Released March 29, 2013 by Dreamspinner Press, revised and greatly expanded (by 40,000 words) from the free novella published last summer.
When Russ Peterson accepts an invitation to an all-expense-paid vacation at a castle in southern France, he doesn’t expect to learn he has the ability to travel through time. For a historian, it’s a dream come true, offering the chance to find answers to the mysteries of the past. But it’s not without risks—to Russ and to the world as he knows it.
After a few short supervised visits, Russ still hasn’t made up his mind about his newfound abilities. Then, on his first extended trip, he meets Quentus Maximus, second in command to the Legate of Nemausus. While learning firsthand about the realities of life in Roman Gaul, Russ is shocked by his reaction to Quentus’s dominant nature. After a week with Quentus, Russ’s vacation is up, and he realizes he wants a chance to see if their relationship can flourish.
Arranging a year-long sabbatical from work to give time to make the decision is easy. Figuring out if he can live with Quentus’s dominant nature long-term, and finding a way to establish a life for himself in Roman Gaul, is an entirely different matter.
“Ah, Monsieur Peterson,” Bernard said, coming into the foyer from somewhere else on the ground floor. “I didn’t expect you back downstairs so quickly. Our guests often take a little longer to settle in to the ambiance here at the château.”
“It certainly is quite atmospheric,” Russ agreed, “but fascinating. The attention to detail is astounding. You must have some incredible decorators to create such elaborate reproductions.”
Bernard smiled. “As you say. Shall we retire to the parlor? It gets chilly here in the front hall in the evenings. The fire will be most welcome.”
Russ nodded and followed Bernard into the parlor, another amazingly appointed room, this time in the Baroque style. The sideboards were heavily gilded with ebony veneer and beautifully lacquered scenes. The armchairs near the fire were similarly carved and gilded, the brocade on the cushions catching and reflecting the light of the fire. “I feel like I’ve walked into a museum,” Russ said.
“Not quite,” Bernard replied. “What can I offer you? A glass of champagne? Some sherry or vermouth? Or perhaps a kir?”
“Um, whatever you’re having is fine,” Russ said. “I… I’m not a big drinker.”
“Then we’ll have kir,” Bernard said. “A sweeter flavor than champagne.”
Russ shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other as Bernard prepared their drinks. He wanted to explore the room, but he didn’t want to seem rude. It struck him as equally rude to sit without being asked.
Bernard turned back around, glasses in hand. “Sit, sit,” he urged, herding Russ toward the fireplace. “We are not a museum. You should never hesitate to use our pieces for the purposes they were intended.”
Russ took one of the two chairs and the drink Bernard offered him. Bernard sat in the other chair and clinked his glass against Russ’s.
“To open minds and new adventures.”
“That sounds ominous,” Russ said, but he took a sip of his drink nonetheless. The light fruit flavor surprised him. He’d expected something harsher. “This is good. What is it called again?”
“A kir,” Bernard said. “Bourgogne Aligoté and crème de cassis. It’s a regional specialty of Burgundy, but one that is well appreciated all over l’Hexagone.”
Russ almost asked for a clarification of the last reference as well, but Bernard didn’t give him a chance. “You must be wondering what you’re doing here.”
“I’ll admit to a certain curiosity,” Russ said, fully conscious of the understatement.
“You’re here because your last round of medical tests at your physical indicated a genetic marker that is of particular interest to the denizens of château d’Eternité.”
“Denizens?” Russ repeated, nerves jangling at the thought of some stranger having access to his medical records. He forced himself not to freak out yet, though. He would hear Bernard out before he decided if a meltdown was in order. “I haven’t seen anyone but you.”
“I am the only resident at the moment,” Bernard admitted, “but there are about twenty people who live here for some portion of the year. The rest of the year, they are traveling.”
“Traveling where?” Russ asked. “Look, I don’t know what this is about, but stop talking in circles and just tell me. Am I sick?”
“You aren’t sick at all, Russ. You’re gifted, and to answer your question about where, the answer is anywhere, indeed anywhen they want.”
Russ rolled his eyes. “Anywhen? That’s not even a word, and you’re implying… what? That they can travel through time?” The very thought was so ludicrous he felt stupid even saying it.
“Yes,” Bernard said, “that’s what I’m implying, and no, I don’t expect you to believe it. Not yet, anyway. No one does when they first come here. I didn’t believe it when I first came here forty years ago either. Now I’m the guardian of the château and its secrets.”
Russ rose from the chair, pacing in agitation as he ran one hand through his hair. Time travel. If he understood correctly, the affable old man sitting next to the fire with a perfectly sanguine look on his face was telling Russ people could travel through time, that he could travel through time. “How? How is this possible?”
“That is a question for the ages,” Bernard said, “but if you sit down, I will tell you what I do know. It won’t answer all your questions, because some of them have no answers, but perhaps it will answer some of them.”
Russ returned slowly to his seat, trying to open his mind to the possibilities of whatever Bernard would say. His ability to look beyond the obvious made him an asset at the university history department as he pored over old records, seeing not just what was there but what was missing. He needed to turn that same sharp mind to this new problem. “Okay, I’m listening.”
“As I said, you have a genetic abnormality that was identified in your last routine medical exam,” Bernard said. “That mutation allows you the ability to move through time. Before you ask, no, it appears not to be an inherited trait. We know of no instances of two people in the same family having the ability. It appears to be a completely random mutation. Once the mutation occurs, the ability will manifest of its own accord on the person’s thirty-fifth birthday or, if it happens after that age, on their next birthday—if they haven’t already learned about the ability, and how to control it, before then. And no, we don’t know what it is about that age, or birthdays in general, that triggers the ability, but we have seen it happen consistently.”
“Okay,” Russ said slowly. “Assuming this is all true, assuming I believe you managed to get hold of my medical records despite all the layers of privacy surrounding them these days, that still doesn’t tell me why I’m here. Why not just let it happen in three years when I turn thirty-five? Why go to the expense of maintaining this place and bringing me over and all the rest?”
“Because the dangers of time travel are not inconsiderable,” Bernard said with a Gallic shrug. “Not only to yourself, but also to the stream of history and to life as we know it. Dangerous enough that the greater good supersedes those layers of privacy you mentioned. We can trace a number of catastrophic events in history to someone traveling back unprepared and leaving behind absolute chaos. The assassination of Julius Caesar and the ensuing war, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand that triggered World War I, the sacking of Rome that led to the Dark Ages… there are others, but you begin to see the problem.”
“The world would be a completely different place if those things hadn’t happened,” Russ said, his mind racing as he considered all that might have happened and not happened if the knowledge held within the Roman Empire had not been forgotten, if World War I had not reforged the face of Europe, if…. “God, the possibilities!”
“Indeed,” Bernard said. “It is possible to shift through time without setting off such dire consequences, with training, care, and practice, but you can see why we might not want people discovering the ability without assistance. Once we identify them, we bring them here to teach them how to use their abilities before they manifest naturally.”
“Assuming I believe the rest of it, then, yes, I can see that,” Russ said. “So I’m here for two weeks of training?”
“Essentially, yes,” Bernard replied, “but you are still skeptical. Perhaps a demonstration?”
“A harmless one?” Russ asked.
“I do my best to make all my time travel harmless,” Bernard replied with a wry smile. He extended his hand.
Russ shifted his weight from one foot to the other, hoping his nerves weren’t as obvious in his movements as they were in the racing of his pulse, and accepted Bernard’s hand.
