April 13, 2012 — 1,205 words
The afternoon sun was beating down through the the sunroof of Kristen’s Jeep. The suburban streets were quiet, and it felt like they were the only people in the world. Ricky was thankful they weren’t, though. Kira, the girl he loved, was waiting for them at Lake Castaic along with Kristen’s date, Dan.
“You are insane, Kris,” Ricky said, forcing the words through his French-Canadian accent. “I was going to go anyway, you didn’t needs to bring a gun.”
“Oh, please, that rifle’s so old, I doubt it would even fire if it were loaded,” Kristen replied, barely hiding the contempt in her voice. “But, Kira made it sound like you didn’t want to go, so I wanted to make sure she didn’t go through the trouble of setting up everything about this date for nothing. Honestly, sometimes I wonder why she likes you so much.”
He glared at her then, taking loud, deep breaths as his short temper got the better of him. Hitting the car door in frustration, he shouted, “Damn it, she loves me, Kris! And I love her! Why can’t you accept zat?”
The car came to a sudden stop, the girl driving turning to face Ricky eye-to-eye. She had an anger of her own, but it was much better controlled. What she said was as calm as her gray eyes, though no less forceful. “Because I see what you do to her. I’m her roommate and her best friend, so I’m the one she comes to when she’s upset because you’ve had a big fight.” The girl sighed, rubbing her temples. She loathed what she was about to say, but this was her best friend’s unofficial boyfriend. “Yes, she has a lot of fun with you, might even be attracted to you, and I can’t stop that. If you do anything to really hurt her, though, I’ll...”
Ricky turned away before she finished, scoffing. This was why he hadn’t wanted to go on a double date. Having to be with Kristen ruined the whole thing. When Kira had first asked him to go out, he was excited at the prospect of spending some time alone with her. Then she had mentioned it was a double date with Kristen and Dan, causing his excitement to wither. These were people they hung out with all the time, so there wouldn’t be anything special about tonight.
The girl thought about telling Ricky off for his behavior some more, but she decided it wasn’t worth it and continued driving. The rest of the trip was even quieter than it had started out, until they finally pulled into the parking lot for the campgrounds.
“Don’t get out yet,” she said, reaching around into the back while Ricky waited impatiently. Kristen grabbed a bouquet of white tulips off the floor behind her seat, which she had picked from around the neighborhood. She knew it would melt Kira’s heart to get them, and as much as she hated helping Ricky, she wanted to see her friend happy. “Here, give her these.”
The young man just pushed them away, rolling his eyes. “I don’t need your ‘elp. I got Kira somezing much better zan flowers.” He patted his pocket, before hurrying out of the car, leaving a frustrated Kristen to follow.
After a short walk, they arrived at the campsite. The sun reflected off the lake, causing it to sparkle. On the picnic table there was a whole meal that Kira had cooked herself, with Kristen’s assistance. She had insisted on doing everything herself to make this date go as well as possible, part of the reason Kristen was so worried about Ricky messing it up. There was also a telescope, as well as a large portable screen and a projector, activities for when the sun set.
Ricky wasn’t really paying attention to any of that, though. The first thing he noticed was Kira. He had never seen her wear a dress before, but she looked amazing in the icy-blue gown she had picked out. It went well with her blonde hair, though he usually didn’t like dyed hair, because it reminded him how some people could change what they didn’t like about themselves, but he couldn’t change how short he was. With the four of them gathered together, he was clearly the shortest despite being the oldest there. Luckily, though, Kira wasn’t more than an inch or two taller. As he approached her, he pulled out his gift: a matching set of bracelets, both engraved with the word “Thank” on the underside.
“Ricky, in English, it’s ‘thanks,’ not ‘thank,’” Kristen tried to correct.
Kira shook her head, though, smiling at Ricky. “That’s the point, Kristen. It’s how he used to say it when we first met. Thank to you too, Ricky.” She gave him a loose hug before slipping the bracelet on. “Now, let’s get to the food before anything else does.”
Dinner was fairly pleasant, much to the surprise of many of the people there. There was some awkward conversation, but the rest was the usual stuff friends would talk about. Ricky thought he was doing quite well at acting friendly consider how much he hadn’t wanted to be there. Just as dinner was ending and he was starting to get comfortable, Kira pulled him aside, wanting to talk to him alone. He went reluctantly, not sure what was so important that he had to delay his dessert. She took him a little ways from the picnic table, where the telescope had been set up on a large blanket.
