Monday, August 15, 2016

5 Tips for Writers (That are Hopefully not Entirely Cliche)

Now, I try not to post a lot about the actual writing process on here. It’ll probably bore most readers to tears, and it’s a bit like Toto drawing back the curtain – you find out that I’m really an old con artist from Kansas, and I write all my books by turning cranks and shouting into a microphone.

All right, maybe I took that simile a bit too far.

But I wanted to give a little nod, because I’ve been doing a lot more of my own writing lately (I’m sticking to my schedule, damn it.), which means a lot more editing. But I’m also part of a critique group, and I’ve been offering a helping hand to some other authors who are just getting into the game (And learning it’s heavily stacked in favor of the house, in some cases.). It means a lot of closely examining writing in various stages of publication and readiness and all that. Authors who have written and published books, but are just venturing into the M/M world. Authors who are working through their first book, still, but want someone to take a look at short stories. Authors who signed with a New York house or Amazon Publishing or who write for Chicken Soup and Woman’s World.

Now, I’m not Nora Roberts. I’m not Rhys Ford. I’m not any kind of household name, or a name shared between fans (At least I don’t think so. Maybe I am. A girl can dream.). But I have been at this whole thing for a while, and I want to share some insights I’ve got for the beginning author. They’re not in any order of importance. They’re all things to consider, and things that I think are often forgotten or underplayed in “How to Write” tips.

1. It’s your book. No one else can tell you what works in it, and that’s absolutely correct. It’s art. But make sure you consider what people say is a problem with it. Really think about it, because the hardest ones to change are going to be the ones where you know they’re right, but you maybe tried to fudge it past them because you didn’t want to do the work.

2. Finish your book. Don’t let anyone see it until it’s the best you can possibly make it. Your first draft is not the best it can be, in case that needed clarification. Don’t give a publisher anything you’re not 95% confident in (100% doesn’t really happen. Sorry.). Never never never. And don’t waste a beta reader’s time by leaving in things you know need fixing. They have to mark it, and often times, they’ll not be able to get into something else they may have found that could use some fixing.

3. Write. This isn’t something that’s forgotten, but I think it’s often skimmed over, because everyone knows it. But I’m going to lay this one out clearly for any authors wondering what they need to do, or what’s so hard, or why it’s not working. A lot of the time, it’s not fun. It’s not, like, scraping roadkill off the pavement (Which is a very important job. I’m not making light of it. But it’s not fun.), but writing is work. At least it is if you’re going to make any real headway. People who do this professionally aren’t writing when the muse speaks to them, or waiting for flashes of creativity. They are putting their asses down in a chair, putting their fingers on keys, and staring at that vile, nasty blank page while they write what they’re convinced is utter crap. And sometimes it is, but writers write anyway, because that’s what turns the lights on in the morning. All that ink money.

4. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission. Don’t wait until retirement. Don’t wait for anything, because if you’re capable of waiting, then you probably aren’t cut out for it. Sorry to say it, but that’s the truth. When you’ve been at it a while, yeah, you’re probably going to procrastinate (For instance, I apparently write blogs posts when I’m putting off working on my books.), but when it’s still exciting to you, you shouldn’t be able to stop. Otherwise, you don’t really have the momentum you’ll need to carry you forward through the slog. And that’s going to be the worst of it, when it comes around. Trust me.

5. Don’t listen to anyone else. That includes me, with everything I outlined. These are guidelines I’ve seen that work for most people, and prove true 93% of the time (That’s a bullshit statistic, but I’d imagine it’s somewhere around there.). Maybe when you retire, you’ll finally write a brilliant book and it will take off. Maybe you have a way to make a viable career out of writing every three weeks when the mood strikes you. Maybe I’m talking out my ass about everything. That actually sounds like the most likely option of them all.

I hope this helps, even if I did sort of negate it at the end. Take what speaks to you, honestly consider it all, and see if it helps you out.

It’s all right, I’ll talk about sex and books again next time around. But this was rattling in the old skull.

Raven

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

State of the Bird

(The bird would be me. Raven. I made a pun.)

Hello once again, my lovelies. I feel like I’ve been a bit neglectful lately. I’ve been perhaps a bit obsessed with checking the numbers on my latest book. But they’re good numbers.

For the time being, I figure it’s a good time to just catch up with all of you. So… how are you? Is everything wonderful? Have you had any good wine lately (Personally, I found a Beaujolais at my local Safeway a couple months back for about 13 dollars, so my wine friends and I were thoroughly overjoyed.)? Any good sex? I’ve been out of the loop – fill me back in, darlings!