He couldn’t have said what he was expecting since he’d never actually thought about what it would feel like to travel through time, but he would have expected something, some physical sensation of displacement, disorientation, movement… something.
Instead, everything got blurry for a moment, and when it came back into focus, they were somewhere else. Russ had no idea where, but the elaborate baroque furniture was gone, replaced by simple, almost rustic pieces, and only a few. A bed with a mattress over a rope frame, a plain chest of drawers with wooden handles, and a single, straight-backed chair with a wooden seat and no cushion were the full contents of the room.
“Where are we?”
Bernard didn’t answer, gesturing toward the small, single-paned window on one wall. Russ went to the glass and peered out, but the quality was so poor he could barely make out the shapes of anything outside. It took him a minute to figure out the unfamiliar catch on the casement, but once he got it open and stuck his head out, the scene in front of him stole his breath.
He had never been to Versailles, but he had seen enough pictures to recognize it, except that he’d never seen it like this, with one wing still under construction—construction, not renovation—and the grounds only partially planted, with workers digging beds next to those other men were planting.
The men had horses and carts, shovels and picks, but not a single mechanical tool in sight. No electric wires, no tractors or backhoes—just saws and axes, shovels and the strength of their backs to carve out the gardens, levers and pulleys to lift the heavy stones, and mortar and trowel to fit them in place.
Russ pulled his head back in and sat down hard on the chair. “We’re in Versailles, probably in the 1680s because they’re still working on the gardens, and Le Notre died in 1700.”
“Impressive,” Bernard said. “You do know your history. It is, in point of fact, 1678. Jules Hardouin-Mansart is in the middle of adding the second story and the north and south wings. It will take several more years before everything is truly completed, but already Versailles is the crown jewel of the French royal palaces.”
“And we are in…?”
“The servants’ quarters,” Bernard said. “Shall we return to the château d’Eternité? I imagine you have questions.”
Russ wanted to protest leaving so soon, but they were hardly dressed to go exploring. He nodded and held out his hand. As Bernard took it, the door behind them opened and a man walked in.
The scene blurred out before Russ could speak.
When it cleared again, they were back in the parlor of the château d’Eternité. “That man,” Russ said. “He saw us. Is that going to cause a problem?”
Bernard chuckled. “Why do you think I chose that room to take you to, still in modern dress and totally unprepared for what you might see? That is Gilles. He works at Versailles in the kitchens when he is not wandering through time looking for more interesting adventures.”
“He’s one of us?”
“You are taking this better than most,” Bernard said, returning to his seat. “Yes, he is one of us and has given me permission to use his room during the day while he is working.”
“So explain this to me,” Russ said, sitting down again as well. “I can travel through time, or I can if you help me, anyway, but you said there were dangers, so there must be rules, or guidelines, at least.”
“There are,” Bernard said. “Would you care for another kir? Dinner will be served in an hour, and there may be others joining us. We never know when others will return.”
Russ blinked a couple of times, trying to sort out everything in his head, but he quickly gave up. This wasn’t about sense. It simply was.
“Um, no, thank you,” he said when he realized Bernard was waiting for an answer. “I need to concentrate so I’ll remember everything you’re saying. I don’t want to mess up later.”
“You don’t mind if I do?” Bernard asked. “Traveling is more exhausting than it used to be, and I find a little glass of something restorative upon my return makes quite the difference.”
“Of course,” Russ said.
Bernard refilled his glass and returned. “So, then, the rules, as you called them. The most important one, the one that you must not violate under any circumstances, is that you must not try to change history, your own or anyone else’s. The repercussions of doing so could be cataclysmic.”
“Isn’t my simple presence in the past enough to change it?” Russ asked. “If I wasn’t there before but am there now, doesn’t that change it by definition?”
“Yes, but there are changes and then there are changes. If you go to the past and do your best to fit in, to blend in, any changes your presence generates will be small ones, the ripples caused by a raindrop on a large lake, but if you go to the past with the intention of, for example, assassinating Hitler before he can rise to power, the changes you cause will be like a storm on the ocean, so destructive and far-reaching that you might not even have a present to come home to. For better and for worse, Hitler’s rise to power shaped the world as we know it today. Changing that would so change the present that you might not be able to get home. Indeed you might not exist anymore. It is a risk we will not take.”
Russ nodded. “I understand the difference. No messing with the history books.”
“Secondly, you must not return to a time in your own lifetime. Neither you nor your past self will survive that confluence. The universe knows there should only be one of you during the past thirty-two years. If you create a situation where there are two of you, something will happen to alleviate that overlap, and that will change your history irreparably as well.”
“You know this?” Russ asked.
Bernard nodded. “It has been part of our lore as far back as I have been able to trace, but twice in recent years, people have disregarded the rule and not returned. When I checked later, I found no records of the person beyond the date to which they returned and no trace of either body.”
Russ shuddered. His life hadn’t been all a bed of roses, but he couldn’t think of anything worth taking that risk to change. He hoped the people who’d disregarded the rule had gotten what they hoped for out of their sacrifices.
“The amount of time you spend in the past is the amount of time that will have elapsed here when you return to the present,” Bernard said. “If you are gone for five minutes, like when we went to Versailles, chances are no one will even notice, but if you go for a week or a month or more, be prepared to explain your absence when you return, or prepare for it before you leave, so no one will worry about unanswered e-mails, unreturned phone calls, absences from work. Time as a whole is fluid. Your timeline is not.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Russ said. “If I can choose a time in the past to go to, why can’t I choose a time in the present to return to?”
Bernard shrugged. “Because you can’t. Because none of us have ever been able to do that, even when we have tried to do so deliberately. You can move from one point in the past to another point in the past, but your return home will always take you to that amount of time after your departure, no matter how specifically you attempt to control it.”
“If you say so.”
“I do,” Bernard replied.
Laughter in the hall interrupted them.
“And if you don’t believe me, you can ask our new guests at dinner,” Bernard suggested. “I believe that will be Chou and Linda returning. They wanted to see the crowning of the Jianwen Emperor.”
“So space is as fluid as time?” Russ asked. “I mean, we were here, then we were in Versailles. You’re talking about them going to China.”
“Only from here,” Bernard replied, “and no, I don’t know why, before you ask. If you are at home, you can travel back to that location at any point in the past, but only from here can you move to other locations. That is why we bring everyone here to begin. If you travel to the past and then move away from that place, you may not be able to return there safely. If you need to get out in a hurry, you need a safe place to come. You will always be able to come here as well, even if you left from home.”
“Make sense,” Bernard finished. “I didn’t say it made sense. I said it’s the way it is. We didn’t make up these rules. We have just learned to abide by them for our safety and the safety of the rest of the universe.”
The door to the parlor opened wider and two people came in, obviously of Chinese descent and still wearing the garb of fourteenth-century China. “Hallo, Bernard,” the man said. “Got a new one tonight?”
“Good evening, Chou,” Bernard said. “This is Russ. Perhaps you should change before dinner. Your clothes are still in your room.”
“But I like these clothes,” Chou replied.
“The wardrobes are open for anyone to borrow from, but we expect them to be returned when you’re done with them,” Bernard reminded him. “We will see you at dinner.”
“Wardrobes?” Russ asked when Chou left.
“You didn’t think we normally jump back in time in modern garb, did you?” Bernard asked. “We would be found out before we got ten feet. The château has an extensive collection of costumes from times and places all over the world, as authentic as we can make them from our own travels and the travels of those who came before us. We even have a tailor on staff to help with adjustments. You can, of course, buy garments when you return to the past if you intend to stay that long, but anything created in the past must remain in the past.”