“Alright, Kira, what is it?” Ricky asked, looking through the telescope.
The girl looked down, playing with her hands nervously. She hadn’t been entirely sure what she was thinking when she brought him here, just that she needed a chance to be alone with him. “I just… we’ve been friends for a while now, and…. Well, I’m not sure h-how I really feel about you. I’ve never even gone on a date before tonight, so I’m not sure if what I feel is what I’m supposed to feel.”
Ricky stared at her. Didn’t she love him as much as he loved her? Sure, she had never said it, but he had always known it. Or thought he did. Before he could say anything, though, Kira was right in front of him, her lips touching his. It was inexperienced, and over before Ricky knew what was going on. Kira got up quickly, face red as she ran back to help Kristen with the dishes.
The young man just stayed there, stunned, but also upset. She had run away before he had a chance to kiss back, to really enjoy it. For being so nice most of the time, he thought, she sure could be selfish.
* * *
Jeremy Quinn is a hobby writer who started with writing FanFiction. Recently, he's been trying to do more original fiction, but hasn't yet found his niche.
April 13, 2012 — 313 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
Milly and Haglyn emptied their purses and pockets to see what plastic objects they might have available for bartering. Milly had a water bottle, and Haglyn found some discarded pens and a forgotten pair of sunglasses in her purse.
"This junk can't actually be worth anything..." said Milly.
"Leave it to me," said Haglyn. "I've got decades of haggling experience from my pawn shop..."
"What?" said Haglyn.
"Your name is Haglyn, and you're good at—"
Haglyn snorted. "Never heard that one before."
Haglyn dumped the plastic objects into her lap and turned her GyroCart towards the front desk. "Hey, Mister Lip Rings," she called, "got any engines for us now?"
Milly saw a rush of movement out of the corner of her eye. A skinny woman in a heavy jacket, her hair braided with dozens of metal bangles, raced up and snatched the plastic trinkets out of Haglyn's lap, then took off running.
"Hey!" shouted Milly.
"Thief!" screamed Haglyn, immediately giving chase. She leaned forward hard, and the GyroCart's electric engine hummed and buzzed with the effort. Haglyn flew out the door and bowled down the street, shouting after the thief at the top of her lungs. The crowded sidewalk parted to let her through.
Milly tried to keep pace, but the GyroCart was too fast, and the thief had a good head start. Two blocks away, Milly saw the thief turn down an alleyway, with Haglyn zipping around the corner just behind.
Huffing and puffing, Milly made it to the alley, rounded the corner, and jolted to a stop.
The thief was backed into the corner. Her teeth were bared and her metal-laden braids were trembling. She was holding a sleek metal blaster. Her trigger finger twitched.
NOTE: Today's page will be delayed until later this weekend due to unforeseen circumstances.
April 12, 2012 — 1,055 words
By Letitia Coyne
How do you choose your next book?
I never know what I’ll choose. Cover art first, definitely. I’m a sucker for judging a book by its cover. I look at the blurb, never the comments, and then I’ll open at random and start to read. I don’t have to know what’s going on, as long as I want to keep reading.
But I could start out in any section of the bookstore and I’m hopeless with decision making.
Humor is a favorite. Life can be such a bitch; I really like to read stories that make me laugh. It can be hard to know what will work, though. PG Wodehouse and Douglas Adams are always a sure bet, but their backlist has been covered and there’s no chance of any posthumous releases. Terry Pratchett, Stella Gibbons, Oscar Wilde; all done with their careers, sadly. Should I risk a new name? David Sedaris?
I could move to general fiction. A lot to sift through, there, but I like a book that cracks along. I hate bogging down in detail and slogging through looking at page numbers to see if I’m half-way through yet – but then there are slow books like Moby Dick which I love. Some books have such beautiful language it doesn’t seem to matter if the hero spends a chapter and a half just sitting on his porch watching fireflies. How am I ever to know? Covers never warn of a tedious read.
Well drawn characters are a big plus, too, so I look for dialogue. I like people I can like. Or hate. I like people I can feel something for, even if it is strong dislike. And I want to be able to understand them. I don’t want someone who is cruel or kind or bitter if their actions make no sense. I like books with characters that have their motivations examined. Yes. Good, deep, real people moving through a strong storyline.