As for the state of authorial things? Things are surprisingly good, to be quite honest with all of you. The launch for Heart of a Pirate was incredible, and sales are still coming in. I made the choice to put it in Kindle Unlimited, so it’s also available for subscribers to borrow, and I’ve been getting a steady flow of page reads on it since then.

After I get done writing this post and doing a few other silly bureaucratic things, I’m going to start the initial draft of Hearts of Madijak Book Two, which is Kelt’s story. I worked up the outline and character bios a couple days ago, and those are printed off and waiting. I think this one’s going to be really good. I mean, I’m not entirely impartial, but this storyline excites me. I tend to write a lot of political intrigue as The Other Me, and this is skirting close to that. Worlds colliding and all that. At the very least, I’m looking forward to writing this book quite a lot more than I expected.

Other projects? Well, there’s nothing set in stone at all right now, but in the spirit of an open exchange between us, I have a book sitting with Loose Id. My editor passed it on to the editor in chief, and once she reviews it, I’ll find out whether they’d like to make an offer on it. It’s the first in a series of small-town paranormal romances. Five books, with the potential for more. If it turns out Loose Id isn’t interested, then I’ll make sure to keep you all abreast of how things are playing out.

Beyond that, I have a yearly schedule laid out. It’s looking at about 9-10 books per year, in various stages of completion. Between now and June 2017, I’ve got nine on the docket, and five of them are set to be for this name. The other four are for The Other Me, including the one I just finished up.

As for life? Well, it’s been a bit rocky. I’ve got a dog battling cancer, and another one who had a tumor removed (That one was benign, thankfully.). I’ve also been walking a dear friend of mine through a pretty rough round of depression. But I’ve cooked some amazing food, done some work on websites, and have generally been expanding myself as a person. Or at least attempting to. I’m planning to get myself fluent in German again, as well. That should make me extra cuddly, right?

And I think that’s all there is to say, my darlings! I hope you have an amazing day, and an amazing year. And if you haven’t subscribed to my new Newsletter yet, there’s a link at the top of the blog. Give it a peek.


Raven

Monday, June 13, 2016

Update: A Book is Coming!

Things are happening, darlings! I know I tend to say that a lot, but I’ve actually got the wine bottle open this time.

All right, I always have the wine bottle open, too. But things are happening. I’m working on a book! Working on getting it ready for publication this time. Now, you’ve seen the cover before, but I’ll post it here again.



Lovely, isn’t he? The release date will be this month, my lovelies, and I think it’s going to be well worth all the hype and waiting I’ve put you through.

When can you snatch yourself up a copy of Heart of a Pirate? Well, I hate making commitments (If you make them, you can break them.), but I’m looking at publication on June 28th. You’ll get my sexy little pirate, his sexy little farmhand, and your introduction to the world of Madijak.

I figure I can talk about that for a second, at least. Heart of a Pirate is the start of my secondary world/romance crossover. I’ve attempted to poke at something like this before, with Wild Ride, but I’d like to think this is an improvement. I’ve dug a lot deeper into the world and into the characters than I did with that book. That’s not to say Wild Ride is bad. But Heart of a Pirate has a lot more time behind it, and a lot more experience to bring to bear. I’ve been doing this more, and I think it shows through in this book.

Plus this book is… a bit bigger. Or a lot bigger. There’s more of an experience that we can share on those pages. More than anything I’ve put out to date. It’s almost twice as long as Silverfall, which was an admittedly short book. And it’s about quadruple what Wild Ride is.

Why did I want to write something that’s a bit… strange? Because I love fantasy and science fiction… if you couldn’t tell. But there’s actually something specific that I can link this particular project to. It’s Catherynne Valente. If you haven’t read her work, I highly recommend it, The Orpahn’s Tales in particular. What she does with her world in those books got my brain doing somersaults. I tire of the same, Middle Ages Anglo-Saxon fantasy worlds we see time and again. The Orphan’s Tales was perfect to satiate that craving. She tossed the norms out the window. She wanted to tell stories about manticores and falling stars and shahs and cities of amber. And she didn’t tell herself no. She didn’t let the world censor that. She went straight for it and delivered in a very big way.

It told me that I needed to go for it, that I needed to have the fortitude to put fingers to the keys and write the books that I wanted to read. And these were them.

I say these not because there’s more than one book, but because there will be. One of the beautiful things about independent publishing and e-publishing is the opportunity to do big series. Before this all hit and became viable, a massive series was incredibly rare, and when they did happen, it was almost always multiple authors. I’m talking about thirty, forty books. That’s what we’re looking at with these. I have, at this point, thirty-eight books in the Hearts of Madijak series planned out, in one sense or another. Some of them are more fleshed out than others, but they’re all at least conceived of. So… you know, a few books. Nothing overly ambitious, right?