“You’ve thought of everything,” Russ said with a shake of his head.
“Certainly not,” Bernard replied, “but we’ve taken as many precautions as we can for the situations we have thought of.”
“What about communication?” Russ asked. “I speak English, and I read a little of some European languages, but that’s not going to help if I’m trying to blend into ancient China.”
Bernard chuckled. “You have no idea you’ve been speaking French since you got here, do you?”
“The mutation makes it possible for you to understand what you hear and reply in the appropriate idiom. It won’t keep you from saying something culturally inappropriate, but the words that come out of your mouth will be understandable to those around you.”
The Next Big Thing
Hi there, and welcome to the Next Big Thing blog hop. First a big thank you to Belinda McBride for inviting me to participate. This is different approach to blog hops, kind of a chain letter, if you will. Belinda tagged me, Amy Lane, ZA Maxfield, and E.M. Lynley. Go check them out. They are the cool.
My Next Big Thing is actually the release of the latest Cal Pac Crew novel, the third in the series.
What is the title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
For those of you who’ve read Tipping the Balance, you’ll recognize this scene. The Bayard House has been hit by arson, and Brad Sundstrom has been called out in the middle of the night to deal with it, since he was the project foreman.
The firefighter in charge of the effort there is Owen Douglas, and he made his interest in Brad very clear. Since Brad and his then-boyfriend were on the outs, Brad went for it, but Owen could tell Brad’s mind was on someone else. Owen pushed Brad to reconcile with the man who would eventually become his partner in business and in life, and all’s well that end’s well…for Brad.
But not for Owen, and that’s the odd thing about all this. I’m a freak about outlining and nowhere in any of my prewriting or outlining does that scene between Owen and Brad appear. One evening, however, an impulse seized me and I wrote twenty pages in an hour and there it was.
But even after I’d finished Tipping the Balance, Owen was clearly not done with me. I could’ve started work on either Owen’s story or on Stuart Cochrane’s story. Either one. Owen, always the hook-up and never the boyfriend, won out.
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie?
I was a bit stumped by this, to be honest. In part, it’s the fact that I don’t go to movies or subscribe to any kind of television service, much to my son’s distress. I think part of it might be the photos I’ve used to visual my guys, because a good friend of mine who marinates in all things pop culture couldn’t really come up with anything either.
But I think Aaron Eckhart might make a nice Owen, once some red dye’s been applied to his hair.
As for Adam, his love interest, this may be a tougher challenge, if only because Adam’s so tall (6’5”). But I suppose these things are negotiable in casting. I’m thinking of Bradley James, who played King Arthur on the BBC series Merlin.
What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
One sentence? Really? I could barely come up with a short synopsis when I submitted the manuscript, and now I’m to come up with one sentence?
Owen and Adam can handle the stresses of new jobs, but can they survive the threat posed by Adam’s abusive ex?
Will your book be self published or represented by an agency?
Neither. Dreamspinner Press releases the book on December 7, 2012.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Burning It Down, like most of my novels, takes roughly six months from rough outlining to a manuscript that’s ready to submit. Based on the way I outline, my completed first draft is almost ready to submit.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre.
As a matter of policy, I don’t compare my books to those of other authors because that leads to jealousy. “Why’s that book selling better, when mine is so clearly superior in every way?” or “Well hell, if that’s what I’m competing against, why am I bothering to write?” Neither one’s healthy, and firefighter stories are a dime a dozen in m/m romance.
In terms of other books that feature a veterinarian, a firefighter, and a cat, I’ll say that Shae Conor’s novella En Fuego will be released by Dreamspinner on December 12, 2012.
I plan to read it as soon as possible because I want to see what Shae did with the same elements. She and I are both amused that two manuscripts with very similar plot elements were put on the publication calendar so close together. We may even promote our book together, so watch this space.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
This is the third book in a projected series of four; there are a certain number of stories I wanted to tell about the rowers in the CalPac world, or at least about this group of rowers. So Burning It Down is another step along the road toward completion.
What else about your book might interest the reader?
I must admit that the cat tends to steal the show.
And now, just because I’m feeling generous, here’s another teaser from Burning It Down:
“Like I texted you, he was assaulted this evening—”
“He was at home. Someone broke in and beat the crap out of him. Owen’s assailant knew what he was doing, too.”
“What do you mean?” Adam demanded, steering Mike over to chairs and forcing him down.
“Why’re hospital chairs always hard plastic? Just once, I want something comfortable,” Mike muttered.
“They’re hard plastic so they can be wiped with disinfectant after people bleed on them or cough tuberculosis all over them,” Adam said. “Keep talking.”
“Whoever he was, he re-broke Owen’s left leg. Went after it with a baseball bat, as a matter of fact,” Mike said. “That’s all I know, right now. Do you have his sister’s number? She should be notified.”
“Goddamn, he was finally making headway on rehabbing it after the last setback,” Adam muttered. “Yeah, I’ll call Avril, and thanks for letting me know about Owen. How much longer will he be in surgery?”
Mike shrugged. “Another hour or more, I guess, given what they’re dealing with.”
“Then I’d better call Avril.”
After Adam called her, he tried to get some sleep, but as Detective Cabot had pointed out, the chairs and comfort were not well acquainted. He thought about stretching out in his SUV, and he thought about offering the other front seat to the detective, but he wanted to be there when Owen got out of surgery, so plastic seats it was. He pulled his parka’s hood over his face to block out the harsh florescent lights, or try.
“Adam? Wake up, honey, it’s me.”
“Go away, Mom. I’m wearing my retainers.”
“Okay, that might’ve been funny when John Hughes wrote it, but you’ve got about five seconds to wake up before I pour my coffee down the neck of your sweater.”
Adam blinked a few times to clear his eyes. “Avril?”
“Yes. What the hell’s going on?”
“You’re here.” Adam struggled to sit up. He rubbed his eyes with his hands and then nudged Mike Cabot. “Detective? Wake up. Owen’s sister’s here.”
“Of course I’m here! You told me someone took a baseball bat to my brother!” Avril said shrilly.
“I didn’t tell you he was in critical condition or anything. It’s his leg, Avril. He’ll be fine.” Just what he needed, but that didn’t stop Adam from getting up to give her a hug.
“Eventually maybe,” she said, her voice muffled by his chest, “but again with the leg?”
“I know,” Adam sighed. “Believe me, I know.”
“So who’s watching the kids?” Adam asked.
“My oldest is old enough, and I let my best friend know what was up, so she’s on call. Hopefully I’ll be back in time for breakfast. Other than my kids, Owen’s all I’ve got in the world,” Avril said.
Adam made the appropriate introductions and they settled back into the waiting.
Fortunately for Avril, she didn’t have to wait very long, because while the estimate given to Detective Cabot was wildly off, the surgeons finally finished putting Owen’s leg back together—again—not long after her arrival.
A tired looking woman came out of the OR. “I’m Dr. Singh. Is one of you family?”
“I am,” Avril said.
Dr. Singh frowned. “Then who are the rest of you?”
“I’m the detective handling Mr. Douglas’s case,” Mike said.
“And I’m his boyfriend,” Adam said.
“Was this a bias crime?” Dr. Singh said.
Mike sighed. “No, at least not in the way you’re thinking. He wasn’t bashed because he’s gay.”
