So I think my midlife crisis started yesterday. The Kid Himself was due to meet me at my car after school yesterday, and I thought that if I changed plans and met him at his classroom, maybe I could help him find his lost hoodie and we could go to the school library and look for the last book he needs for the mission project.
[n.b. for those who don't live in California: the focus in history/social studies in the 4th grade is on California history and features a huge project on the history of the era of the missions in Alta California. TKH scored Mission San Juan Capistrano, so my parents and I took him down there before the winter holiday, when among other things, I had lunch with a dear friend I don't see often enough.]
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…
So now that fall’s rolling back around–although you wouldn’t know it from looking out the window in northern California–it’s time to check in with the boys from California Pacific College.
Nick and Morgan haven’t been around much, I’m sad to say. Morgan’s been busy working on a combined MA and teaching credential. Not that it’s the best time to go into education in California, but it’s what he wanted to do, and Morgan’s always been the sort to do as he pleases, as Nick well knows. Too many school districts in California are cutting back and firing teachers these days. Oddly enough, administrators seem secure in their jobs.
Fortunately for them both, Nick’s going into a field with plenty of growth potential. He’s currently doing a hospital-based internship in physical therapy. Unfortunately, since his entire class was looking for such hospital-based internships in the Sacramento area, he couldn’t get one locally, so he and Morgan are living apart. Nick’s not lonely, however. Besides keeping busy at work, he’s staying with Morgan’s parents in the Bay Area while he works in a hospital there.
Brad’s finally hitting his stride. There’s no nice way to put this, but he was kind of an asshole in Rocking The Boat, wasn’t he? He just hadn’t figured himself out. Once he did, he started to show maturity and a certain grace that made his friends welcome and appreciate him instead of hide the breakables. He’s still playful and boisterous, he just knows when to quit. Drew helps with that. The two of them, through much hard work, have made their remodeling business a real success.
Drew had a bit of a hard time when Brad not only helped out Owen, a man he hooked up with once (in Tipping the Balance), but brought him into the adaptive rowing program at the Capital City Rowing Club. Brad smoothed it over for his partner, and helped Owen, who’d been injured in the line of duty, work things through with his beau, veterinarian and rower Adam Lennox, who has some issue of his own. You can read their story in Burning It Down, available from Dreamspinner press sometime in December 2012. Yep, that’s the only teaser you get, at least for now.
Lastly, Stuart’s life has gotten interesting. Stuart was a year behind most of his friends from Rocking the Boat. He was younger, for one thing, but he also had to work to support himself. Sure, he had scholarships and grants that took care of most of CalPac’s tuition and living expenses, but they weren’t quite enough. Well, he’s finally graduated from California Pacific and found himself at a crossroads.
Guess who he found waiting for him at that crossroads? No, not Jonathan Poisonwood. They broke up, in part because Jonathan was a rich idiot who set Stuart’s teeth on edge. No, he found Philip Sundstrom. Brad may have been so far in the closet that he was the uncrowned king of Narnia, but Philip’s bi and has always known it; his flings with men have been short and sweet. It just wasn’t worth crossing their father, but now, thanks to Philip’s maneuvering and Randall Sundstrom’s own vicious actions (see Tipping the Balance), Randall’s not a factor anymore.
Stuart’s starting medical school soon, and has a burning prejudice against rich people, which is a problem, since Philip’s loaded and can’t keep his hands off Stuart. Philip’s also the only man who’s ever really “gotten” Stuart. Unfortunately for Stuart, he’s not looking for a commitment, having just been dumped by his long-term girlfriend. Check out Settling the Score, available from Dreamspinner sometime next summer, to see how these unlikely boyfriends face corporate machinations and lies, serious illness and a lack of personal understanding, and a fatal traffic accident.
So there we are, cherubs. I hope that’s enough to keep you coming back for more.
Please welcome J.P Barnaby, a friend and the author of the well-received Little Boy Lostseries. Little Boy Lost is a coming of age story about two teenage boys—Brian McAllister and Jamie Mayfield—growing up gay in rural Alabama. The six book series chronicles their lives as they navigate through peers, parents, and porn, desperately searching for the perfect combination of circumstances in which they can be together. Through their journey, they find friends, pain, acceptance, loss, and most importantly, themselves.
Reviews for Little Boy Lost
This is a compulsively readable book. I sat down with it the other day, intending just to skim it for this re-review, but within a few pages I was pulled completely into the story just like I was last year. Brian and Jamie are wonderful characters, beautifully drawn and realized. They experience the wonder and excitement of their first love, going through each step: a touch, a kiss, an embrace, and more. At the same time, they are terrified of what might happen to them should anyone find out about their relationship. They live in a very small town in Alabama where faggot jokes and homophobia are the norm. How do they reconcile their feelings for each other with the reality of the time and place in which they are living? – JesseWave
What this author does in ABANDONED is just amazing, it is a pure and honest kind of writing that bares the soul of a seventeen, going on eighteen year old. It offers the worst of circumstances in which various forms of love can ignite, nourish and inspire Brian on his journey. I never expected to experience such a strong connection to the person Brian is. I’m still amazed by it and savoring it every chance I get. ABADONED blew me away as J.P. Barnaby continues the story of memorable characters who just go for your heart. This is just about as good as it gets in the M/M genre! – Leontine’s Book Realm
First things first, what is a lexicon?
