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 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.
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.
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.
I just got a Google alert. Apparently Rocking the Boat has just appeared on a pirate site. I knew it would only be a matter of time as many of my fellow authors have experienced this same dubious honor. In fact, not long after I joined Dreamspinner Press’s authors’ group piracy was a one of the topics that people discussed in depth.
Can open, worms everywhere.
Piracy constitutes a real concern with digital publishing. For one thing, it’s easy. Just upload a file. For another thing, it’s apparently victimless. I mean, it’s just digital signals, right? No one’s really hurt by. I imagine that’s what these brave new digital cowboys tell themselves as they trample all over my intellectual property rights. I mean, they took down the recording industry, right?
Except that they didn’t.
Or maybe they think they’re striking a blow against the Man. Yep, an author’s sure the Man. I’ve made a whopping $106 off Rocking the Boat as of the last royalties statement. That’ll sure keep me in…lattes, maybe? Well, at around $5 a pop that kept me in 21 lattes. My publisher is a small outfit with a similarly small profit margin. Writing and selling these books makes no one rich.
Piracy is the only real con to e-publishing I see. People are free to duplicate their copy of my book as much as they want to. Technically—and I hope it’s that people don’t realize this and not that they don’t care—when they download a book, it’s more like it’s being licensed to them, rather than if they went down to their local independent book seller and bought a book. Read the fine print before you download.
If they went to a book store, or bought a copy off Amazon, they’d have a physical copy of the book to do with as they pleased, like loan it, give it away, or re-sell it at a used bookstore. People think that’s what an e-copy is, but from the standpoint of intellectual property, it’s not.
As a writer, I’m interested to see how this develops. I don’t know if we’ll evolve towards some kind of common license, or how copyrights will change, if change they will. The legal foundation for patents and copyrights and things like that is in the Constitution, and that’s hard to change and deliberately so.
Don’t like the fact that you can’t share my book infinitely? Too bad. Lobby Congress to take up a Constitutional amendment. In the mean time, pirates are nothing but petty thieves.
For remedy, I think we can look to the music industry, since it’s so much further along with digital-rights management, even prosecuting people who’ve downloaded pirated music. I don’t know if that’s the right approach or not, to be honest, but I don’t have a better suggestion, either. And right now, I’d love to see a few book pirates strung up by their short-and-curlies.
As a reader, I buy books and I read them on my iPhone. It’s fantastic. I’ve got a whole library in my pocket, and as a…I’m not a soccer dad, a karate dad? Anyway, I’m away from the house a lot, and it’s very convenient to have a choice of books on my phone. My husband’s similarly enamored of his Kindle. While there’ll always be a warm place in my heart for the aesthetic of a book in my hands, and the peace of a library, I live by the convenience of digital media. This isn’t some neo-Luddite rant about new-fangled technology and get the hell off my lawn, you damn brats.
This is about someone’s flagrant disregard for the law and what is morally right.
So what did I do? As soon as I got the Google alert, I complained the host under the DCMA link, and since it was the Kindle edition of my book, I let Amazon’s copyright infringement office know, too. There’s a not a lot more I can do, I guess, although if I get any pushback, I just might hire an attorney.
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 was released today, at midnight wherever Dreamspinner’s servers are located.
I had three Prilosec by 7:15 AM.
This is not a coincidence.