“Well, thank goodness for that,” Dr. Singh said, “but that doesn’t explain why he had a testicle clenched in one fist.”
I thought I’d post a little teaser for Burning It Down, now that it’s posted on Dreamspinner’s Coming Soon page.
As you know from reading the blurb on the Coming Soon page–you have read it, haven’t you?–Owen is injured in the line of duty.
So here’s a visual idea of what he went through. That said, Owen’s was much, much worse, but this clip did give me the idea.
So I went to my first convention as a writer, Gay Romantic Literature or GayRomLit as it’s abbreviated. I’ll spare everyone my splenetic rants. Only a few people received those via email, and honestly they don’t paint me in the best light. I had a good time meeting fans I’d only interacted with online (hugs and kisses for Stacia , as well as catching up with writer friends I don’t get to see that often (h/t Z.A. Maxfield, Amy Lane, and Ellis Carrington–the really sad part is that Amy and I live about 30 miles from each other. Do we see each other frequently? Nooooo). The biggest take-home lesson I could file under “The Care and Feeding of Introverts.” It was funny how so many of us authors (and for all I know, readers) hit the introvert wall at the same time.
One of the best parts of GayRomLit was debuting the cover of my forthcoming release, Burning It Down, the third installment in the CalPac Crew romances.. I begged and whined like an Irish Setter, so the publisher Elizabeth North and cover artist Paul Richmond relented. Maybe it was my argument that the con was almost exactly seven weeks before the release date, or maybe the just wanted to shut me up. Whatevs, I got my cover art. I think it’s my favorite one so far. Paul did a great job capturing my guys.
Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:
When newly promoted fire battalion chief Owen Douglas skips out on physical therapy after an on-the-job injury, his one-time hookup, Brad Sundstrom, bullies him into joining the adaptive rowing program at the Capital City Rowing Club. There, Owen meets Adam Lennox, a veterinarian and former rower who also works as a volunteer. Adam is new in town and eager to make friends, but the chemistry between him and Owen is blistering.
Despite Owen’s commitment issues, he wants more this time. He makes a move, and the friendship he shares with Adam turns into more. But Adam hasn’t left his past as far behind as he thought. When his abusive ex-boyfriend, Jordan Sanders, returns, Adam and Owen find themselves in grave danger. Jordan won’t let anything stop him from getting Adam back—not even a court order. Soon Adam has to choose between breaking up with Owen to save him from Jordan’s fury or risking both their lives to stay by Owen’s side.
Yep, Burning It Down tells Owen Douglas’s story. You remember him, of course you do. He’s the hot daddy fireman who tricked with Brad, the one who blew Brad in the still-smoldering Bayard House. Brad thought of Drew the whole time, and Owen could tell. Ring any bells? If not, it’s time to re-read Tipping the Balance.
Burning It Down is not yet on Dreamspinner’s Coming Soon page, or I’d give you a link. I’ll post it when it’s up, but the release date it December 7th. So unlike most of the time, I will actually be updating my blog as we get closer.
Oh, and what am I working on now, you ask? I’m 48k words into Settling the Score, which tells the story of Stuart and his relationship with Brad’s older brother, Philip…
Anyway, I have chosen a winner for my new tagline, and it’s a line I actually wrote years ago for an early incarnation of First Impressions: ‘Don’t compare me to Oscar Wilde. Both our reputations will suffer.’ Like most of what I say, it’s layered, so rather than gloss it for you, I’ll leave it to you to figure out.
Since it occurred to me through a conversation with Amy Lane, she’s the lucky winner of a copy of First Impressions or something else of her choice. For those of you who’re wondering, yes, all m/m authors know each other. Actually we don’t, even though it seems like it some days, but Amy and I live about thirty miles from each other and so get together for lunch once in a while when we need to get out of our own heads.
Anyway, I’ve already tweaked the blog to reflect it and will get to work on swag for Gay Rom Lit in the next week or so. There are all kinds of interesting things out there.
I’m having a contest and you can win stuff!
So what’s the deal? The deal is that I need a tagline, something sums up and marks off my brand, because like it or not, writing’s a business as much as it’s an artistic and creative pursuit.
I’ve got one, but it’s a little too close to ZA Maxfield’s, for one thing, and she really doesn’t deserve that. (Full disclosure: she’s a dear friend and all kinds of awesome, so there’s really no need to go tearing off in high dudgeon and email her, because all that’s likely to happen is that she’ll email me and we’ll both have a good laugh.) For another, it doesn’t really speak to my writing in particular.
Of all the elements of my writing, the dialogue in particular seems to be It, one of the things that people consistently like about my writing. Reviewers mention it, readers mention it. Even my husband’s noticed it. While I like to think I pour a great deal of effort—the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears—into all aspects of my writing, the dialogue jumps off the page.
I see my dialogue crisp, snappy, true-to-life, and above all witty. It’s what my friends sound like when we’re on fire, and it’s what my son, whom I refer to online as The Kid Himself, is coming to sound like, even thought he’s still several months shy of his ninth birthday. Yeah, there’s an almost-nine year old clone of me running around. The first time I heard him snark I must confess it brought a tear to my eye.
I’ll save how I write dialogue for various guest blog spots as I promote my work, in large part because I’ve never actually sat down to think about the nuts and bolts of it. I make sure my dialogue sounds to my own mind’s ear what people “really sound like,” because let’s not fool ourselves—we’ve all read stories that make us sit up and, with varying degrees of disgust, snap, “That is not what people sound like, certainly not when they’re talking about that.”
I try to raise a more lofty standard. I like to think I succeed, and I like to think many of you agree with me.
So with that in mind, my lovelies, I need you to help me come up with a tagline that keeps that knack for dialogue in mind. It’ll be use on my promo items like all the swag I’m going to have made up for Gay Rom Lit, my email signature, the subheading on this blog, things like that.
It needs to emphasize the crisp, witty dialogue we all know and love in my writing.
It needs to be succinct, snappy, and short. Think advertising slogan rather than explanation.
“Romance is funny, so you might as well laugh at it.” My current one. 1) it doesn’t play off my crisp dialogue. 2) It’s too close to ZAM’s.
“Words of affection wielded with wit.” I can’t say I’m a fan of this due to the alliteration, but this is one example that DSP’s publicity maven and I came up with.
What’s in it for you?
If I choose yours, or if yours inspires me to come up with one I like better, you’ll win a copy of First Impressions or something from my backlist. Or if you’re willing to wait, a copy of Burning It Down (CalPac #3) when it’s released in December.
Or a swag bag full of GayRomLit goodies. I can’t tell you what’ll be in it, because I haven’t ordered anything yet since I’m waiting for my new tag line.
I don’t suppose I have a hard and fast date in mind. As soon as I have one I like, I’ll post it here, tweet it, etc. I don’t want to wait too long, as I’d like to get to ordering all that swag, even though Gay Rom Lit isn’t until October.
I got the final cover art for First Impressions last night, and I have to say, Paul Richmond’s done it again. I hope you like it as much as I do.
I’m just about done with the outline for CalPac #3, Burning It Down. For some reason, I’d envisioned that this one would be the penultimate story, with Philip and Stuart’s story being the last full-length novel. Perhaps later on I’d write a story about Nick and Morgan because I miss them, but that would more or less be it for the world of the rowers of California Pacific College.