The first example of a lexicon that comes to mind, and honestly the best I’ve ever seen, is the Harry Potter Lexicon (http://www.hp-lexicon.org/). It details every character, every spell, every location, every bit of information that J. K. Rowling wrote into her amazing series. But, their lexicon went beyond that. It also includes all of the secret, beautiful, unpublished tidbits that were released through interviews or on her website. Literally everything you want to know about the series, you can find on that site. It’s so comprehensive that J. K. Rowling admitted that she sometimes used it while writing the later books to reference a detail or two.
Why is a lexicon important?
Little Boy Lost is a six book series that follows the same two boys. It’s not a series of spinoffs, though spinoffs certainly benefit from detail continuity. Brian and Jamie along with their friends, family, environments, and timeline have to flow seamlessly from one book to the next in order to keep the reader engaged. Key points in a character’s personality and appearance need to be reinforced so that the reader can keep six books full of characters straight. In the Harry Potter series, you would never confuse Neville Longbottom with Dean Thomas because the detailing on each character is so well done. If your book is going to continue into another, you need to have your facts at your fingertips.
The Little Boy Lost lexicon
The Little Boy Lost lexicon is kept hidden from the world on my laptop in Microsoft OneNote 2010. More important, it is also backed up to the hilt. As an IT professional, I understand the importance of keeping my computer backed up and my information safe. As an author, this is especially important for recordkeeping and legal purposes as well as keeping safe the thousands of hours I’ve invested in my work. I use Microsoft OneNote because I don’t have the time or patience to develop a website for it. OneNote is drag/drop, copy/paste, and web clip efficient. I can put in pictures, voice, video, or text. If I copy something from the internet, it automatically adds a reference to where I found it. The notebook/tab/page structure of the program is conducive to research, and it’s fully searchable.
As you can see from the image, the Little Boy Lost lexicon includes tabs for character information, an events timeline, ideas, and research that would pertain to the entire series and then a tab for each individual book with more detailed timelines, and other information that pertains only to that book (for example, Brian’s injuries in Abandoned which are referenced later in the series, but all of the medical research is in the tab for Abandoned). I have pictures of each character and a full biography, some of which is never used within the book, but it gives me a better sense of who the character is and how he will react in any given situation. I have a notebook like this for each book, each series that I work on.
I write in Microsoft Word, but I keep a copy of the original scene inside of OneNote to make things easier to find. I may not know what chapter something is in, but I can usually find it faster by looking at the scene titles. When I’m working on a book, I generally write out of chronological order, sketching out scenes as they come to me. I keep that outline, partial scenes, and sketched out ideas in OneNote as well. Again, some of the stuff may never be used, but when I need to reference it, the information is all in one place. My life has suddenly become very busy and I find that writing is easier when I’m hyper-organized.
With the notebooks for each book in my Windows Live account, I can access them anywhere from any device. There is a mobile app for my phone, a web interface, and of course the actual OneNote application on my computer. That is extremely helpful to me since I do most of my writing on my commute with limited internet access on my phone. It also helps when I get an idea and want to capture it—I can just pull out my phone, and add the appropriate notes to my notebook or put it in a note on my phone and copy it to OneNote later. I can also record voice notes on my phone and load them into OneNote.
Continuity is part of the editorial process with Dreamspinner Press who publishes the Little Boy Lost series, but they don’t live the series like I do. If I need to know what Micah’s brother’s name is for a spinoff book, I won’t have to try to remember which book I used it in so that I can find it. I introduced Micah in the third book and he has a strong presence through to book six. That information is one word within 255,000 words. Having it at my fingertip is far easier than an all out search.
About J. P. Barnaby
As a bisexual woman, J.P. is a proud member of the GLBT community both online and in her small town on the outskirts of Chicago. A member of Mensa, she is described as brilliant but troubled, sweet but introverted, and talented but deviant. She spends her days writing software and her nights writing erotica, which is, of course, far more interesting. The spare time that she carves out between her career and her novels is spent reading about the concept of love, which, like some of her characters, she has never quite figured out for herself.
The Little Boy Lost blog tour continues June 25th – July 24th . Make sure to comment at each stop for more chances to win some really great prizes such as an entire series autographed to you by J. P. Barnaby. For additional entries – tweet about the tour including @JPBarnaby and #LittleBoyLost.
Tour Schedule: http://www.jpbarnaby.com/?p=637
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.
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.
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 was released today, at midnight wherever Dreamspinner’s servers are located.
I had three Prilosec by 7:15 AM.
This is not a coincidence.
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.