And before we get there, yes, these are going to come out faster than the first one. I don’t plan on living another three hundred years to finish out the series. Heart of a Pirate was also a learning experience, figuring out how to balance the two plotlines (Romance and political intrigue, if you’re curious.), how to write something that bloody long. The others will come a lot more easily, now that I’ve made it through to the end. I can see a finished product and go “Okay, this is how things are supposed to work. This is how I want the series to feel.”

And… that’s that for now. Keep a look out for more updates, and for the release of the book at the end of the month, darlings!


Raven

Saturday, May 7, 2016

It's Never Been About Bathrooms

Yep. I’m going to talk about it. Run for the hills while you have the chance, darlings. I wouldn’t want you to get caught in the crossfire.

Or grab some popcorn. I keep it next to the wine. Riesling, specifically, because it pairs so nicely.

If you are in any internet circles with any connection to the United States, you’ve heard about the “Transgender Bathroom Laws,” I’m sure. Maybe you’re one of the unfortunate people living in North Carolina. Or maybe you actually agree with the law. If that’s the case, I’m going to warn you now: this probably isn’t the blog you want to frequent. Flee now while you still have the chance.

All right. Ready to go? Have your snacks? Then let’s begin.

This isn’t about bathrooms. Like, okay, most people have hopefully figured that out. The pretense of this issue being about bathrooms/changing rooms/etc. is completely inane. It’s always been a big no-no for people to use a bathroom designated for the opposite gender. Like, always. Well before this law. We can discuss the gendered v. gender-neutral bathroom issue another day. For the time being, the majority of US locations have gendered bathrooms and the like. Male and female. So we’ll look at the problem through that lens.

And through that lens, just like it’s been strongly frowned upon to use the bathroom designated to another gender… trans people have been using the bathrooms aligned with their gender for a long-ass time. But it’s suddenly an issue because…

There’s the issue. There was no catalyst. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. People whined and bitched and pissed and moaned about that, and surprisingly enough, they didn’t change their decision back. And eventually people realized they weren’t going to. The trans community seemed like a good target.

Because in reality, that’s what it’s about. It’s not about the bathroom. It’s about targeting trans people. As though there aren’t enough issues facing them. There are still numbers states in the USA where trans people have no protections against discrimination. Whether that be from employers, landlords, whoever. No protections. And in the states where they do have something legal on their side, they experience higher rates of police harassment. That’s when they do, in fact, go to the police. Almost 50% of trans people in this country don’t even feel comfortable turning to the police.

And let’s not even touch on the end result we see from all this (and much, much more) unpleasantness. Actually, I lied. Let’s touch on it right here: suicide rates among trans people are about 2500% higher than the national average. Not 250%. Not 25 times higher. Try 250 times higher than the average. And that’s totally just a coincidence, right?

Okay. Okay. I know this is way outside what I would normally post. No sexy young men or naughty stories or anything of the sort. But I feel like this is too important to ignore. And I know I’m getting very upset about it… but I’m pretty sure I should be. I’m pretty sure everyone should be, in point of fact.

But back to the point at hand: this isn’t about bathrooms. The whole bathroom/pervert/molester argument getting brandied about? That’s a ruse. A sham. It’s the thing that would get the most immediate reaction. Oh, your children. Are your children safe? Scary scary. But it’s not about that. It’s never about what the laws are supposedly about, is it? It wasn’t about two people getting married. It wasn’t about women voting. It wasn’t about the decreased economy from lack of slave labor. It wasn’t about the dangerous Native Americans.

It’s about fear and confusion and, I think more than anything else, power. There are people out there who like to have power over someone else. Now, I mean, if both parties are willing and agreed, and there’s a mutual respect, then it’s none of my business. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here. It wasn’t with same-sex marriage, women’s suffrage, emancipation, or the Trail of Tears. It’s power, and there’s pretty much no better natural resource to have power over than another human being. Except maybe a large group of human beings. Yeah… that sounds really creepy. But looking at it objectively? It’s true. Sorry.

Why are people so concerned about this? Well, it’s what they view as change. I suppose it is change. Society as a whole is growing more and more accepting of different things, and the people who liked things the way they were aren’t having it. It doesn’t make them not assholes, as far as I’m concerned.

Evolve or perish.

But it’s not about bathrooms. I want people to remember. Take other things away from this post. That would be awesome. But I want you to take that home: it’s about power and hatred and fear and confusion. Not bathrooms.