I’m not even done with the outline of the macroplot of Burning It Down and two minor characters have already jumped out as another couple with a story just begging to be told. Of course, with each iteration the connection to rowing becomes more and more tangential, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
So even as I wait for the second round of edits on First Impressions from Dreamspinner, I’m ramping up work on future CalPac books. I have tentatively titled the third installment of the CalPac books Burning It Down, and it tells the story of Owen Douglas, the fire captain (if that title even exists…it may not, and I
have to research it), and Dr. Alexander Lennox-Johansson, DVM. Owen has been injured in the line of duty and Alex has escaped an abusive relationship. For some reason, I feel like writing about wounded people. They seem more interesting. Maturation as a writer, or an emergent mean streak, you choose.
I also thought it might be interesting to pull back the curtain on the writing process, assuming–perhaps erroneously–that any of you cares about how the stories are written, only that they are written. There are still a few macro-level plot points to resolve, so who knows, maybe crowd sourcing will come up with some ideas.
I think the first thing to mention is that I generally follow a W-shaped plot structure, with the five points of the W representing the highs and lows of dramatic action (called barriers below).
- First Barrier: The protagonist begins work toward his objective and encounters the first barrier. [They recognize the attraction, but after their hook-up, Alex is too embarrassed, Owen dejected by Alex’s perceived rejection since he post-injury he feels old and useless]
- First Barrier Reversal: Things don’t look good, but the protagonist manages to overcome the first barrier [They decided to give it a go—what does this look like? Two people pining for each other, have to show them going about life and missing each other, but what else?]
- Second Barrier: At the high point of the action, just when it looks like the protagonist has it made and his objective is within reach, the rug is suddenly pulled out from under him in the unexpected second reversal. [Things are going great between Alex and Owen, but then Jordan the abusive ex shows back up, stalking Alex and threatening Owen]
- Second Barrier Reversal: At the low point of the action, when things look very grim, the protagonist still has an opportunity to overcome this catastrophe and achieve his objective. [Alex breaks it off, allegedly to protect Owen but also his own fear. But Owen won't go quietly, and they realize they can’t let Jordan control them, so they renew their relationship. Jordan locks them in the boathouse—while they’re having sex?—and sets it on fire]
- Resolution: The protagonist either does or does not pull out of the catastrophe, resolving the plot either tragically or triumphantly. [aftermath—Jordan’s trial, Owen regains his self-confidence as a man, Alex realizes fear can’t rule his life, they move in together?]
Usually, I more or less end a novel with the protagonists getting together, but Burning It Down will be a bit different. Alex and Brad will be together fairly early on in the story (at least compared to the way I usually tell stories), unlike Nick and Morgan and Drew and Brad were, to an extent, threatened more by their own perceptions and beliefs. Owen and Alex, however, will face a very real and existential threat in the person of Alex’s psycho ex.
So…what do you think?
Oh yeah, on Friday I’m doing a citizen’s ride-along with my local fire department. For research. Get your minds out of the gutter. I think it’s a pretty cool opportunity.
I’m afraid to check the last time I updated my blog, but I’m here now. That’s the important part. It’s been a busy few months, that’s for sure. I tend to disappear into a cave–metaphorically, if not literally–when I’m deep into writing. It’s not the easiest place to be, as my tendency would be to focus entirely on my writing if only my son and husband didn’t want attention. Instead, their voices just become whistles and clicks and it takes a while for them to get my attention. I even avoid my usual social-media wastes of time. So my blog got short shrift. It’s as if I can only write so much, and if I’m deep into a novel, I write nothing else. So I apologize to my fans, both of you.
Anyway, I finished writing First Impressions, a new novel, after Turkey Day and then farmed it out to my beloved and trusty beta readers, all of whom returned me edits before Christmas. After a brief hiatus while I recovered from influenza (you can always tell when someone’s had genuine influenza because he calls it influenza to distinguish it from whatever generic virus has received a promotion…trust me, they’re different), I got to work on edits and submitted it for publication a few weeks ago. What makes this different from my usual experience with submission (not that, you perv) is that not only did I hear back in a relative hurry, but Dreamspinner offered me the chance to bring First Impressions to print in a definite hurry. The publisher told me that another writing had “indefinitely postponed” his/her book and there was now a hole in her publication schedule. I hate to think what brought this on for one of my colleagues, but is it too terrible of me to say that I’m willing to take advantage of it if it meant the difference between publication in April vs August?
First Impressions isn’t related to the world of the CalPac Crew, even thought it, too, is set in a somewhat fictionalized version of Sacramento, and I hope you’ll forgive me for that. I needed a break from CalPac books, and this provided the perfect one as I’m now in the research and outlining stages of not one but two CalPac novels. More on them later. So, First Impressions. It’s a gay riff on Pride and Prejudice. I don’t even remember when I started First Impressions, sometime last summer, I suppose. Actually, I first started working on this story more than a decade ago, when I realized that my social milieu bore a marked resemblance to Jane Austen’s. In Sacramento’s gay community and Regency England both, life was a series of parties and balls all designed to find a husband, we all knew far too much about each other’s business (and mating habits), and one wrong move or poorly chosen outfit could lead to social ruination. The story didn’t work very well then, but I’ve learned a lot about story telling in the mean time.
With that in mind, meet Henry and Cameron:
On the cusp of thirty, Cameron is struggling to find his way in life. He’s realized his insistence on doing it his way has only led to frustration, and his goals seem further away than ever. How can Cameron share his life with someone else when he doesn’t even know what his life’s about?
A man of varied business interests, Henry is desperate to escape his past. His last boyfriend used him for his money, and he doubts the love was ever really there. Burdened by his secrets and burned out on relationships, can Henry find last happiness in a relationship if he’s lying to himself about being happy in the first place?
When the two meet, fur—not sparks—flies, but as circumstances and coincidence throw them together, can each man admit he was wrong and move past his disastrous first impression to realize that sometimes, love bears no resemblance to what’s expected?
(note on pictures: these are pictures I found on the internet that captured how I envisioned each character. I do not own the rights to these photos, and for all I know there are “real” people who might not appreciate starring in my novel. If either of these men is you, or if you own the rights, please email me using the contact form at the top of the page, and I’ll remove them.)
So there we are. I’ll post updates on publication dates as I get them, as well as cover art when it’s appropriate. In addition, there’ll be excerpts here from time to time. But the next post will be about the CalPac novels, I swear.
MRL Press released “The Advent Calendar,” which introduces Toby and Derek and their conflict about whether or not to have children, today. The story started this summer as part of a challenge by MRL Press editor Kris Jacen to “make mud sexy.” I’m still not sure how that screamed Christmas! to me, but it did. Or maybe it was just that Z.A. Maxfield had been badgering me to write a short story for a while. I prefer to write novels and was actually surprised the story came out as well as it did. Or maybe I shouldn’t say that…
Funny story: I actually got Kris’s attention with a synopsis for the story, but had only written maybe a quarter of it when she told me she wanted to see the entire story. Naturally, at the very moment I read that email on my phone, I was sitting at Apple’s Genius Bar while one of the genii pronounced last rites for my laptop’s logic board. So I bought a wireless keyboard and banged out the entire story on my iPad (my fingers are really too big to use the touch screen for any kind of serious typing).
And voila! The first draft of “The Advent Calendar” was born.
The excerpt below captures of the undercurrent of humor to what is otherwise a serious, even sober, story:
Up on the ladder, Derek cringed. He should’ve seen this coming. It happened whenever his nieces and nephews came by for an afternoon or an overnight. Toby enjoyed those times so much that he went through withdrawal when the kids left. Meanwhile, Derek usually had to lay down with a cold compress over his eyes to recover. But not Toby. He knew he had to head this off. “Hand me that string of lights, will you? No, not those, the colored ones.”