Storyline - that’s where you have to trust the blurb, isn't it. You have to hope the publisher stayed close to the truth when they chose which highlights to share. I have a friend who goes to the library each fortnight and returns with a stack of books. She complains sometimes that she has read everything she likes the look of. She has to wait for new stock – at a library! And she reads them all. And she remembers what she read! See, I don’t persevere anymore. If I am not enjoying a storyline I put the book aside. Life is too busy. And when I used to keep reading only ‘because I’d started’, I’d forget the details anyway. A good story. Hmm. How do you decide what will be a good story?
Well, fantasy is good. I like a good fantasy, especially if Aragorn is there somewhere. Let’s face it; the slightly disheveled, mounted, sword wielding, enigmatic loner with dark eyes and a hidden past is usually Aragorn in a different skin. He might ride a dragon rather than a horse, but he’s basically a Tolkien hero. And I’m partial to a Conan, too: sweat and muscle on a quest for vengeance with an Amazon at his side. Now suddenly the characters have become less like real people. Okay, so the characters can be stereotypes, as long as they are convincing. And on a really good quest. A quest? So those stories can be a bit formulaic, too, but it should be beautifully written.
One way I’ve tried to reduce the overwhelming choice of covers and genres is to follow authors. There are a few who I’ve loved. I read every Wilbur Smith novel up until The Burning Shore in 1985, then ran out of patience for misogyny and bloodlust. Raymond E Feist, Julian May, Jean M Auel .... Clive Barker is a favorite, except he seems to have said all he has to say about the world, now. He is still writing, but it seems to me to be the same story, repeated. Stephen R Donaldson saddened me by writing the third Covenant Chronicles. That step too far; quit while you are ahead. Or perhaps he is wise and well paid to have written them, and I should simply not have read them. No, not even authors can always be trusted.
You know, I like value for money, too. I always reach for a nice big block of a book. When choosing a book takes me such a long time, I don’t want to be doing it again next week. Books today seem to be afternoon reads. A friend recently commented, ‘What the hell? I just started 'Prince of Thorns', which the whole world is salivating over as the best fantasy book last year, and every chapter is 3-10 pages long. What am I reading, a James Patterson book? This is a fantasy book? Enid Blyton writes longer chapters.’ I’m with her. Soundbites. Books today are all about soundbites. Sketches. Brief encounters. No, I like a brick of a book.
That is one thing I can decide on the spot, then, at least: length. And reading a section from any part of the book will tell me immediately if I like the style of writing. That’s where I find the longed for immersion in text. Either not seeing the words, only the images the words create, or just as delightful, seeing every word and loving the sounds and the rhythm of every sentence. I can trust the blurb, I hope, to point me toward something original and intriguing. I can scan for dialogue to see if I like the characters and their interactions. And the cover. Always the cover.
That whittles it down to a manageable range to choose from, and all this with the certainty of disappointment. Not because it will necessarily be a bad choice. It might be, but even if it turns out to be brilliant, I’ll come to the end of it and stare at the last pages, wishing more worlds would appear. Then grieve for the lost friends, and pack myself back to the bookstore to start all over again.
And how will I choose my next book?
April 12, 2012 — 287 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
The outside air on Entulov 5 was remarkably clear and clean. The narrow streets were lined with brick buildings, and every person Milly saw seemed to have long hair and at least two conspicuous facial piercings.
Haglyn's new GyroCart didn't attract much attention: the one-wheeled electric vehicle appeared to be fairly popular here, along with various bicycles, tricycles, and even family-oriented septacycles.
Milly consulted her PAI and found a nearby spaceship parts dealer. She and Haglyn navigated their way there and approached the counter.
"We need a new faster-than-light engine for a Gyrian freighter," said Milly.
The cashier, whose lower lip jangled with metal jewelry, stuck his head into the shop area and yelled, "Oi, Bitz. We got any Gyrian FTLs?" Someone mumbled an indistinct response. "Sorry, ladies. We don't usually stock imports."
"Is there anyone around here who does?"
"...Can you suggest anywhere to try?"
"Like I said, we don't usually stock Gyrian."
"Are you saying you do have something?" said Milly.
The man shrugged and started flipping through some paperwork.