Raven

Monday, March 21, 2016

My Best Creative Advice (Today, Anyway)

I don’t exactly have a large social circle. I’ve never been someone who particularly likes crowds or anything like that. When I finally got easy access to email, I was thrilled, because I much prefer communicating via writing. Always have. There’s a lot of reasons for that, of course, and there’s also a lot of non-reasons I could talk about. But that’s not the point, here. Just a preface.

It’s hard for me to meet people, and even harder for me to meet other authors I can get along with. A few years ago, I joined a writer’s group in my area. I was shocked there was one in town at all, and when it turned out I could be friends with these people in a non-professional sense, I was ecstatic. I’m still friends with a few of these people.

But it turns out that one of the people I was closest with was very much a toxic individual. They were manipulative, they lied, they turned us against other members. And of course, as it goes with this sort of thing, I couldn’t see it. I didn’t know how bad it was until I finally did. And then I couldn’t be around them anymore. It wasn’t healthy, and I couldn’t support their lifestyle. Blah blah, personal personal.

The problem is that they were the self-appointed leader of this group. So when I had to stop being around them, I had to leave the group. I needed to separate. It was hard, because this group helped me out so much. A sounding board, beta readers, support. All gone. That led to quite the slump in productivity, and it’s a hole that I’ve been trying to claw my way out of for several months, now. I’m finally seeing the light, and that’s thanks in large part to a critique group I’ve joined. They’re wonderful people, and it’s writing first, social second.

Why was that so important? The companionship, yes, but something else. In the arts today, it’s much easier to get your work out there, and there isn’t much of a system for checking. That’s what it’s about. No matter if you’re a writer or a painter or a musician, feedback is essential. Art can be put out into the world without it, but it shouldn’t.

So this is for the creatives in the world. If you feel stuck, there’s a lot of advice. I’m going to repeat these two pieces, out of everything floating around out there. Find other people doing what you do, and run your work through them. You have no idea what a change it can make until you go after it.

Also, try to avoid people who make you miserable. It seems like stupid obvious advice, but I needed a wake-up-call, so maybe someone else does, too.

Raven

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

UPDATE: Heart of a Pirate

Darlings! I’ve come up for air just to give you a quick update. Now, I shouldn’t say this necessarily, as I can’t promise that I’ll live up to this particular promise. Sometimes, when it comes to publishing, things don’t always line up nicely the way you intend. But I’ll say it anyway.

You can keep your eye out for a new series by April/May.

Yes, I have more for you, and it’s currently going through editing. Thanks to a bit of a slump I went through recently on the writing front, it took a little longer than I wanted. But I’ve also got a wonderful new critique group that’s really working for me, which helps. I’ve been without a real authorial support system for quite a while. More on that in a later post, though. That’s heavy, and this is light.

Why?

Because sex, of course! Sex and love and magic!

Keep a look here, on Facebook, and on Twitter for updates so you don’t miss out.

Raven

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Unkempt Ramblings on Adult Content

I’ve been thinking about sex a lot lately. Go figure. Not just sex, but how we look at sex. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a good reason for some censorship when it comes to sex. Little Bobby and Jenny don’t need to see full penetration thrust in their faces (Pun intended), and parents don’t need to have that conversation before the conversation about the basics of sex.

That being said, the United States has this weird thing with sex in media. It’s simultaneously ubiquitous, taboo, and precious, which is just fucking strange, if we’re being honest. I was talking with some people over the weekend about how we treat sex v. violence v. psychological issues in our fiction, compared to other countries. Especially in children’s works, but also in general. We would rather show exploding heads than a bare ass or nipple. You see it in movies. Gladiator got marked up for a shower scene, but the same person reviewing it for the MPAA failed to mention, you know, the blood (Watch “This Film is Not Yet Rated” to see this stuff. It’s a great film.).

I don’t think we need to do this. I don’t think we need to make such a big deal out of it. Good lord, I had to struggle to buy Nora Roberts books in middle school, but I read serial killer novels in elementary school. Stephen King kind of stuff. Nobody batted an eye. That seems like a problem for me, because not everyone is going to handle it well. That’s just the way things are. And, you know, Nora Roberts levels of sex were probably a little too much for me at that age, but I guarantee you don’t need a kid reading Red Dragon, either.

Do I think there’s a good reason for the beaded curtain and the plastic-wrap on the naughty books? Yes. But in general, why is it such a taboo? And why isn’t violence? And should things really change? Where do psychological issues fit in? A lot of questions, and not a lot of answers, so what do you lovely people think about this? Let me know, and stay tuned for content that’s a little more… fun.

Raven