Toby dutifully complied, handing them up to his husband, who proceeded to work over part of a tree. “Remember the year we had the animatronic reindeer? Oh my God, was that ever hideous. Remember?”
“Yeah, one fell over, as I recall.”
“Worse, the one that fell over developed some kind of tick in its circuitry and its hind legs kicked helplessly at the air like it’d been shot, like in a cartoon.”
Toby smiled at the recollection. “You didn’t really help matters. You had to go and put up Santa aiming a shotgun at it.”
“Not just put up, Toby,” he said smugly, and really, it was some of his finest work. “I had plywood cut and then painted it myself.”
“All the neighborhood kids screamed at the sight, at least the young ones did. We had angry parents banging on our door for weeks.”
“You have to look on the bright side, Toby. We didn’t have any carolers, either. Total peace and quiet the entire holiday season.”
“You’re absolutely incorrigible, you know that?”
“And you should know by now that your mock disapproval only encourages me. I’m not satisfied with an eye roll anymore. No, it’s a facepalm or nothing for me. Otherwise I know I haven’t tried hard enough.”
“So in other words, you’re saying that debacle was my fault?”
Derek held out a hand for more lights. “You’re an enabler, Toby. Face it.”
Anyway, there it is. I hope you like the story.
Why the heck not? This is a fun, fresh read from another new author on the m/m scene. I never know what the boundaries are between a really long short story and short novella, but AP is in there somewhere. It has chapters, so you can plan to spend some time with appealing characters and a world that I, at least, have never encountered before and I’m betting most readers won’t have, either.
Jacob Freehan has no job, no man, and no motivation. In pain both from ending a long-term abusive relationship and a severe back injury, he escapes to the sunny seaside town of Puerto Morelos, Mexico for a little yoga, a little R&R, and possibly a place to quietly end his own life.
Pakal is a centuries-old immortal Mayan spirit guide who has been charged with getting Jacob on the path toward healing. Romantic involvement with a spirit charge is strictly forbidden, and it has never been a problem…until now. Pakal sees something special in Jacob, but failure to keep a rapidly growing attraction at bay could result in Jacob losing his life and Pakal being condemned to the Underworld forever…
Their interactions were so comfortable and easy that Pakal had to remind himself repeatedly that Jacob was his spirit charge, not a friend. Not a lover. Every now and then Jacob’s warm, chocolatey gaze found Pakal’s, and it was as if he were a better man just for having borne witness to that soulful stare. Gods, what he wouldn’t give for them to be just two ordinary mortals. Pakal shoved the foolish longing aside, but it was insistent, like a hungry stray dog.
Eleven hundred years was a long time to be alone.
The gentle breeze playfully ruffled Jacob’s hair while he chatted about his favorite music (techno), his feelings about animal cruelty (con), his feelings about American football (pro), and his favorite foods (Chinese pork buns, and Swiss cheese fondue). Pakal, in turn, discussed the local culture, the history, and the cave formations. Many times he caught himself assisting Jacob in a far too friendly manner, and each time their bodies touched Pakal was overcome by the sensation of their being so…in tune, with each other. He would almost swear their pulses beat in the same rhythm. Yet through it all, Jacob’s posture was still overly controlled. Tight.
They were plodding carefully through a large corridor of stalactites and stalagmites that gave the appearance of a giant shark’s mouth, when Jacob stepped absently and slipped. Pakal grabbed Jacob from behind, just narrowly preventing him from being impaled on the business end of a sharp, vertically jutting piece of rock. Many a tourist had landed at the nearby clinic for such accidents.
“I warned you to be careful of where you stepped. It’s slippery in here.” Pakal’s breath was heavy, and he was panting right in Jacob’s ear. His heart thudded against the thinner man’s back. Their bodies vibrated together as if they shared the same skin. They were dangling over a great precipice just then, and for the life of him Pakal was too caught up in the thrill to truly care about the consequences. He tightened his grip around Jacob’s naked waist and his light slipped from his fingers into the water. It was stupid. It was dangerous.
It was too late.
The thought was interesting, but fleeting, as Pakal’s hand dipped inside of Jacob’s loose, surfer-style swim shorts.
“Holy, Jesus. What are you doing?” The words held a note of obligatory protest, but even as he said them Jacob’s ass pushed into Pakal’s crotch, and his forearm and head came to rest against the curve of the cave wall. Both men breathed heavily, totally in sync.
“Keep it down,” Pakal whispered. Gods, Jacob’s cock was smooth. Deliciously soft and hard at the same time. “You’re so tense. I’m helping you to loosen up.”
Jacob’s breath hitched. “Someone could come by here any minute.” Yet even as he said it, Jacob’s hard length fucked faster into Pakal’s wet fist. His dick was perfect against Pakal’s skin; it was long and thin, with only a small amount of soft hair at the base. Pakal’s fingers strayed for a moment to roll Jacob’s weighty sac in his hand, and he longed to feel it inside of his mouth.
“Better be fast, then,” Pakal breathed.
Two things impressed me about AP, the setting and a unique plot twist that I can’t say anything about without giving the whole thing away.
The setting alone is worth reading AP for. A lot of books in a lot of genres have handled mythological themes and elements, like the Percy Jackson books currently burning up the YA magical adventure market. Those books, like most, seem to deal with various Western mythologies. Likewise, I’ve read (or read of) a few that deal with aspects of Chinese or Japanese culture. AP depends on Mesoamerican mythology, and in my opinion it provided a wonderful backdrop against which to tell the story of forbidden love between a mortal man and an immortal spirit guide. In a genre where ‘paranormal’ too often means vampires or werewolves, that Carrington headed in a completely differently direction heralds good things for subsequent publications.
There were a few minor editorial issues, but those aren’t the writer’s fault. This is Carrington’s first m/m publication, and I can tell she’s one to watch for in the future, especially if you like paranormal romances.
Since I managed not to sleep much last night, effectively making writing or any other endeavor more complicated than feeding my pie difficult, I thought I’d post a few updates.
My short story, “The Advent Calendar,” will be released by MLR Press on November 27, 2011. By happy coincidence, this is the first Sunday in Advent.
Toby wants children, Derek doesn’t, and this just might end their ten-year relationship. But will a near-brush with death help them set aside their differences to focus on what matters most?
Toby wanted children more than anything, and it bothered Derek to see the man he’d fallen in love with so down, but it also made him feel defensive, as if he, Derek, were personally responsible for the other man’s unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Whenever the subject came up, Derek felt torn between comforting Toby and rolling his eyes. Lately, it seemed like rolling his eyes won, and didn’t that just make him feel like a prime, Grade-A jerk?
But every time Toby started mooning on about the pitter-patter of little feet, all he could do was wonder just when it was Toby had been infected with the baby rabies. Symptoms included feelings of vague yearning, elevated levels of sentimentality, and otherwise inexplicable trips to Baby Gap.
The real danger of baby rabies, Derek thought darkly as he climbed down the ladder, was its communicability to those closest to the primary victim. The entire subject made him feel like dirt. He loved Toby more than anything. Was what they had not enough? Was he not meeting Toby’s needs? The idea hurt to think about, and made him feel worse than he already did these days.