Milly's PAI chimed. It was Overard. She stepped away from the counter to answer.
"Hey," said Mak. "Everything going okay out there?"
"The cashier at this parts shop won't tell us whether they have the kind of engine we need," huffed Milly. "Are all Entulovians this rude?"
"Did you show him any money?"
"Entulovians are all about bartering. They want to see your money before they'll deal with you. It's a weird cultural quirk. Oh, and if you're carrying anything made of plastic, show him that. There's no oil in this solar system, so plastic is like gold here."
"Really?" said Milly. "Weird. I'll see what we're carrying."
April 11, 2012 — 301 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
The bustle and hum of the Entulov 5 Central Spaceport seemed almost surreal to Milly as she sat on a crate beside the Galactic Pelican, waiting for the GyroCart she'd ordered for Haglyn to arrive. She'd been through so much insanity recently that she found the idea of normal people going about their normal business difficult to comprehend.
Mak Overard hobbled down Pelly's ramp and sank onto the crate beside Milly.
"Ooorf," he wheezed. "I feel like I'm about to split open..."
Milly shrugged. "I feel mostly better."
"You're pretty tough," said Overard. "I'm exhausted just hobbling down that ramp..."
"Well, as long as you feel well enough to watch Tic and Dr. Fester while Haglyn and I are out," said Milly.
"Don't forget to call me if you have any problems," said Overard. "My company has a small presence here. I might be able to help."
"Thanks," said Milly. "Will you be contacting them to find a way home?"
"Nah," said Mak. "I think I'll stick with you guys."
"Libden blew up my ship!" said Overard. "She's gonna pay."
Milly shrugged. "Fair enough."
A delivery man pulling a large box on a hovering hand-truck stopped outside their docking bay and checked a shiny metal PAI. "Are either of you Ms. Mildred Leon?"
"One of us is," Mak joked. "See if you can guess which."
The delivery man looked back and forth between them, evidently confused. Mak chuckled. The laughter made him double over and go "Ooorf" again.
Milly grabbed the clipboard and signed for the delivery.
Overard helped Milly wheel the GyroCart off the hand-truck and lift Haglyn into it.
"Whee!" said Haglyn, giving it a whirl. The auto-stabilized cart zipped happily back and forth. "Look at me go! Come on, Milly. Let's go shopping."
April 10, 2012 — 607 words
By 1889 Labs
A little about you, first. Do you have any hidden talents?
TL: I am 30 years old and a single mom of a beautiful 9 year old daughter, Alli. I started writing when I was her age but didn't start taking it seriously until she begged me to publish the things I had been working on. Before that, writing was simply a way of keeping the stories I loved to tell myself.
As far as hidden talents, I know how to play trombone quite well. It was a passion in high school but it's still something I love to do. Of course now, I don't have much time to play.
TL: Alone is a YA book which takes you on a journey of healing for a 23 year old girl, Willow, struggling with cutting. Through her art, she finds a way to tackle the things that have destroyed her soul for too many years. Cutting has caused her to become isolated and although she is a successful artist in her town of New Jollie, she still feels incredibly alone.
Is there anything you want readers to take away from your writing?
TL: Cutting is a personal journey that usually leads to disaster unless you tackle it head on. For some people, that means years of therapy, but Willow never felt comfortable with going that route. What I would like for my readers to take away from Alone is a better understanding of cutting. Also, impossible as it may seem, cutting is something that can be conquered through pure will and a better understanding of who you are.
Which other indie authors do you recommend or admire?
TL: Well, she's no longer an indie author for the most part, but Karen McQuestion is a huge inspiration. She was one of the first indie authors on Kindle who managed to turn writing into a full time career. That in itself is an amazing accomplishment, but I think she's done it with such grace. I've had the honor of speaking with her and it's obvious that she wasn't in search of fame, she just loves to write and is grateful that people like reading her work. Her writing always has a clear direction and she has memorable characters that can make a lasting impact on a reader.
Lastly, what question should we have asked you, and why?
TL: I think I should have been asked what inspires me as a writer.
Alone and my Tamporlea Trilogy were both inspired by photographs. There's a saying: "A picture is worth a thousand words." I have just used that saying and stretched the thousand words to several thousand. I love looking at a photo and imagining my own story attached to it.
