon, but I’m free to change or tweak as needed, add extra characters when they’re called for, accommodate a dramatic twist when the opportunity presents itself, and let the story play out the way it wants to be written. Sometimes the characters surprise me, and I like it when that happens–if I can get caught up in writing it, hopefully others will get caught up reading it, too.

For Nanowrimo 2003, I dove into it with the same mindset, but started with an unfinished outline. Little did I know, once November was over and I’d turned out over 85,000 words, without an outline or a clear path to the end I would lose momentum. It took me nearly ten years to finish From the Inside Out. When it was accepted for publication, the epilogue got axed, and many of the storyline details changed during the editing process. I believe this is partly because my outline, penned back in 2003, was weak in plot and the relationship story I tried to tell wasn’t right for the characters I developed. Since then, in my meager opinion I think I’ve gotten better at those elements.

In terms of the outline process itself, I always start with the characters first. I have a general idea for a story, which I may or may not write down right away. I form an idea of the main characters in my head: what they look like, their personalities, what they do. I’ll often use actors as character bases, but not always. Sometimes their names come to me easily; other times, I do research based on ethnicity/nationality, personality traits, when they were born and what names were popular at the time, and personal preference. Once I have their names down, I commit that to paper or electronic file and start jotting down ideas about them. At this point of the brainstorming process, I may or may not rough out a general idea of the storyline itself. “Convergence” started out as “Indiana Jones with vampires,” so you can see I had a long way to go from there. In fact, my original short story idea for the Proud to be a Vampire call was going to be something else entirely, then instead of shifting the scene I’d mapped in my head to the end of the story, I realized as the characters developed that the scene in my head wasn’t the right part of the story to tell, at all. I developed an entirely new story from there–and it’s one I like a lot better. “Appetite,” which ended up a sprawling three-part tome, began its life as the teaser sentence “competitive chefs with a passion for cooking…and each other.” I start with building blocks, and the idea grows until I have to write it all down. Usually the story name comes in at some point during my outlining process. Sometimes, the name is a placeholder and I change it at the end. “Body Option” and “Fireborn” both had different working titles; I can’t even remember what the original titles were anymore.

Right now, I’m at the beginning stages of outlining two new manuscripts, and the process is so different for each of them! “My Sexual Superhero” is a short story I’ll be submitting for a fiction call. All I know about it, at this point, is the two characters get together at a club, and one brief encounter ends up turning into something more when they actually open up and start learning about one another. One of the main characters is tentatively named Jaden, but I might change it. His best friend is Marina. The other guy would be Chris if I hadn’t already named another character Chris, in Convergence. I have a snippet of dialogue already written, but that’s it! Oh, and I know what they look like.

…and I came back from lunch and “Not Chris” became “Felipe” and all my nascent ideas about him have changed, and I like him even better than my original concept for him. I have more ideas about where the story is going, but not how it ends.

The other manuscript I’m plotting is going to be my 2013 Nanowrimo, and I’m trying out “Dragonspire” and “Dragon’s Nexus” for WIP titles. After searching for novels titled the same or similarly, I’m sure I’ll scrap those and come up with something else. The three characters I’ve got so far are Gideon Stahl, intrepid photographer engaged in a major life change; Chrysania Vallorum, high priestess and princess of Callar-dune; and Echo Glaive, a powerful dragon whose actions threaten the livelihood of Callar-dune’s citizens. Tagline for the story is “Gideon went to save the maiden. He pledged himself to the dragon.” At this point, I’m concentrating on the world-building details while the general storyline comes together in my head. When I start outlining things scene by scene, that’s usually when a lot of things start to shake out into specific form and structure. For longer stories, I tend to decide early if there will be different “parts,” or story arcs, divide the outline into those sections, and work on those. I think that Dragonspire will be two parts, possibly three, but I don’t want it to be much longer than 100k altogether, because I want this to be a standalone fantasy work. That’s going to help dictate the complexity of the outline.

Once I have all the general pieces, I start writing scene by scene. This varies from extremely general–“Jaden goes clubbing with his friend Marina”–to very specific, with some scene-setting or world-building details that may get incorporated into the manuscript. I outline in a relatively linear fashion, but jot down bursts of inspiration as they come. Often, I know how the story will end before I have the middle nailed down, for example. Or I’ll get a scene in my head that takes place in the story, and I write it all down and figure out a place for it when I’m going through the linear plotting.

