(and 3 New Books for the Holidays)
I have just completed three books, and am going to make my deadline to get them out for holiday sales.
One is a standalone novel in the Crime/Vigilante vein: Another Justice. One is the 5th in the AKA Investigations Series, titled, Also Known as Sleepy Cat Peak, and the other is an anthology of Bold Erotic Stories called The Speed of Dark.
The Vigilante one was difficult, in many ways, the erotic anthology, I had been writing in between other projects for some time now; and I was surprised and thrilled that the series book, AKASCP, only took me three weeks to write, probably because it was so different, and my approach more creative and less technical.
Here’s the Author’s Note from The Speed of Dark:
I started writing these stories as a way of redirecting all my sexual energy, since my wife and I have been so far away from each other (She’s in New Zealand right now, I’m in America). I thought it didn’t work, but maybe it did. Maybe it kept me from spontaneously combusting.
These stories, as the subtitle suggests, are not for the faint of heart. They are not simmering in coy sweetness, but are instead explorations of the more adventurous side of our sexual natures as gay women. I don’t believe now, nor have I ever believed, that our orientation precludes us from taking part in every type of pleasure; I have, in fact, been chagrined and surprised over the years to encounter so many gay women who have boundaries in the sexual milieu. How sad, that they have denied themselves the pleasures that can spring from being open to new things.
My only caveat (in my storytelling, as well as my personal sexual life) is that I will not take part in anything degrading or painful. I don’t believe those things belong in the domain of loving, intimate, sexual acts, no matter how passionate they might get.
I have also tried to keep the terminology as far away from derogatory or misogynistic as possible, though most jargon for sexual acts and intimate body parts is clinical and even ugly. Thus, it is always a great challenge to tell stories that all include sexual acts, without duplicating the actions or the terminology itself. It’s really hard to write good erotica. I hope I’ve accomplished that with this volume.
I’ve done my best to bring you titillating and perhaps inspiring activities that might serve to expand some sexual horizons.
I’m not afraid of that. Are you?
Another Justice is based on a screenplay I wrote years ago (and came this-close to getting produced in an independent film. The Indian cinematographer who signed on was unable to fly back to the states, though, during initial phases, because it happened during 9/11. So the project fizzled). I shelved it, and only recently decided to novelize it, so it wouldn’t just gather dust. I’m not sure the book will appeal to all readers because it’s about some very bad men doing some very bad things, and about a few women who deliver the Dish Best Served Cold– though, in this case, they serve it up warm. This was a difficult book to write, just like Syzygy was, as I had to get inside the heads of a few unsavory people, and also describe some disturbing things, but it was crucial to the story. I was relieved to get it finished so I could move on to some lighter projects.
The first of these, was the 5th in my AKA Investigations series, and I wanted to use a different methodology–sort of getting back to basics just like my characters in the tagline, “Jobeth and Phoebe get back to basics in more ways than one…”
I knew I wasn’t going to have my usual murder mystery or investigation plot but that this one would be character-driven in an even bigger way than usual. Although I think most of my stories are character driven, this one would sort of hyper-focus on the main characters.
I discussed that recently with a writer-friend. For her, the story’s the thing. She has a story concept usually and then asks herself what sort of character would fit that story. I, on the other hand, usually begin with a character and ask what might happen to a person like that? And then we proceed with our methodologies, which are also quite different as I’ve mentioned. I also do most of my initial writing in the form of dialogue between characters, so they can tell me the story– another example of my stories being character-driven. She’s a Pantser and I’m a planner. She writes in a flowing, start-to-finish way, and I tend to piece things together like a quilt, going back and forth and adding bits, and moving them around and finding correlations and patterns, until everything fits together. She says that seems a really complicated way to do it, but I said I didn’t know any other way. But I wanted to see if I could at least relax my methodology enough to make the process more enjoyable, as I was getting just a little jealous that she was enjoying her writing more than I was enjoying mine.