Tiffany Lovering is a life-long upstate New York resident and spends most of her time devoted to her daughter, Allison’s activities. In between going to soccer practice, recitals, and spending way too much time on Facebook, she writes young adult fantasies and paranormal romance. You can find all of Tiffany's book on Amazon.
April 10, 2012 — 302 words
By Tim Sevenhuysen
When the world stopped kaleidoscoping, Tic rolled up against the wall of the hold and emptied the contents of his stomach onto the floor. He tried to stand up, but his innards churned and he fell back and stared at the ceiling.
Haglyn's face swam into focus as she dragged herself over to him.
"Bolter!" she said. "Are you dead?"
Tic flapped his jaws like a fish out of water.
Milly stepped up beside Haglyn. "Oooh, feels like I got folded up into a little ball..."
"Not supposed to engage an Origami Engine when we aren't strapped into proper anti-fold seats," said Haglyn. "Still, we're alive."
"Mmmmrrghnn," said Tic. The effort sent a splitting pain through his temples.
"Look," said Milly, "blood."
"Must've hit his head," said Haglyn. "Concussion, too, maybe. Fester's out cold, that businessman hasn't done much more than twitch since I came to, and from the looks of things the Engine has made its last jump."
Milly peeked at the engine. Thin, acrid smoke was wisping up from it, and every surface and connector was black and charred. "At least it got us here," she said. "Wherever 'here' is."
A speaker crackled. "We're at Entulov 5," said Pelly. "It was the only other planet I had in my recent coordinates."
"Thanks, Pelly," said Milly. "You saved us!"
"Is that gratitude?" said Pelly. "There's something I'm not used to."
"We should land," said Milly. "If we're going to chase Libden down again and free my parents, we'll need a new engine, and probably some medical supplies. I'll deal with those things. You can stay here and take care of the others."
"Nuh uh," said Haglyn. "I'm going with you."
"But you can't even walk!" said Milly.
Haglyn scoffed. "Think something like that will stop me?"
April 9, 2012 — 737 words
By Ellie Hall
"Alternative-Read.com (AR) is a website developed as a vehicle for promoting all comers from the writing world. This collection brings together the Writers on the Wrong Side of the Road, the most dangerous rule-wreckers from Alternative-Read.com who sprang at the chance to create an anthology designed to give the reader “a different kind of reading experience. And just to make sure that happened, AR took away the rules and let them write whatever the hell they liked. Edited by Sassy Brit and Clayton C Bye.”
Overall this was a really enjoyable read which I’d rate an easy four stars, with eight of the seventeen stories presented scoring four stars or up. Where there were problems, it seemed always to be with endings, endings too abrupt in otherwise well-written tales. Though I will admit to expecting something more outlandish.
The standouts, for me, were:
Simon Seeks by Natham Yocum – An emotive journey with a psychic who has known too much suffering to remain neutral in his work (4)
The Barefoot Hero by Timothy Fleming – This was flawless, a touching reminiscence of one young life ruined by war, and a simple act that said so very much (5)
The Cenotaph by Casey Wolf – Another war story of sorts. A young man who is uncertain about his future camps by an isolated cenotaph. In an interesting clash of past and present, he meets the lone survivor of a town who lost their sons to war, and who remains, endlessly tending their monument (4)
Take Two by Kit Germain – An inventive twist on post-apocalyptic survival of the species. Well executed and fast paced, this story looks at the twin horrors of religious intolerance and a genetically modified world (4)
Triona’s Beans by Casey Wolf and Paivi Kuosmanen – I understand that there were no boundaries put on this selection, but in my opinion, this is out of place here. As a story for the 5-10yrs age group, it is an engrossing look at tolerance and empathy for people who are different, but lost and utterly displaced. An excellent children’s story, not substantial enough to translate to an adult audience (4)
The Smile in Her Eyes by John B Rosenman – This was lovely. An old man sees his dead wife in the eyes of a teenage girl, then struggles with the certainty of his vision and the socially unacceptable relationship he must pursue (5)
Slumfairy by Tonya R Moore – This story requires a leap of faith; you go into a crisis with the characters and are carried along with them. There is little time to acquaint yourself with the world they are fighting through, but if you trust the author, enough detail is supplied to keep everything together. I enjoyed this thoroughly, but felt it could be part of a larger work (4)
Pronghorns by Casey Wolf – Probably my favourite story in this collection, not least because it met my expectation of something dark and utterly unique. It is a superb study of the thoughts and emotions of three people involved in a murder-suicide plot (5)
Of the stories that remain, one I’d like to comment further on is Malpas by Marion Webb-De Sisto. I rated this three (3) and I really wanted it to be more. I found the premise and characters intriguing and once it got started, the stage was set for a very unusual erotic love story, but it was the longest entry in the collection and it could easily have been cut in half. A shame; it would have been a favourite.