Ultimately, most stories can be deconstructed to a single element: conflict, and resolution of the conflict. Whether that takes place as relationship conflict, or external conflict through opposing forces, it’s all up to the author and what they want to achieve, and how they want to get there. Some people work best when they jump right in with those vague ideas, and work their way through it during the writing process. For me, the story works better when I start with those vague ideas, and work their way through it during the writing process. For me, the story works better when I start with the ideas and give them greater substance with the structure of the outline, however loose or detailed. We tell the stories we want to tell–the ones that want to be told. If you don’t have a plot at first, it’s not a problem. Put your characters down on paper, maneuver them into the same space together, and figure out what makes the sparks fly from there. Above all, don’t be afraid to experiment and find out what methods work best on an individual basis. I used to think that I had to have every single world-building detail figured out, and I was failing some criteria of being an author if I didn’t–then I discovered not everyone works that way! The great, fun, endlessly inventive thing about writing is that everyone does it differently. And we all find our best way.

Sales! Sales! Sales!

Are you looking for some great books to read? Would you like to score some sweet deals? Then Less Than Three Press has got a Labor Day weekend treat for you!

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I have to get in a plug for my babies. Use code “foodie” to save 40% on my Appetite series, including the ebook bundle, and the print compilation. http://tinyurl.com/lt3Appetite

But that’s not all!

Use code “dragons” to save 30% on Dragon Slayer, The Dragon’s Hoard series, Sword of the King, & The Dragon’s Tamer. http://www.lessthanthreepress.com/books/ (Note: code will work for the individual Dragon’s Hoard books & the print volume.)

Use code “zombies” to save 30% on Zombie Rain, Zombie Wonderland, & Midnight http://www.lessthanthreepress.com/books/

Use code “Preorder” & save 15% on If Wishes Were Coffee, Piper, Alpha Trine & Goblins: Book 1. http://www.lessthanthreepress.com/books/

Use code LostGods to save 40% on Megan Derr’s Lost Gods series, the includes the ebook bundle. http://tinyurl.com/lt3LostGods (I’m going to use this myself, to pick up the other three Lost Gods books that I don’t have yet.)

Use code “AllTheLove” for 30% off poly titles including Jewels of Bangkok, Living Words, & Weld. Go here for more: https://www.facebook.com/lt3press/posts/10151566345845988

Use code “baileys” for 35% off @Jo_Lena’s picks, including Miles Cross, Finding King, & Opposite Day. The rest here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151566564450988&set=a.10150885262485988.395217.177721070987&type=1

Less Than Three Pres ‏@LT3Press 10h
Use code “wolves” to save 30% on Forest of Fenris, Bad Moon Rising, Mohegan, Highland Wolves & others: https://www.facebook.com/lt3press/posts/10151566792440988

Use code “amaretto” to save 35% on @amasour’s picks, including Heart of Water & Stone and The Gravemen. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151566866610988&set=p.10151566866610988&type=1

It’s a great weekend for sales, apparently. I myself went to the car dealership yesterday, and ended up driving home a beautiful cobalt blue Prius C.

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She doesn’t have a name yet, but I love her!

Have a great weekend, everyone. We’re being supremely lazy today, making flatbread pizza and playing video games, but I hope to get in a few good hours of editing as well. The Fall Guide proceeds apace!

Intent vs Actual

My intent was to launch Topical Tuesday, but alas, I am fresh out of topic, and I used up the last of my willpower making myself exercise in 85-degree (F) weather. Instead, I bring you the Tuesday Update as slaved over by Less Than Three Press.

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It’s here, it’s big enough to use as a bludgeon, and it’s absolutely beautiful. My four author copies came in a box the same size as the motorcycle boots I got for my birthday.

In short: Appetite is now available, both as an ebook compilation and as a gorgeous trade paperback. Pick up your copy now! I’ll be running a giveaway soon out of sheer delight.

Also, Surfeit for the Senses has netted its second blog review from Serena Yates at Rainbow Book Reviews, bestowing four stars and pleading very nicely for a “fourth” installment in the trilogy.

Serena says, “If you like stories full of professional cooking and food detail, challenges and successes, if you enjoy romantic tension interweaves nicely and seamlessly with an interesting plot, and if you’re looking for a read that will make you as hungry as it will make you want to see these guys finally acknowledge the full depth of their feelings for each other, then you will probably like this novel.”

As an added incentive – pick up any or all of the Appetite books through Less Than Three Press and through Wednesday, you can use code “d975c3d606” for 35% off, because they are awesome like that.

Now, alas, I have to scrape together my remaining willpower because the hallway is full of boxes that need to be broken down and hauled out to recycling, and despite my best efforts, I have not been able to train the cat to do it for me. See you on WIP Wednesday!