Regarding series fiction, whenever I’ve read it I found I enjoyed the first few, and then lost interest because the author started to repeat herself/himself. There was nothing really new in the books that followed. I have tried so hard in this AKA series to avoid that pitfall. Which is why I was open to some of the digressions and odd ideas; like introducing unknown or unexpected relatives of the characters in DNA. Or in Syzygy, straying to the POV of secondary characters and then in Rising and Falling, telling the Syzygy story again from the POV of the main characters. Then most recently, in Sleepy Cat Peak (the newest one), having characters not only removed from their usual environment and activities but to be revisioning their relationship; shining a very bright invasive light on the personal aspects of the same. This one was different, also, in other ways. As I explain in the Author’s Note:
I spent most of my youth in the southern regions. And after I got older, I spent most of my adulthood in the southern regions, too, except that they were the kind on women. Luckily, I finally found–though later in life, admittedly–the one woman who could erase the memory of all other women. And she also kindly offered me access to all her regions.
While Phoebe and Jobeth are like lifelong friends to me now, the supporting cast in this book were at first a mystery to me, and I even tried to impose my own will on them, but they were having none of it. They suddenly began speaking in Southern accents and using Southern colloquialisms, and so finally, I had to just let them have their way. I think the book is better for it, because they provide a contrast, as well as a reflection, for the main characters, and also, I hope, some comic relief.
On a more serious note, this book was–as all seem to be–another departure for me, in both methodology and tone. I had strayed a bit from the original main characters, Jobeth and Phoebe, while exploring the possibilities of them in their milieu, and wanted to get back to those two in a more focused way. So what better way than to isolate them in the mountains?
As for methodology, I tried to get back to basics, too, just as Phoebe and Jobeth had. I did a lot of freewriting and dialogue, letting the characters tell me where the story was going, rather than trying to plan it all out beforehand. It resulted in some surprises and in some 6,000 word-per-day writing sessions. I really love the feeling of flow that goes with that, and have missed it.
So I enjoyed writing this book, and I hope you enjoyed reading it.
Series fiction is a different breed. It also comes with its own particular challenges, such as keeping track of character and plot details not just thru the one book but throughout all of the books in that series. I’ve found I have to keep data sheets on all the characters, the setting, the timelines, etc. It becomes quite challenging.
Now that the beta-reading is done on Sleepy Cat Peak, (while I chewed my nails and wrung my hands) and assured me I had no worries, I started the publishing process. It’s on Smashwords right now, and should be on Kindle by tomorrow. I already have the premise for both AKA 6 and 7, but wanted to work on something else in between. I wanted to try that free-flow methodology again….
So…..Quick, like a bunny, I hopped right over to my next book as soon as I turned over AKASCP to the beta-reader. The new one already has a title: Rain Falls (it’s the name of the town in which the story is set).
I decided I wanted to write a lesfic romance, so I made a few decisions. This book would be brand new–
- characters from scratch, not based on anyone specific I knew,
- no pre-plotted storyline other than a basic premise,
- keep it character-driven and not rooted in the intricacies of cross-plotting and factual data present in my detective/mystery books, and
- I would try once again to let the muse take me, as it had in AKA Sleepy Cat Peak.
At first, I spent days trying to come up with a premise. Holy crap, I thought. Of course it’s all been done before, a hundred times. Especially in the romance genre. I thought of how popular lesfic romances are, but how I’ve resisted writing one, for the reason I just mentioned: I didn’t feel I could find anything new to say within a restrictive formula like that… And then I thought what if a lesbian writer is trying to write a romance, and she doesn’t really want to?
From there, the story blossomed, and it seemed, not from my head, but from these characters who suddenly appeared and began dictating their stories to me–they even gave me their name right out of the ether: India Bell and Tegan Lowry… They woke me in the middle of the night, forcing me to thumb dialogue into my iPhone. They were already talking to me. I knew I was on to something. This story had muscle from the minute I started typing. The characters were clamoring to have their stories told.
It’s been coming out vibrant, funny, intriguing, and I was mesmerized with its power to keep me at the keyboard well-past what was healthy. One day I even wrote over 8,000 words, and was still typing, when I couldn’t even see the screen and was making ten typos per line. I finally forced myself to stop, mid-sentence, and collapsed into bed.
That kind of animation in characters and story is the sort of thing a writer dreams of. It doesn’t even matter that it’s exhausting. It’s also exhilarating, even though the two conditions seem contradictory.
Over the last few years, I have missed that aspect of writing, and perhaps it was one reason why I lost my way, and developed, for the first time, some real issues with getting a book written; and in even enjoying it as much as I should. The last two books have changed that, and I hope I can hang onto this hybrid methodology that’s making writing delicious again.