There are no stories in this lot that do not deserve to be read; they are all of a worthy standard. I believe some needed tighter editing, which they didn’t get – possibly for ideals of free expression.
April 7, 2012 — 2,030 words
By Guest Author
Something I've been thinking about a lot lately: why do people approach the self-publishing discussion from an "either or" perspective? One can either be a self-published author or work with a publisher. You can switch, but you can't do both at the same time.
This strikes me as kind of counter-intuitively passé: conforming to the stigmatism of self-publishing that assumes authors go alone because they can't get a publisher, while at the same time fighting to "prove" that self-published works can be just as good. If self-publishing is just as good then it's really just another tool in the author's toolbox, right? Why not do both?
In the past I've done both. In the immediate future I have a couple of projects on either side. For me the decision to self-publish was not about what was best for me as a writer (legitimacy -vs- better rights) but what was best for the particular project.
Placed with Publisher
When I finished the first draft, Split-Self was a mess. Frankly, the second draft was a bit of a mess too. It needed so much editing work and it was my first romance novel, a genre I had little experience in as a reader let alone as a writer. The publisher provided exactly what I needed: a good swift kick in the ass It took almost a full year (unusually long for a romance novel) but by the end I was extremely happy with the result. The publisher's existing lists introduced me to many new readers. I sold (and continue to sell) more books than I would have on my own.
Placed with Publisher
This was written specifically for 1889 Labs. I was really impressed by the quality of their books and knew I wanted to work with them on something. This idea seemed like a perfect fit. If they hadn't liked it, I probably would not have written the book. In retrospect, I should have sat on the idea a little bit and given myself more time to work with it on my own. I love the final result, but there are some elements that if I had to do again I would not do the way I did them. Ultimately 1889 Labs helped me realize that, and I think I came out a better writer for it. Plus it's always nice to be awed by MCM's amazing talent for giving you exactly the cover you want without talking to you about it at all.
To Be Self-Published
Originally this was accepted conditionally by the same publisher that handled Split-Self … unfortunately the condition in question was that I completely rewrite it. I had broken all the rules of romance, created a dark erotic thriller that was unpublishable not because it involved sex slavery and plenty of dubious consent (no, no that was fine!) but because I refused to cap it off with a Disney-esque happily ever after. Two more major m/m publishers gave me exactly the same feedback. I hate to fly in the face of what everyone is trying to tell me, but I don't understand why any reader would buy a dystopian future involving sex slavery only to get pissed off when things don't end happily ever after? Aren't there enough Nicholas Sparks books to go around? Can't a book deal with a dark topic in a fun, snarky way and yet still be realistic about the fact that love does not save people, heal significant trauma, or transform them into better people?
How to Quit Playing Hockey
To Be Placed with Publisher (probably)
Depending on how pissed off I still am about Guttersnipe, Split-Self's publisher will probably get the first look at this coming-out novella. The characters originally appeared in a short story freebie called There's Cock In This Book, that everyone seems to love but everyone seems to hate the ending of (oops). Take note readers: if you make enough noise about something the muses get their act together. There are a couple of concerns that might keep this one from being placed. One, the characters originate from something I self-published. I'm honestly not sure how a publisher is going to feel about that, but I am sure I do not want to take down the original story or rerelease it for any price other than FREE. Two, this is ultimately a sweet story about a real issue (homosexuality in professional sports). I don't want a sexy man-titties cover, but I feel like the publisher will probably want to go with what "sells". Three, I've build the demand for this book on my own … do I really want to split revenue with a publisher if I don't have to? On the other hand, this is the type of book that should be accepted really easily: it's follows the rule of romance, it's short, it will promote the backlist to new readers. And with a publisher it will be more visible and more likely to be considered for potential awards than it would if I went alone.