Later that night, after perfunctory lovemaking, Derek lay awake, Toby snoring softly beside him. The rest of their evening had been pleasant enough, both of them backing away from the subject, an intricate dance of avoidance and unvoiced recriminations, neither saying what he really wanted or meant.
They were together, alone.
I’ll be making a round of blog tours in late November and December to promote the story, so look for links and cross postings to come.
On other fronts, Rocking the Boat and Tipping the Balance seem to be selling well, and that’s always nice.
Work continues well on The Answer To His Prayers, my current work in progress. I may re-title it, First Impressions since that’s a closer reflection of the story. Putting it briefly, it’s a gay riff on Pride and Prejudice. Since I seem to be getting a reputation for telling sweet stories with hot sex, hopefully it’ll be more of the same. Once I’ve got the first draft completed, I’ll post an excerpt here and there to tantalize.
Huh, it hasn’t been nearly as long as I’d thought since I updated this, just late July. That means I only let one month go entirely without posting. I’m such a bad, boring blogger. I’d promise to do better but we all know that’s a lie.
I had two rounds of edits Tipping the Balance, plus galleys, in August, and that absorbed the lion’s share of my discretionary time. Despite my own proofreading, plus that of my two beta readers, one of whom is a professional editor in her own right, there were more typos and infelicities of style than I considered acceptable. So I read the entire manuscript backwards. I forget where I first happened up on this technique–a tweet from another author? Not sure. But it works very well. If the point of a novel is to create flow and catch the reader up in the story, reading a manuscript backwards deliberately circumvents this. The problem with that flow as a writer of course is that your subconscious fills in blanks and corrects errors without troubling your conscious mind. Reading backward deliberately circumvents this, forcing you to realize just how ugly your writing really is. It’s just very time consuming. I hope Tipping the Balance is the better for it.
Here’s the cover art for it. I can’t say I love it like I love the cover for Rocking the Boat, but then, we always have a special place in our hearts for our first, right?
Still, I’m not complaining. I’ve got my name on the cover of another book. Tomorrow, September 12, is the release date, so get out there and crash Dreamspinner’s servers in your frenzied demand for your very own copy.
I’m not sure why this one’s different, but I’m not nearly as anxious about this release. Don’t get me wrong. I love the book and I’m proud of the story I told. I’m just not losing sleep or popping acid blockers and benzodiazepines. Maybe because Tipping the Balance isn’t my first novel. This does not, however, mean I won’t be up early downloading my own e-copy.
Currently I’m working on a gay riff on Pride and Prejudice tentatively titled The Answer to His Prayers. Years ago, before my husband and I adopted The Kid Himself, my life resembled those depicted in Miss Austen’s work insofar as life consisted of a variety of social occasions designed to find people boyfriends/husbands, we all knew each other’s business, and heaven help you if you did something gauche.
I also wrote and sold a short story to MLR Press in August. “The Advent Calendar” is a Christmas story (duh) to be released in December (even more duh). More details will follow.
On a personal front, I seem to be moving back into coaching, at least for a while. The big thing around the boathouse these days is qualifying for a seat in one of the team’s boats in the Head of the Charles in Boston, one of the biggest regattas in North America and the biggest in the US. It can be great fun. But the anxiety of it all was a bit much for me. I get anxious pretty easily. In terms of scores on the erg, I’ve got more power than anyone else on the team save for a man who’s thirteen years younger than I am. In terms of applying it on the water…well, that’s another story.
In thinking about it, I realized I have a very complex relationship with crew. It’s a major part of my life and my self-identity. I will always think of myself as a rower, and currently I’m enjoying time in my single, the one my husband bought me when we could marry legally. I wasn’t enjoying practice in the bigger boats much at all, particularly with the build-up to Head of the Charles, because crew is also one of the major foci of my anxiety issues and perfectionism. So something I enjoy very much also makes me crazier than just about anything else, and yet as an author who spends a great deal of time alone inside his head, I need to get out and see people. I get a little weird if I don’t.
Then it occurred to me there was a way to have it both ways. I told my coach that if I don’t make a boat, I’ll run practices for those who aren’t going to Boston so she can focus the majority of her efforts on the Boston-bound boats. I’ve got coaching experience, in fact I have a USRowing level 1 coaching certificate. Granted, it’s been a while, but it’ll come back. It’s just like falling off a bike, right? This way I can contribute to the Boston effort, even if I’m not supplying horsepower. Look at me being a team player. Who knew.
In and among all that, there’s parenting and being a husband. I don’t talk about those a lot here, and that’ll probably stay that way for while. They deserve their privacy, even if I’m jumping up and down on a street corner, naked as the day I was born, and hooting and hollering, which is basically what social media and writing both are all about. “Look at me! Look at me! Buy my books! Buy my books!”
Seriously. Go buy mine.
Last Sunday I received the first edits for Tipping the Balance. I don’t want to say I’d forgotten about it, because let’s be real. It’s my second novel and I’m shallow that way. But the email I received when it entered the editorial queue said something about 8-12 weeks, which would’ve put it during my in-laws’ upcoming visit.
I’ve been working on it ever since, essentially dropping both A2HP (My WIP), but also a short story I’m working on in response to a challenge posted on Z. A. Maxfield’s Cyber Cafe a few week backs to make mud sexy. Both are on hold for now, since the edits are due this coming Monday, July 25.
Mostly I’ve let the editor have his/her way. I figure that since Dreamspinner Press bought it, I need to pick my battles carefully. That said, parts of DSP’s house style irritate me no end, but with each manuscript I seem to pick some minor and admittedly ridiculous point about which to take a stand. I should probably grow up a little.
All of this said, I’m trying something different this go around. I forget where I first encountered this idea–DSP’s author’s group? Anyway, I read somewhere that a high effective way to edit a manuscript is to read it backwards. So I started with the last sentence, read it normally, and then moved on to the second-to-last sentence, read it, etc. I’m amazed and appalled at how many typos, dropped words, missed words, and near-miss words (forbidden instead of forbidding, for example), and repeated words and expressions I’ve found. I’m only about 50 pages into it, too. The thing is, I edited the manuscript before sending it to my betas as well as submitting, my two betas edited, and at least one person at DSP has been over it.
This works precisely because it interrupts a key component of a novel’s structure, and that’s the flow of the plot. As a writer, I want people to be caught up in the characters and situations I’ve depicted, and to that end, each sentence should flow into the next. The problem with that as I edit my work is that my brain supplies whatever’s missing or wrong to create a coherent picture. By reading each sentence in isolation, I subvert this and can see the words for what they are.
Unfortunately, it’s very time consuming. I won’t be able to finish before I have to send the edits back. Fortunately, there’ll be another round of edits before I get the galley, or at least there’s supposed to be. I’ll make note of how far I got and start up from there. I’m editing this way from now on, only I’ll do it before I submit, or maybe even before I send it to my betas.
Still no word on when exactly it’ll be published or any proofs for the cover art. I find myself far more patient than I was last time. I know what to expect now. That’s my MO. Early in grad school I’m sure I came across as a needy insecure pest to my professors, but by the time I was writing my dissertation, my advisor actually emailed me to see if I was still alive since she hadn’t heard from me in so long. I was fine, I just didn’t need anything from her and didn’t see the point in bothering her. So it is with writing novels.
So check back from time to time. Who knows, there might be an update.
Quick update: Tipping the Balance has entered the editorial queue. Since I just received the contract three weeks ago, I’m surprised how fast this is.