Season in The Red
To be Self-Published
This is a reboot of a webserial I did before Split-Self. It was very popular, but it was also deeply flawed (too many characters, too long, narrator was unbelievably annoying). I've wanted to redo it for a while, borrowing from the serial structure used in romance novels (where installments do not continue the story but merely pluck two minor characters from a previous installment and make them the new major characters). Problem is it's about hockey players and is not a romance. It's more a Shonen Jump style 'peak behind the curtain into the secret life of men' story, a genre I affectionately refer to as "slash fodder". I think it's fair to say that not many publishers are going to "get" this approach. They'll either want to market it to boys or they'll assume they need love stories in order to market it to girls.
This m/m romance about regret, heartbreak and time travel involves me applying a lot of the things I learned about psychological thrillers while writing Guttersnipe to a book that isn't as dark or controversial. That being said I'm not sure how m/m publishers will react to it. It's not an easy 'two people fall in love' story, but it's not angsty in predictable ways either. I feel like if I don't prove myself with Guttersnipe, I'll probably get a lot of push back to make this story more cheerful … which I'm not particularly interested in doing.
To Be Self-Published
My baby An epic crime/spy m/m trilogy. I've spoke to a few publishers about it, but I always decide against submitting. Too much plot for the m/m publishers, too much gay for everybody else. I want the freedom to make this a tragedy if I see fit. I want the freedom to make the romance secondary when that makes sense. First draft of the first book is done. I want to revise it a bit, handle certain things better (like the main character's transsexual lover), take out some stuff I wrote to make other people happy and tighten up the beginning. That kind of revision would go better with a publisher, but I doubt I can get the compromises I would need to handle the concerns listed above.
Girls On Top
To Be Placed with Publisher
Assuming 1889 Labs is ever ready to run this serial, it's theirs. Promises to be really scandalous story about the New York tech scene. Perfect for a publisher because it has that convenient "THIS super popular thing meets THIS super popular thing" breakdown that publishers love (the Social Network meets Gossip Girl) and even though 1889 doesn't really care about that, we have special plans for it that make that kind of instant marketability really important.
Untitled YA Transsexual Story
To Be Placed with Publisher (if anyone has the balls)
This one is still in the really early stages, but it's about the only work I've ever done where I'd really like to see it placed with a Big Six publisher (hahahaha, yeah right) so I feel like it's worth adding to the list for that reason alone. I'm not the sort of writer who fantasizes about being in bookstores. I really like being a little shit no one pays attention to: it means I can have fun hanging out on GoodReads without people freaking out. But this … well this one is different. If I ever finish it and if I ever find a publisher that will take it for a YA market despite my sordid past of delicious porn filled romance novels (^_^) it will be significant. It's a Scifi dystopian dealing with a sub-species of humanity that is sequentially hermaphroditic, the guerilla war breaking out between them and their gender static oppressors and two teenagers caught in the middle. Gender identity issues abound, with any luck it will get banned in a few states and thrown out of libraries.
Another in development project, all I'll say about this one is it's built around the idea 'What if Stephen Colbert actually ran for President?' Definitely running this as a webserial first, hoping to have it ready for fall After the serialization I'm not yet sure what I will do with it. Wouldn't mind giving it to 1889Labs, but that will depend on their schedule.
Conversations about whether to self-publish always seem to be focused on the wrong things. It's not about control, or money, or credibility. Not every book will do well with a publisher, and there's nothing worse than a mishandled masterpiece.
For first time or small time authors the publisher is frequently an originality crushing bully. You get talked down to a lot and told ridiculous things by editors barely out of grad school. You frequently have to fight to keep your vision intact and people resent the hell out of you for it.
At the same time, being pushed by a publisher is the best way to sharpen your skills as a writer, and there's no arguing with the sales figures. Unless you have a healthy and growing backlist you will sell more with a publisher.
So most of the time, when I have something relatively straight-forward with little divergence from what I know the publisher wants, I'll put it with a publisher. Everything challenging or risky I'd rather save the time and aggravation and put it out myself. I'm not interested in fighting editors over "what readers want", I don't give a shit what readers want. I write the books that I want If they also, coincidentally, happen to be the books that publishers want then, yeah I'll sign on the dotted line. Otherwise… well, in this day and age with Good Reads and Amazon I feel like writers can have their cake and eat it too. Readers will be introduced to you through traditionally published works, then become the market for your self-published stuff.
April 5, 2012 — 998 words
By Letitia Coyne
When I first started to think about the popularity of stereotypes in modern fiction, I tried on the conclusion it was to do with the ongoing stupidification of the world; the Orwellian Newspeak ideals that are robbing us of our desire to communicate in anything more than sketches and sound bites; the determination to write in the same Neanderthal grunts modern humans use to speak. But in discussion, a friend began to list one word descriptions of people - feminist, housewife, temptress, hippie - and I realized the formation of complete personality profiles from single words was much older and deeper than any self-destructive cultural phase.
We generally think in shorthand and probably always have. Back when the world related easily to the classics, whole moods, whole histories of characters, could be called up for the reader by terms like ‘melted wings’ or ‘Damocles’ sword’. For most readers, in fact, ‘Orwellian Newspeak’ is a redundancy. Using either reference alone, or ‘Doublethink’ or ‘Big Brother’, would have sufficed to illustrate the point. Our minds work perfectly to translate the entire arc of ‘1984’concepts into the argument. Once an idea has entered the popular canon, it draws the whole boxful of its associations into the shared consciousness. [How much information comes immediately to mind if I say ‘sparkly vampires’?]
We naturally think in boxes.
As soon as we meet with anybody, in reality or fiction, we run the scan over them and box them. We do the automatic comparisons to self, assign them a type, and work out our assumptions and judgments. Those assumptions can always be adjusted as we go, depending on how important that person is going to be and how much more we learn about them. And when we do not have much time, page count speaking, we do not need to know more about incidental characters than we can gather in an instant.
Yes, it is nice when we read a story so well devised that every face in the crowd is clear, and every personality luminous. But it is equally tiresome to find an author so in love with their world and their people that they drone on about someone on the sidelines when we just want to get back to the story and see where the main characters are planning to go. Stereotypes are used most often by most authors to fit out minor characters.
But many genres rely on stereotyped characters as part of their appeal. Yes, the best authors allow us to feel we are seeing the world through the eyes of a real and substantial person/people, but at a fundamental level, there are character set pieces we expect to see and we recognize them on sight.
Classical fantasy absolutely demands a set of known characters. They may have quirks, but we need to see a mage, a youth, warriors with swords, thieves, publicans, maidens, witches and a being of supreme evil. We want to travel with these characters on their quest, and we must watch them develop, grow, overcome, and learn through their travails.
Romance novels have had four characters in a thousand different guises since they began: the firebrand, the virgin, the rake, and the gallant. They must share the stage with the old aunt, the sidekick, the evil earl, and the love rat, but their hair color and their historical era only fleshes out the story of the love/conflict/love. That is why we read the book. We want to hear that story again. We want to see love prevail against all odds.
Without the gumshoe to lead us through the dark streets, past the hard faced harlots with hearts of gold and the smart/sweet victims of street-wise criminal sleaze-balls, there is no illusion of swift and brutal justice in the dangerous world of noir. We want to hear again how we can vicariously outwit and out grit the bad guys.
In the massively popular young adult market, especially in ensemble pieces set in schools, instantly recognizable characters are essential. We read these stories about a time in life when we must classify and associate and judge and belong and understand the members of specific stereotyped groups because there is a war out there for young people. That is the time when we are defining ourselves. We must define others, too, and we understand each other best within a known social structure.
It goes on; pick a genre. Each of us chooses our genre, with its featured characters all easy to recognize and understand, and we enjoy the same basic few stories told and retold by the same basic few characters. Through them we see ourselves. Through them we experience the thoughts and actions of others. Through them we ask, ‘what if?’ and find answers. Through these stories, told along the same basic lines since the ancient myth cycles, we try to understand ourselves and others, and the way we all fit into the world we share. And we will keep reading them until we do.
We need to hear our stories, all seven, or twenty-three, or ten thousand of them, told and retold by characters that represent ourselves and known others. We need those stories.
Unfortunately stereotypes are too often used to ostracize or ridicule a group by collecting some known negatives and applying them to all people in that group. In fiction, stereotyping in any form, character or event, or clichéd phrasing and overused memes, is frowned upon. Beginning any story: “It was a dark and stormy night…” and collecting some cut-out characters to move through a predictable landscape, should be avoided like the plague. But like every rule about what makes a story good or bad, the stereotype rule is best broken.