On other fronts, I’m working on the storyboards for my next novel. The working title is The Answer to His Prayers (A2HP), and it’s a gay riff on Pride and Prejudice. I noticed at one point that my life resembled a Jane Austen novel insofar that it consisted of a series of social engagements among the members of a small community, the purpose of which was to find everyone husbands, and we all knew way too much about each other’s mating habits.
You may notice that this has nothing to do with rowing or the world of the CalPac Crew. This is because I’m utterly stymied by the plot for book three. So that’s on hold for the time being. It’ll happen, but not yet. I refuse to write a book just to get it written. I have to have a story to tell and I have to fall in love with my protagonists, the way I did with Nick and Morgan or Brad and Drew, or as I am with Henry and Cameron in A2HP.
I’m up as a guest blogger on the wonderful Rie McGaha’s An Author’s Tale with a piece on why rowing is better than sex.
It’s (ahem) up.
What? You thought I was saying rowing was really better than sex? I suppose you’ll have to go see to find out.
Here are some updates on various things.
First all, I apologize to anyone who went to find me last Saturday. The chat on Facebook lasted all of about ten minutes and consisted almost entirely of me frantically communicating with Dreamspinner’s social-media boffin about just why exactly it was that I couldn’t post anything, then about where the page had gone. She didn’t know, either.
So yeah, I managed to kill off DSP’s Facebook fan page. Apparently my powers are growing. Everyone has one special skill. I once thought that mine was to find barcodes that wouldn’t scan at the supermarket. Without fail, every week when I do the marketing I find at least one item that doesn’t show up no matter how many times the clerk waves it over the scanner.
But no more. I’m unsure, however, whether this superpower applies only to Facebook, which would be cool enough, give its creepy privacy policies, or whether or not with a little effort and a can-do spirit, I might be able to take out other, more objectionable webpages. I’d explore the issue but when you boil it down, I’m really pretty lazy. I mean, there’s a reason I’m a writer: too lazy to work, too anxious to turn to a life of crime.
Amos Lassen posted the first review of Rocking the Boat, and definitely liked the book. I won’t reprint the whole things, but a few choice snipets are in order.
“Rocking the Boat” is the first thing I have read by Christopher Koehler and he is off to a wonderful literary beginning.
I will…tell you that the characters that Koehler creates are wonderfully fleshed out and real and the writing is excellent. I could not help be reminded a bit of Patricia Nell Warren’s “The Front Runner”.
It is great fun discovering new writers and I have a feeling we will be hearing more from Christopher Koehler so keep him on your periscope.
To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about the comparison with The Frontrunner. I mean, it’s flattering, don’t get me wrong. I just feel like Warren’s book is such a classic that there’s no way my little confection could equal that.
It’s also a lot to live up to. Not to jinx anything, but people’s whose freshman efforts receive nothing but laurels tend to produce sucky sophomore efforts. I’m aiming for a sustained writing career, obviously, and not a flash in the pan. See above statement about laziness and crime.
I also wonder about The Frontrunner’s relevance anymore. When it was published, it was a big deal, an early positive depiction of gay characters, gay athletes in particular. Like The Best Little Boy in the World, it’s classic work that every well-read reader of gay fiction needs to have at least glanced at. But in this day and age, LGTB people are well represented in the media, and there are many (nonporn) webpages devoted to gay athletes. It’s a different world, and I’d like to think, a better one. It’s that change, however, that turns critical works into classics that no one reads.
On other but related fronts, I’ve received my first responses from readers. People I don’t know, I mean. They’ve liked it. So here’s a shout-out to Brian and Rachel and Ami!
So yeah, I’ve already had my own little Sally Field moment.
And speaking of reviews, there’ve been reader reviews published on Goodreads. Okay, one review, one that seems to consist of someone duplicating the number of stars he or she gave me with keyboard characters. I’m not complaining. It was a 4-star review.
I’m not quite sure what to make of Goodreads. I’ve no complaints with the reviews, including and especially the one that let me know I adequately addressed the biggest fear I had about RTB’s reception, namely the fact that a coach’s involvement with an athlete could be viewed as predation. Is viewed, in fact, by pretty much all the appropriate regulatory bodies governing sport. I think I covered the reasons for this pretty well in the book, given that Nick’s prone to gnawing his guts out.
But I won this reviewer, a former teacher, over. After all, Morgan’s an adult, and as he pointed out to Nick, he has agency, too.
That said, Goodread’s policy about reviewing/rating a book makes no sense to me—you don’t have to have read the book because to require that would be “censorship.” No joke. It is not, apparently, censorship, however, to require authors agree to not engage reviewers.
I can understand that. Writers are notoriously thin-skinned, and the temptation to “correct” either factual errors about the book or rebut a negative review overwhelms some of us. For the record, I don’t think engaging someone who wrote a negative review is a good idea, and I don’t plan to do it unless it’s a point I hadn’t thought of, or if it is and I have specific reasons for writing what I did. But we shall see.
Anyway, reviews are readers’ opinions, no more and no less, no matter how ill-informed…or positive and glowing.
This reminds of the review policy of the American Historical Review, the premier journal for academic history in the US. Only those who’ve written books review them, the logic being that only authors understand the frankly arduous process of constructing a narrative that makes sense. I’ll avoid going into my pet theories of text and the construction of a story, but suffice it to say a novel is an unwieldy thing that at times fights its creator’s attempts to impose his or her structure on it.
This is totally unworkable with fiction, of course, and even more undesirable. The whole point of fiction is to reach a comparatively large audience, not just the small world of one’s fellow authors. Talk about a circle jerk. But just how does requiring the reading a book before posting a review constitute censorship?
Actually, writers aim not only to reach, but hopefully engage with a larger audience, and not everyone will love you. It’s an important lesson to learn, and not just for writers.
I’ll be in charge of Dreamspinner’s Facebook page from 12:30 to 4:00 PM tomorrow, so come visit me so I’m not all by myself. I’ll post excerpts from Rocking the Boat, as well as teasers from my work-in-progress, the follow up Tipping the Balance. There’ll be trivia contests, too, just as soon as I come up with questions. Although now that I think about it, in order to answer the questions, you’ll need to have read the book, so if winning a copy of the book is the prize…hmmm.
Anyway, here’s the link: Please don’t leave me there all alone.
Rocking the Boat‘s now listed on Amazon.com. This is the digital equivalent of walking into Borders and seeing my name on the shelf, but better, because Amazon’s not in bankruptcy protection.
Yeah, I’m that shallow.
Rocking the Boat will be published on Monday. I’ve been busy the last two weeks with a freelance proofreading job, and while there were parts of that job that made me grumble, now that I’m done with it, I realize I should also be grateful to it: it kept me from freaking out about the upcoming release.
Now the last-minute jitters have hit me in full force. I wonder how many chocolate-chip cookies I can fit down my throat this weekend…
Okay, I’ll admit to checking the Coming Soon webpage feverishly. But all my anxiety has been rewarded. My book is now listed on the Coming Soon webpage and it can be placed on one’s Wish List for sale the moment it’s released on 2/28/11.
I received the color sketch for the cover art last night. I love it love it love it! I think Paul did a fantastic job of capturing the characters. Somehow they’re even more real than they were before. I know I created them and that they’re basically figments of my imagination and my subconscious, because of just that, characters really do take on a life of their own, and seeing them actualized in color drawings only intensifies that in a way the b&w didn’t.
Of course, I’m now more anxious than ever about the release. February 28 can’t get here fast enough.